Stillwater, Minnesota

Even on a Monday in October, downtown Stillwater was active with shoppers, walkers, joggers, and bikers. I found a free parking lot and enjoyed walking along the riverfront and into some of the shops. The one where I spent the most time had a sign on the sidewalk that read, “Even if you don’t knit, stop in! We are very nice.” I love being in yarn shops. There is something about existing in the same space as all that fiber and color that is very comforting. It is lovingly created hats and sweaters in their primordial state.

The restaurant that once existed in the side of the cliff is no longer there, but the stairway is. I climbed it up to the neighborhood where I lived when I was barely old enough to remember. My earliest memories are there. I walked up and down the entire length of First Street but could not identify which house was mine. More than one house partially matched my memory but none of them screamed out a perfect match. I do remember walking on that sidewalk and turning on Churchill Street to walk up the hill to my grandmother’s house. I remember the old square brick school. I also remember finding an iron staircase that brought my brothers and I down to the highway. It was so hot that day. Instead of going back up, we decided to go to the nearby cafe and asked for a drink of water. I do not remember what happened next, probably they called our parents to come get us.

Wandering around Stillwater, Minnesota

This was a day of memories. Many of them so hazy that I am not sure of their acuracy. The river was very high. I have been to the Stillwater riverfront many times and the water has been a different level each time. When the water is lower there is a concrete area with pilars, flagpoles, places to sit and steps. Sometimes some of the steps are underwater. On the day I was most recently there all the steps were underwater. When I was about 10 years old there was a grocery store, “Hooley’s”. The checkout lady asked my grandmother, “How’s Tony?” “Dead” my grandmother replied. The lady was so appologetic. I felt sad for both of them. Since my daughter died I have had some similar encounters. My grandmother did not want to make the lady feel bad she just answered the question. My guess is that she was trying hard not to cry in public.

Steps on the Stillwater Riverfront were underwater in early October.

This trip to Stillwater started at Fairview Cemetary where I was glad to be able to remember where to find the markers for my grandparents. I sat between them for a long time and drew some pictures of the leaves that had recently started to fall. I drove from there to downtown which is not far. I could have walked but I was unsure of the way and I wanted to see what I could do from memory. I walked the riverfront, walked downtown, took the steps up to my old neighborhood, met a lady who said she had lived there since the 1960’s and she vaguely remembered my family’s last name, walked first street, failed to find the other staircase from my memory, returned to the restaurant staircase, helped some tourists with their selfie, followed the sidewalk along the highway to the Oasis Cafe, ordered a glass of water (and the fusion salad), and finally returned to my car along the riverfront. I asked the waitress at the cafe about the other staircase. She said it is still there, “but it’s pretty crumbly and there is no sidewalk there.” I decided that could stay in my memory. No need to relive that part of the story.

Steps from Downtown Stillwater up to the residential neighborhood on the bluff.

This post was written in early October. Yesterday was the last day of October and my daughter’s birthday. I did not want to communicate with anyone other than my husband and my son. Today I am ready to rejoin the world, add the photos to this post and hit submit. I hope that you, dear reader, can remember a place that has special significance for you. If you choose to share in the comments, I’d love to read about it.

View from the top of the stairs.
Resting on the riverfront. Sun is shining, things are good.

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