About six years ago our family moved to northeast Iowa from Des Moines. While on an anniversary trip, my parents both fell in love with the area. They returned home with the exciting news of planning a move. To first and third graders, my brother and I couldn’t resist an adventure to a new place.
We moved to a house on the west side of Decorah. As a family, our favorite place to explore was the Community Prairie a few blocks from our front door. Every trail created the opportunity to get lost and run through the tall grass paths. On each trip, the prairie had changed in a way that encouraged brand new exploration. And every time we went, it was never the children who decided when it was time to leave, rather the adult deciding we had to go.
My brother and I quickly became close friends with two neighbor girls that lived a few doors up. After a day of having four energetic children running around the house, my parents packed us up and hiked the three blocks to the prairie. My brother and I were astonished that the neighbor girls had never visited before. I remember thinking, “How could they live so close and have never known such an amazing place was practically in their backyard?”
We spent countless evenings watching the sunset over the prairie because we had stayed so late playing "Cops and Robbers" or skipping rocks on the Upper Iowa River in the spring and summer. Fall was spent throwing the football through the grass and gathering the dead seed pods. In the winter, we went sledding down the dike or had snow ball fights on the prairie.
The neighbor girls have moved away and the calendars of high schoolers get busier with every year. But each time I visit, the fond memories of the Decorah Community Prairie always resurface and I'm grateful to remember the great times we spent there.