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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A New Grandmother Thinks About Mother’s Day

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This Mother’s Day will be my first as a grandmother. I will spend it in Milwaukee, but my only child Caitlin and my grandson Otto live in Los Angeles.

I have stayed in Wisconsin, primarily Milwaukee, my entire 59 years. In 2003 Caitlin moved to Los Angeles to work in the film industry. In 2004 I drove all around Los Angeles County and beyond to see if I could find a neighborhood where I would feel comfortable. Although I adore Cait and certain spots in LA, especially the gardens, I couldn’t uproot.

How could I leave cutting pussy willow branches and rhubarb stalks and smelling the crabapple blossoms at Whitnall Park in the spring? How could I skip summer day trips to the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan and the Wonder Cave near Steven’s Point? What would fall be without the Farm/Art DTour in Reedsburg and pitching in with pressing cider at Rochester’s Ela Orchard?  How could I miss the Lynden Sculpture Garden’s Winter Carnival and the Winter Farmers Market at the Domes?

I promised Cait in college I would be an involved grandmother and provide childcare. This happened years before she got married in 2007 and I remarried in 2009, but a promise is a promise.

Some people love travel and the more exotic the destination the better. I still haven’t seen all the remaining effigy mounds in Wisconsin. I’ll take a Wisconsin road trip over getting on a plane any day. But whether by plane, train, bus, or car, I will get to Los Angeles at least every two months from now on.

During my last April visit, with Otto at almost four months giggling with the joy of finding his toes, I realized how the Wisconsin in me has influenced who I am as a grandmother.

I remembered the notes I made about the 2009 “Current Tendencies” show at the Haggerty Museum of Art. It featured 10 artists from Wisconsin, and I had been struck by what united them. There was an intense urgency to the art and a strong do-it-yourself spirit. We get an “E” for effort in Wisconsin. We work hard and use what is at hand, plus we are willing to be weird. Is it because we haven’t lost our inner child?

Along with my determination to get to LA when I can help out the most, I have been making things for Otto.  First I sewed and embroidered a small bag for his umbilical cord. Nope, I didn’t knit a baby blanket. Then I made a mobile.  This was followed by a 15-by-18-inch collage of one of his ears using images that all start with the letter “O,” from ocean to ox.

The one rule for these projects was that I would not buy anything. They would be created out of whatever I had in my sewing box, yarn bag, and drawer with collected paper images. Some parts of all three were made on the plane. You can carry on scissors with blades less than four inches now.

While in LA, Otto and I explore together. I was the first person to take him out at night. There is a stoplight a block away, and we were so happy watching the lights turn from red to green and crossing the street for half an hour. We are learning about California flora and fauna. We recently found a eucalyptus tree in the neighborhood and sniffed the leaves.

Soon enough Otto will be able to travel here. I have a growing list of the places I want to take him. State Fair first!  After that Lizard Mound County Park—and we could maybe get to the Museum of Wisconsin Art on the same day too. It won’t hurt to plant a bit of Wisconsin in his soul.