Sunday, August 21st, 2011

I may have just driven to Waupaca County for the last time. Mom sold the ancestral manse and bought a condo in Arkansas where she hopes to live the rest of her days all cozy and snug and never again hear the words “snow-covered and slippery” used to describe roads during the winter. While she was getting ready to move out of her house, boxing up the things she wanted to keep and giving away the things she didn’t, she offered me a few pieces of furniture that I happily took off her hands, and so this morning I made the drive north one last time.

I grew up in a small town in – I almost said “rural Waupaca County,” but the whole county is rural from one end to the other. When people ask me, “What’s the nearest big city?” I shrug and tell them, “Waupaca,” and wait a couple beats for the customary blank expression before trying the only other “big city,” New London. Another blank look usually follows. Manawa is an hour from Green Bay, an hour from Appleton, an hour and a half from Stevens Point and two hours from Madison. It’s as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get without being in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Even so, Manawa wasn’t a bad place to grow up. It had everything we needed: three grocery stores, three hardware stores, a clothing store, a shoe store, two five-and-dimes, a bakery, a barber shop and several hair salons. There was even a jeweler’s. And back then, there was The Manawa Advocate, the newspaper my Dad owned and operated with the help of my Mom, two or three other full-time employees and, after a few years, me and my brother.

None of that’s left now. There’s just one grocery store in town, the only remaining hardware store is closing up shop soon, and there’s a parking lot where the Advocate building once stood. They do have a pretty nice cafe, though, that serves the most enormous omelet I’ve ever seen. Seriously. It’s at least twice the size of any omelet I’ve ever been able to finish in one sitting. Stop in at the Sun Dawg and ask for the breakfast omelet. Bring a big appetite.

The ancestral manse of the O-Folk was a twelve-hundred foot cinderblock ranch house with an attached garage. The back door was always unlocked, and stopping by for a visit always felt like coming home. T-Dawg went with me to help move the heavy stuff, and when we got there he just opened the door and walked in. Mom was waiting in the kitchen to welcome us.

She had most of her stuff boxed up by the time we got there. The only things that were still out were what she needed to eat and do her daily housekeeping, and her furniture, half of which we were going to load up and haul away. We didn’t plan on hauling nearly half of it away, that just turned out to be the case. I was supposed to take away a cedar chest, a rocking chair, a chest of drawers and a small end table, but I also ended up with four chairs and a small bench-like table that Mom tried to talk T into taking from her. When he told her he didn’t have the room for it she said she’d just leave it out by the curb with the chairs. “You’re going to give that away?” I asked her, shocked. “I’ll take it off your hands!”

When I drove away, the van was packed tightly with furniture, almost as if it was made to haul away exactly what Mom needed to get rid of. She gave us a proper Wisconsin send-off, hugging us good-bye in the kitchen, seeing us out the door, then standing in the driveway to wave as we pulled away.

so long | 6:36 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, Mom, O'Folks, story time, T-Dawg
2 Comments | Add a comment

2 Comments

  1. 1 B said at 8:12 pm on August 21st, 2011:

    And that’s the end of that. I think I might cry.

    Cool furniture, though. Fits perfectly in the Monona-based O-home.

  2. 2 The Seanster said at 12:06 am on August 22nd, 2011:

    Sad. Grandma’s house in Manawa was such a precious memory of childhood…:(