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A Mother’s Hugs and the Hope of Spring

This column appears in the Early Summer edition of Door County Living magazine, on newsstands throughout Door County now.

I distinctly remember three hugs from my mom. She wasn’t shy about showing affection, but there were three times when she hugged me longer, harder, prouder. 

Once was after the Packers lost the Super Bowl to the Broncos in January of 1998. She knew. 

Another was when I married my wife. Mom loved Anne from the moment she met her and immediately told me to “hold on to that one.” When we married, Mom knew how happy I was, and that more grandchildren were on the way. 

Then there was the spring of 2011, and the huge smile and long embrace she gave to me and my brother on the stoop at the entry to Mom and Dad’s little house on Heritage Lake Road in Egg Harbor. Mom and Dad loved to garden, and at that time, Mom was selling their harvest at three or four farm markets a week. My brother, Dan, and I had come home for the weekend with friends (and Dan’s future wife) to help them build a massive, 70-foot-by-30-foot greenhouse in hopes that they could get a little earlier start on planting each year, and better fight the whims of Door County’s spring weather. 

We thought it was a five- to 10-year solution for my parents, but as things tend to go in our family, it didn’t make it five months. We would wake up to a photo from my Dad in September. An overnight windstorm had whipped through the property and mangled the greenhouse, ripping one end of the metal framework out of the ground and folding it over the other, shredding the plastic. 

A freak rain and wind storm flooded the garden and tore the plastic off the greenhouse (again) in 2019. Photo by Myles Dannhausen Jr.

I was devastated, but Mom and Dad shrugged it off. 

“We’ve got a project for next spring now,” they said. Of course, I was part of that “we.” And rebuild we did, with a new design. That one was in turn torn apart by a windstorm a few years later that uprooted several old trees on the property and flooded the garden. 

They rebuilt again. 

It’s one of the great traits of my parents, but one I recognized only in adulthood. Or more fully, in fatherhood. Mom and Dad were never great at getting ahead, but they were phenomenal at getting back up, at plowing forward, at not looking back. 

It prepared them well for living in the cycle of Door County, particularly in the spring. Renew. Rebuild. Retrench. Each spring beckons a season of work, of grind, of enthusiasm destined to turn to exasperation in a matter of months (or weeks). Assuredly, the body and mind will be battered and worn come November. 

But the long winter puts space between us and the worst of our exhaustion. The cold blacks out so much. And when the first glimmers of hope arrive in the form of glorious, 38-degree April Saturdays, our optimism returns in full. 

This year the staff will arrive. This year we’ll find the time to enjoy the sun. This year we’ll have time to harvest some ramps in May; the slugs and weevils won’t get the strawberries in June; and the tomatoes will ripen in July.

The hope comes back for the farmers, the shopkeepers, the restaurateurs. 

Just as it came for my mom that day on the stoop, looking out at a greenhouse in the spring, thinking of all that was possible. A hug full of all the hope and happiness of spring.

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