This photo of New Glarus is courtesy of TripAdvisor
The crisp, cool air of October made a natural blush on my cheeks, and so did walking hand in hand down the main street of New Glarus with my first boyfriend. It was Columbus Day weekend, and we were enjoying a day off from school. The rolling hills of the region, which once reminded the original residents of their native Switzerland, were an inferno of color. The maples were red and yellow, and their tongues of fire were licking around the leather brown of the massive oak trees. The hills were alive, and I felt as though I were truly alive for the first time.
Although I wasn’t an unattractive girl, my high standards in Christianity stopped many pursuers from approaching. I didn’t mind though, because now I had caught the prize… or so I thought. I had met him in church. What could go wrong there, right? He was a tall, broad-shouldered latino, and as I glanced at his figure next to mine I was amazed that he would be seen with such a wallflower. What a lucky girl was I!
My father, being a graduate of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s school of architecture in nearby Spring Green, had an alumni luncheon. So he and my mother dropped the two of us off in New Glarus. After a day of ambling, we were rushing to meet my parents for dinner at the New Glarus Hotel. It was founded before the Civil War and is famous for its fondue, which I had never tried before. My former hippie parents had gone to a few fondue parties in their time, and I had always wondered about the burnt orange fondue pot in the back of our kitchen cabinet. At the moment, it seemed like the perfect romantic food.
We had arrived at the door where a man in shorts and suspenders, Swiss style, held the door open. The hotel tables overlooked Main Street, and the view was speckled with Swiss architecture. If it had been winter, I could very easily have thought I was vacationing in a ski chalet.
Now before I continue with this narrative, you must understand my dilemma. Every friend I ever had was a friend to my entire family. It was just the three of us: Mother, Father and I. So many kids looked longingly upon my parents who had or made time for me, and we did things as a family unit. The downside of this was that I was never sure if my friends, or in this case my boyfriend, were attracted to me or to my family. That afternoon my worst fears had been realized. I didn’t think about it much at the time, but the conversation would later haunt me.
“Weren’t the colors wonderful today?” Mother inquired.
Now here is something about my mother. She makes everything and everyone around her better. Give her a run-down home with some yucky old furniture, and she will scrub everything until it sparkles, and make a bohemian paradise from the tag sale leftovers. She can make her second hand clothes into the garb that any beautiful gypsy fairie queen would be honored to wear. And you should see what she does with leftovers! You’d swear you were dining with a king in his magnificent palace! But her most amazing quality is that she believes the best of everyone around her, and those who know her strive to become the things she believes them to be.
“Yes, the hills were positively on fire!” I said, looking at the handsome face beside me to see what his reaction to all of this would be.
“Oh, it was wonderful Ma!” he teased. I always felt a little uncomfortable when he did that. Was it good-natured teasing? Or, was he, in fact, rolling his eyes at us?
The fondue came. We started with a delicious cheese and bread fondue, then on to the main course with meat and veggies dipped in hot oil. And for dessert, chocolate with apples and strawberries.
Here I was across the street from memories of my childhood and experiencing a dear place with someone new as I was entering womanhood. Things couldn’t seem more hopeful or exciting. And yet there were butterflies fluttering in my stomach, as if I were about to do something dangerous that could alter my future. Why don’t we listen to those still, small voices?
The conversation, you ask? It was really just a statement.
My boyfriend said, “I don’t know who I love more, you, or your family.”
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