Norah loved summer. She loved everything about it. A break from the pressures of school and busy schedules. Long days, including the occasional precious day without anything planned, when the order of the day was pajamas til afternoon, then playing in the woods until the fireflies came out. She even loved the hot weather. In the last few years, some of our best memories were made on summer camping trips.
Two years ago, after deciding we needed a home base at Red Wing, I bought an old neglected travel trailer and fixed it up. Not satisfied to use it one week in the summer, we started taking little trips. To the beach, to West Virginia, to several festivals. Last year we even followed along with the Steel Wheels as they toured up to Michigan. We would call our trips “Brubaker Family Adventures”, and we were always dreaming up future trips.
And then Norah got sick, and everything was put on hold. During those 3 traumatic weeks, we were preparing ourselves to care for a very sick girl for a very long time. I took a hiatus from touring, and Peggy put grad school on hold and quit working, not knowing when or if she would return. She worked at an elementary school and had the summer off, and she had been planning on using her break to continue her grad program with a couple intensive summer courses. Those classes were canceled as well. We basically cleared our schedules to care for Norah and make whatever lifestyle changes were needed to accommodate her new reality. So when the unthinkable happened, when we returned home without her, we were left with an empty calendar and an empty room in our house.
We have since sought ways to remember and honor Norah. And we are also trying to move forward with intention. As much as we can, we are turning toward people, toward love, and toward each other. And we have decided that, in an effort to learn how to be a family of three, we will spend as much of this summer together as possible.
Two weeks after Norah’s memorial service, we spent a long weekend at the cabin of some lovely friends on the Chesapeake bay. We found that being away together was a wonderful way to spur us out of old routines, and also provided us with opportunities to reminisce and process. Then, knowing that it was time for me to get back to making music, the girls followed me to a couple shows at the end of May. The community that surrounds The Steel Wheels is a beautiful one, and we are being cared for on many levels. If you come to a show this summer, you may see a couple extra Brubakers along for the ride. We are seeking some of that sunshine that Norah loved so much. We are staying grounded but not staying put. We might just be bringing our little second home along with us. We like smiles and kind words and sometimes hugs. And we’ll try to let you in on some of the sights we see on the way. It’s impossible for us to answer that question that seems to roll off the tongue almost reflexively, “How are you doing?” So we’ll try to show what we’re doing and where, and in that way share a little of our journey.