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What-ifs may give excuse to travel to England

For a good part of her life, my mom had a desire to travel through Ireland, land of her McManus ancestors. Notice I said she longed to travel "through'' Ireland. She loved the idea of being in Ireland, the idea of seeing the shamrocks and the lep...

Terry Woster

For a good part of her life, my mom had a desire to travel through Ireland, land of her McManus ancestors.

Notice I said she longed to travel “through’’ Ireland. She loved the idea of being in Ireland, the idea of seeing the shamrocks and the leprechauns, hearing the lilt of Irish laughter and watching the sun go down on Galway Bay and all of those other colorful things that were in the Irish songs she would sing as she played the upright piano in the east room back home.

But she couldn’t come to grips with the notion of traveling “to’’ Ireland. That would have meant crossing in the ocean, probably in an airplane. And that just wasn’t going to happen. To my knowledge, she flew once -- to the hospital in Sioux Falls after her “heart thing.’’ And when she discovered she’d been in an airplane, she was pretty upset that nobody asked if she wanted to fly.

She traveled extensively -- by automobile. For years when I was young, the family took a week, sometimes two weeks, and traveled. Often the Black Hills, sometimes Yellowstone, once to Niagara Falls with a Great Lakes crossing and a return through Canada, another time to the Pacific Coast with a swing through Moose Jaw, Glacier and the Yakima River Valley, where I lost my eyeglasses because I continued to lean out the window after my mom’s repeated warnings. Somewhere, on some trip, we saw the Great Salt Lake and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. After our dad died, my two sisters and my mom made annual trips to nearby states, places a body could reach by automobile on a highway.

Both of my sisters have done their share of traveling, and my brothers have, too. I didn’t inherit my mom’s distaste for air travel, although I haven’t flown on a commercial aircraft since 1996. The frequent flyer miles I rack up wouldn’t get me from Reliance to Lyman with a tailwind.

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My kids have traveled to many, many places, far more places than either Nancy or I have reached. Maybe if we’d been able to book tickets online?

I still have a desire to see Ireland, partly because it was my mom’s dream and partly because it’s close to England, the one place in the whole world (other than Lake Oahe and anyplace I have kids or grandkids) I’d actually like to visit. Blame Mary Margaret Brown for that.

She taught English literature, Romantic poets and Victorian literature. I took every course she taught, I believe, and I dreamed of walking where those writers walked and seeing what they saw. I grew up a dreamer. The dream of seeing the England I read about as an idealistic college kid lasted a long while.

The dream faded as I aged but returned recently. That’s because a granddaughter is settling in just now for a semester of study (study?) somewhere in northern England. She flew off a couple of days ago. I should have gone along to help her adjust.

Who am I kidding? Help her adjust? I know nothing about England. Or international travel. Or commercial travel at all. But I should be there to hover and protect and worry. I could worry from here, sure, but somehow my worries would be more real if I were where she is.

Nancy says not to worry at all; she’ll be fine.

“She survived a year of college away from home, you know.’’

“But that was in Minnesota. You can drive there from here. This is, like, England. It’s across an ocean.’’

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I tried to show her the difference with a Mercator map of the world. Not necessary, she said. She understood the ocean and the distance. She also understood the child is 19 and making her own decisions, nearly all of them good ones.

“OK, but what if … ’’ I started.

“No what-ifs,’’ she said. “It’s happening. Be happy for her.’’

I am. Really. I’m also searching online for details of flights to northern England, the process of getting a job in a little fishing town, things like that. That way, I’d be nearby for, you know, the what-ifs.

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