Thursday, March 27, 2014

She Didn't Want to Go Anywhere Else

My parents live in a small home that is perfect for them. They have everything they need and almost everything they want, so when it's gift-giving time, it's hard to decide what to buy them.

Last November, I had a stroke of pure genius.

For Christmas 2013 (and as gifts for every gift-giving holiday in 2014 as well), I gave them each a card, explaining that more valuable to me than any possession are the memories I have made with them. I wanted to spend time with them, making memories and going somewhere that they would only dream of--anywhere they wanted to go, we would go. My treat.
Mom doesn't love to travel much, so I knew her destination wouldn't be too far away, but her choice surprised me.

St. George, Utah.

Mom grew up in St. George, moving there in early elementary school and moving away in July of 1967 when she got married. In the subsequent 47 years, she went back for her ten-year high school reunion and once or twice on quick overnight stays as we passed through as a family on our way to California.

In short, she had never really been back to visit her hometown in 47 years.

We met at the Las Vegas airport and then drove a rental car to St. George. As we were driving, we passed a mileage sign and she interrupted the conversation to quickly and excitedly say, "Sixteen miles!" Every once in a while, her excitement would bubble over, and you would have thought she was seven years old and we were headed to Disneyland to meet Elsa from Frozen.

This weekend was perfect in every way.

 From my unintentional choice of bed and breakfast (just three blocks down the street from the house she grew up in) . . .
 . . . to the beautiful spring weather . . .
. . .  to a last-minute decision to drive 45 minutes to church in Pine Valley . . .
. . . where we happened into three people she knew--her sixth grade teacher, a close neighbor, and a friend from her senior class . . . 
. . . I couldn't have scripted a better trip.

We went to the St. George Temple where she couldn't hold back the emotion as she walked into the room where she had been married.
We walked the temple grounds and admired the flowers as she told me stories of her courtship and wedding . . . 
. . . returning to the exact spot where my dad had proposed to my mom.

We walked the streets of St. George during the day . . . 

 . . . and at night . . .

. . .  and around every corner there was joy and excitement and a story to be told.

We had lunch and a personal tour of the valley with her best friend, and witnessing that reunion was such a sweet moment.
We even had dinner with friends from Idaho who have spurned the fierce winters for the blistering summers of southern Utah.

She would exclaim funny things every once in a while like, "I remembered everything so much bigger . . ." 
(especially when we got ice cream at Judd's store--the cool hangout during junior high) . . .
 . . . or "I can't believe the rocks are really this red! How could I have forgotten that?"

My favorite was, "I can't believe I'm really here!" and the cathedrals of Europe couldn't have pulled more sincere joy from her.
In regular daily life, my mom normally fades somewhat into the background, content to observe and enjoy. This was her trip though, and as painful as it was for her, she allowed me to take her picture whenever I wanted, and she chose every place we visited, from tourist sites . . . 
. . .  to her elementary school where her dad's picture still hangs on the wall as the first principal . . . 
 . . . to pioneer cemeteries and random markers along the side of the road.
As for me, well, I was just content to sit back and see my mom through new eyes--eyes that transformed her from my mom into a little girl named Diana Rose who ran through the streets of that tiny town many years ago.

 I could picture that idyllic childhood she had lived.

Hopscotch champion. Seminary council. Young love. The beginning of my family. 

I wish I were eloquent enough to put words to how unforgettable it was to take this trip with my mom, but I've struggled for a week to do it, and every time I try, I fall short.
If a price could be placed on memories, this one would be one of my most precious gems.


  1. Making memories with someone you love so much is about the best thing there is. Making memories and reliving old ones at the same time is even sweeter. I still can't believe I was able to go on that trip with you. You have no idea how much all this has meant to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

  2. Jenny, I loved this post. It really touched my heart and it made me love your mom whom I have never even met.

  3. Wow that looks like a great trip!
    I hope I can do something like that with my Mom some day.

  4. That is an awesome gift! What great memories. I love Pine Valley chapel!

  5. I love your blog but don't often comment. What a thoughtful gift! What a great idea and one I hope to re-create with my own mother who moved far away from her childhood home similar to your mother's experience.

  6. I had planned a trip with my mom to Cedar City to see the play "The Secret Garden". It was her favorite book as a child, as well as my favorite too. But just a month before the intended outing, she developed colon cancer, and then for a long time was too weak to go. Now she is older, and it is even more difficult for her. I'm glad you got to take this trip while you could both still enjoy it!

  7. love those old pics. fun weekend!

  8. Loved the principal and swimsuit pictures... what a fun trip!

  9. Your photos just keep getting better and better!


  10. I loved this post. I read it the other day on my lunch at work but didn't get to comment. What a great gift to your mom. The older I get the more I realize what kind of things really matter the most to people. I once gave my mom a trip to Atlantic City for a few days for Mother's Day. She loves to gamble but hates to fly...but I didn't give her a choice. Some of the best memories I have of her and I are from that trip together. Thanks for the reminder that the gift of time is one of the most loving gifts we can give to someone.
    Oh, and your pictures are awesome!