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When life gets wobbly, we reach for a handrail.

I moved to my hometown at a time when I am facing a major life alteration. Soon I will set down my role as day-to-day mom with kids in my house, to become a phone-parent with grown offspring who live elsewhere.

One of my children is away at college and the other is in that space between her degree and her first post-college job.

For my daughter, who is 22, Kenosha is not home. This is Carolyn’s base camp, a place to shelter and plug into the wi-fi as she updates her website and sends out her portfolio. I am anxious for her to find her people, and at the same time I am grateful she’s been here.

A few weeks ago, on a day when summer had just given up the ghost, Carolyn and I hiked Petrifying Springs Park. The air was refreshingly crisp, under cloudy skies. Many of the trees had already lost their leaves due to wind, but the park was still a striking display.

I parked the car near Highway A and we began walking a trail along the road that runs through the park, detouring over wooden bridges as we went.

At the first footbridge, we stepped into a postcard scene of rosy pink leaves over a bubbling creek.

“My favorite time of year is not a season,” she said enthusiastically. “It’s the transition between the seasons. I love the beginning of fall. I love the first snow.”

“I know what you mean,” I said.

After walking for some time, we stopped at a rest area, where Carolyn found a painted stone sitting on a ledge. On the surface of the stone was a silhouette of a black tree against a navy blue sky with a yellow moon. On the underside were instructions: “Post on FB Kenosha Rocks, Keep or Re-hide.”

Amused, we accepted the mysterious mission. We popped the rock into Carolyn’s jacket pocket and took it with us.

We then crossed the road and followed a trail that went deeper into the woods, past the green of the golf course.

Along the way, I thought I recognized a giant sledding hill from my childhood. It seems smaller now.

The clouds cleared, and late afternoon light now filtered through the upper boughs, revealing more of the lemony tones overhead. We laughed at ourselves for oohing and aahing, but we couldn’t help it.

The canopy grew more vivid with each curve of the path, which seemed to disappear between the trees.

Our children are only ours for a short while. We bring them from point A to point B and then hope that we’ve done well to prepare them, that luck will be on their side, that it will all work out.

Soon it was time to head back and I suddenly remembered the rock in Carolyn’s pocket.

We placed the stone on the base of a lamppost, where it did not stay hidden for long.

Amy Ambrose is a local freelance writer. Look for her column monthly in Forum.

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