Mom decided to take off for the balmy warmth of Mexico and left my brother and I to fill in for her. There is no way I can fill her creative shoes, but I’ll give it a try.
This summer I came back to Montana for the first time since I graduated from college. Oh, I’ve been back for visits, but flying in and out is just not the same as driving. Driving makes the experience more solid for some reason.
I loaded the typical mom van with husband, 2 daughters (18 and 5), luggage for 2 months (after all we would be gone 2 weeks) , toys, games, movies to entertain, snacks to feed an army, and 3 dogs. Picture one of the dogs being a petite English Mastiff. Yep, we were loaded to the gills for this adventure.
As soon as we got out of Seattle snarling traffic and crossed Snoqualmie Pass it was a heavenly drive. I never really notice how wound up tight I am until I get out of the traffic in this region and get back to normal drivers. I love when you meet in the middle of a lonely stretch and both drivers give a friendly finger lift of acknowledgement. They do that in Seattle also, just with a different finger.
After seeing 17 deer on the sides of the road and a semi grill, I decided St. Regis was a grand spot for our first night. We camped in a cabin built at the turn of the last century with a spent rifle casing in the yard. Enough said.
The next day began bright and early and we hit the road. After living in Seattle for 4 years, it is amazing how fast one gets acclimated to 45-68 degree temps year round. 104 when we hit Glendive was a little bit of a shocker. It’s a dry heat I told the kids. Somehow, I had forgotten about all the bugs. Dogs and kids had a great time chasing all the grasshoppers.
After the sun started to head to bed, my youngest couldn’t contain herself any longer and had grandpa out saddling his newest horse, which became hers. For the week in Glendive, daily rides were a must. She even rode the second day, right after breaking her arm at the family picnic. Glendive has a beautiful hospital, full of very nice people.
It was sad leaving family and friends in Glendive, but we headed to Harlem for the next leg of the journey. The road was mostly empty, with occasional semis until we hit Highway 2, then we saw a vehicle every half hour or so. My favorite part of this journey was seeing the billboard for Ft. Belknap Casino stating “It’s more fun than feeding the cows”. I took a picture and sent it to my friends at Tulalip Tribes where I work. They have a huge casino and I asked whether they thought this might be a new advertising trend.
We arrived at Grandma’s and took over. Her cats, formerly ours, hit the old shed and didn’t come out until we went to bed every night. The mosquitos all welcomed us and feasted at every opportune moment.
I have so many memories from Harlem and Hays. I couldn’t believe how many changes there were, and how much was the same. I took the kids on several drives and I would tell stories as we went about my different memories. I had always talked about the tree where I used to go to smoke cigarettes because I figured the leaves hid the smoke when I was 9. I was sad to see it had been cut down and is now just a stump. I wondered where the young went to be sneaky now.
All these memories got me really thinking about what I want to do with the next 20 years of my work life. I am a mental health therapist and was planning on finishing my doctorate in the hopes of getting that “I can conquer the world” feeling back. After sitting around the campfire with a friend I had graduated with, she said she had the same reason for getting her doctorate, and it didn’t work. I thought of what I really had always wanted to do, and it was law school. I stayed up all that night thinking of how I would love that.
I drove through the rest of Montana, Browning, to Idaho, and back to Washington in a fervor of excitement. As soon as I got back I jumped online and signed up to take the Law School Aptitude Test. I believe 50 is not too old to start my new career.
I’m not going to law school to work in a big law firm or make millions, I want to move home. I feel the need to move home and let our youngest grow up in a place with strong community values. I want to wave at neighbors and bake when someone is sick. I grew up with that. My children have been all over the U.S. and Japan as a military family. They know what’s out there in the world, but they don’t know what it’s like to have roots. Now that my husband is out of the military, it is time to get back to my roots. I’m ready to come home. So watch out Montana, the Robart’s are headed back home.
Dee Dee Robart (Rattey) for Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door
January 26, 2012