Column: Always asking questions

Column: Always asking questions


Anne VandeMoortel is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.

It drives people around me nuts, but I tend to ask a lot of questions. I always have. I hope I always will.

On a road trip when I was very young I asked the dreaded question, “What town are we in?” I was given the answer and a few minutes later we were on a bridge crossing a river. When we reached the other side of the river I again queried, “What town are we in?” I was completely confused when my father stated the same name he had told a few minutes earlier.

I asked again as I told him we couldn’t be in the same town because we had crossed a river. He told me the name of the town again and stated crossing a river had nothing to do with it.

The only towns I have lived in are Moline and Rock Island. If I crossed the Rock River or the Mississippi River, I was in a different town. My young, inquisitive brain thought that a river was a boundary to a new city. I couldn’t believe that not all towns had rivers.

Recently, when I crossed the Rock River near Barstow, I wasn’t crossing into a new town, but a new adventure. I was off to see Lake Erie for the first time.

Actually, I was going to visit a former Moliner who lives in Toledo. Making the solitary road trip was definitely an adventure. I packed road snacks, plugged my playlist into the car, and prayed I had left early enough to miss the rush hour Chicagoland traffic, which had the potential to paralyze me with fear.

I admired the farmers still out in their fields. The sunshine, blue skies, and puffy clouds on an early December afternoon were glorious. I belted Christmas carols with the confidence of a seven-year-old in a school pageant and cruised along without a worry about my route as Siri’s sweet voice told me which lane I should be in and how many miles to drive straight.

Until she didn’t. Just as I was nearing Joliet, the screen went completely dark and Siri became silent. I frantically fiddled with the cord in the USB port before resigning myself to driving without her assistance.

I had intended to print my directions, but forgot. Fortunately, I knew I needed to go straight into Indiana. By some strange technology-related Christmas miracle, Siri began speaking again and led me to my friend in Toledo.

Whichever body of water is nearby always seems to beckon to us, so we went in search of a beach on Lake Erie. Approaching a tall, beautiful cable-stayed bridge, we both wondered what big body of water required such a bridge and were surprised to see the Maumee River below.

Perhaps a fierce loyalty to our own section of the mighty Mississippi has skewed our expectations for other rivers. At 16, she was bouncing us over the water in a ski boat, and now as we peered at the river below it barely seemed like a river in comparison to the vastness of the river of our youth.

Our journey put us on the edge of a new vastness. Sky and water merged blue on the horizon as we took our first look at Lake Erie. An enormous freighter and a small fishing boat were in sight from the shell-covered beach. Her two dogs sniffed and raced with happy abandon, and two women stood enchanted at the edge of water just as when they were two young girls.

Anne VandeMoortel is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.


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