“There is no way I’m going to be able to explain the Chicken Parade…”

Dad is eating breakfast at the kitchen table when I arrive. He looks up and smiles…
Dad: Hi, sweetheart!
Karen: Hi, Daddy! Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
(I wait while Dad finishes his breakfast and then Gwen helps load him into my car, and off we go on today’s adventure…)

Dad: (Pointing to a snow-covered hilltop to the right.) There’s Mount Baker.
Karen: No, we might be able to see Mount Baker up ahead, though.
Dad: (Still looking at the snowy hilltop…) There’s Baker just poking out behind those hills.
(We stop at the Sisters Espresso.)
Karen: Do you want a root beer float?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
I go up to order Dad’s root beer float and a breve for myself.

There’s a group of men standing in a circle as they wait for their drinks – young man, a man that might be his father, an older gentleman. The older gentleman is regaling everyone with a story of being honored for long years of service somewhere. I instantly like him – he’s exuberant and happy about life – and I become part of his circle.

Now he’s telling us his secrets to living as long as him (“I’ve never smoked,” he says). And I can’t help myself – I’ve got to bring Dad into this conversation, right? I point to Dad, waiting in the car, and tell them all that Dad is 100 years old – a mountain climber – and that’s probably why he’s so long-lived. There are some oohs and ahs then, and everyone sort of pauses for a moment – maybe contemplating the wonder of living to be 100. I turn to look back at Dad and see him wave at me through the front window. I smile and wave back. God, I love him.

Then someone mentions snow – and I say that I’m probably kind of weird, but I like the snow. The young man nods his head and agrees – he likes it, too – but especially when he can drive TO it.  The man who might be his father hands him a coffee, and then turns to the older gentleman and myself and smiles and wishes us a good day – like we’re all old friends – and the young man and he head to his car. Now it’s just the older gentleman and myself at the espresso stand. He tells me a little more about his life, and then mentions his wife and points to his car. His wife smiles and waves to me and I wave back. Then the older gentleman leaves, too, and I’m the only one left.

Courtney knows exactly what I’m going to order for Dad – she’s been making him his root beer float for a couple years now. I bring Dad his float. He opens his door so I can pass it to him. He smiles and says, “Thank you.”

I was going to try to avoid Edison today – but as I approach the turn-off to Edison I see a line of cars leaving the town and figure maybe everyone’s pretty much cleared out of there now, so I turn and head towards the town center.

I am wrong. The place is packed with pedestrians and cars trying to get out of there. I stop to let a car turn in front of me – the driver waves and I wave back – then I wait for a line of pedestrians to cross in front of me.
Dad: (Observing all the traffic in this little town.) Is there some event here?
Karen: The Chicken Parade.
Dad: What? A church service?
Karen: The Chicken Parade.
Dad: A church service?
Karen: (Pointing to a little kid dressed up as a chicken.) The Chicken Parade.
Dad: (Turning to see where I’m pointing.) A church service. Small towns can be really active places.
Karen: (I silently admit defeat. I realize there is no way I’m going to be able to explain the Chicken Parade to him.) Yup.

I drive through Edison and turn on Bayview-Edison Road. Dad is looking out the window, watching the landscape roll past…
Dad: I love going on these drives with you.
Karen: I love going on drives with YOU.
(I pat Dad’s leg and he holds my hand and gives it a gentle squeeze.)

I meander around the Skagit Flats for a while and pull over when Mount Baker finally emerges from the clouds. I point to the mountain…
Dad: (Nodding.) Mount Baker.
(I take a few photos of the mountain and then continue until I come to a field puddled by rain and filled with trumpeter swans. I pull over to snap some pictures. Dad waits patiently for me, slurping his root beer float.)

I drive a little more and then begin heading back to Dad’s home.
Dad and I don’t talk for a while, then…
Dad: I love you.
(And the way he says it – not casually, but with thought behind it – really touches me.)
Karen: I love YOU!

As we pull in front of the front door to his house…
Dad: Who are these people?
Karen: This is your home.
Dad: What?
Karen: This is your home.
Dad: Oh!

I help him out of the car and up the stairs and, once inside, he makes his way to one of the recliners in front of the television. I hand him his root beer float…
Karen: Thank you for going on the drive with me.
Dad: Thank YOU for taking me on the drive.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: And I love you.

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They Got You Through the Winter

They got you through the winter, Karen
They got you through the grey, the rain, the cold
They got you through dreary days and showed
you beauty in the muck, grace in the mud
And now it’s just dawning on you that they’re gone
they’ve left your valley, returned to their summer
homes. As the fruit blossoms bloom and bud
and the earth grows green again with new life
and you celebrate the joys of spring, there’s a part
of you still feels a little the loss of them. But they’ll
return when the nights grow long again, when
the earth freezes and hardens and loses color
They’ll get you through the winter, Karen.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Snow geese and trumpeter swans in Skagit County, Washington. Photos by Karen Molenaaar Terrell.

A Sweet Sadness

When I left work I felt impelled to turn right instead of left and found myself heading towards LaConner. Tracy Spring’s CD, Looking Forward – Looking Back – was playing in my car – bluesy and poignant – and I felt myself going to that place where I find Moz. I carried her with me in-between fields filled with snow geese and trumpeter swans and I could see her in my thoughts, smiling at the beauty around us, enjoying our drive together.

I stopped at the LaConner Inn (where Moz and Dad used to live) to pick up any mail that might have been sent there. Whenever I go to their old place I always look up at the deck where I used to see Moz waving at me as I arrived and left.

I picked up the mail from the nice lady at the desk – the mail all came from charities that Moz used to give to. Sometimes it’s kind of disconcerting to see her name on all these envelopes from people still asking her for money – but today it made me smile.

As I left town I decided to stop at the coffee shop I used to go to all the time when I visited Moz and Dad. There was a man who looked like he could use a warm cup of coffee outside the shop, getting on a bike. I asked him if I could buy him a coffee and he smiled and said he’d just had a cup, but he’d take me up on the offer another time. He said he was sorry, he didn’t remember my name. I laughed and told him we’d never met. And then he laughed, too, and introduced himself.

I went into the coffee shop and asked the barista behind the counter if she had any pumpkin lattes. She said they didn’t have the pumpkin pulp anymore, but she could give me a pumpkin spice latte and that sounded perfect. We began talking – and I learned her beloved grandmother had just passed on. We talked about her grandma for a bit – she was very dear to her grand-daughter – and the barista teared up as she talked. I shared Moz with her then, and told her about the drive I was having with Moz. She came around the counter and we hugged. And there was a kinship there.

She mentioned the man I’d just met outside her shop – apparently she provides him with a coffee every day and sometimes he’ll spend three or four hours in the shop. She’s told him that if he ever needs anything – a trip to the doctor or whatever – he just needs to let her know. I told her I’d just offered him a cup of coffee, too, but he’d said he’d just had one – and I realized she’d been the one who’d provided him with the coffee. Again, I felt a kinship with her. We introduced ourselves to each other – her name is Judy – and I told her I knew I’d see her again.

I got back in the car with my pumpkin spice latte and drove back home, passing flocks of snow geese and trumpeter swans on the way. Tracy Spring’s music filled my car, and I found myself sobbing – not with grief, exactly – I felt a good kind of sadness, if that makes any sense. A sweet kind of sadness, remembering Moz and feeling her with me.
– Karen

(I’m not sure I’ve written Tracy’s lyrics in the right form, but here are some of the words to her song *Remember*.)
“It’s so hard to say good-bye…
All things pass,
of this I am sure,
love and music will endure,
and when I’m gone
remember the song,
remember how I loved.”
– Tracy Spring

That One’s Mine

I stopped by Fred Meyer’s to pick up a copy of Mother Earth News for Dad – I wanted to show him my photo in there. I went back to the magazine racks and a woman was stocking them. I asked her if Fred Meyer carries Mother Earth News and she said yes – they sold those right at the check-stands. I told her – because I’m so incredibly humble and self-effacing and stuff – that my photo was in there. And she grinned, all excited, and told me she’d take me right to the magazine. So she walked with me to the front of the store and showed me where Mother Earth News was and I showed her my photo (in the very back). She recognized the area where I took the picture and we talked about Bow and Skagit County, trumpeter swans and snow geese, and just had a lovely chat. I love meeting my neighbors. 

And if you find an April/May 2017 issue of Mother Earth News you will see a picture of a red barn and Mount Baker and trumpeter swans on, like, the last page – and yup, that one’s mine. 🙂