There is Nothing Like Coming Home to Missoula, Montana

By LINDA MCCARTHY

It is wonderful to be back in the Garden City! Every time I come home to Missoula, Montana I feel overly blissful, but this return to my beloved town is truly special because of the distance in time and miles and the ability to see the same feeling of joy in my daughter’s sparkling eyes. Both Madelyn and I are in love with Missoula.

Saying good-bye to Tom and leaving him behind in Palmerston North, New Zealand was difficult and emotional. Madelyn and I both cried for the first 20 minutes on the plane; the flight attendant even brought us a box of tissues unsolicited. Our family has lived in close quarters and spent a lot of time together over the last few months, and this adventure has definitely strengthened our bonds. We feel good about that because it was one of our primary goals in seeking this adventure. However, as those connections grow stronger, we open ourselves to up for more heartache. The separation of our family, even though it’s just for three weeks, makes all three of us sad.

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Until we meet again Palmerston North, New Zealand.

We left Palmy at 3pm on Saturday afternoon, and the airport is about 10 minutes from our little apartment. Two of Maddy’s friends, Jessie and Abby, came out to the airport to say goodbye, which was such a wonderful heart-felt experience for all of us. There were cards, photos, hugs and goodbyes as we boarded the Air New Zealand plane. Just like our travels from America to New Zealand, the service, style, amenities and courtesy of Air New Zealand staff members was absolutely exceptional. That company serves as a world leader in customer service, culture, safety, tourism, sustainability, growth and much more.  I have personally never had a better experience flying.

We soared off to Auckland and then took the red-eye flight to San Francisco, departing at 11 pm Saturday. The 12-hour flight and crossing of the international date line landed us in California Saturday at 12:30 pm. Maddy and I actually experienced two full Saturdays, much like in that movie Groundhog Day.

Our second Saturday was spent at the Hilton San Francisco Airport Bayfront, and we enjoyed room service, naps in fluffy beds, exercise, swimming, dinner and a movie – all at the hotel – then headed to Seattle on a 7 am Alaska Airlines flight.

Good friend Alan Brown picked us up at the Missoula International Airport and brought Maddy’s friends, Avery and Lily, with him. It was a wonderful reunion with our closest friends, and we saw several other friends there such as Missoula’s Gary Hughes, who was picking up his daughter Carrie and her little baby. Carrie’s husband is serving in the U.S. military and is currently in Afghanistan. Bless that family! Gary and I have been friends since 1986 when I started working in Grizzly Athletics. That’s how I met Carol Sharkey-Blodgett, creator and publisher of this site Make It Missoula. That’s Missoula for you! I love it.

I Love my house!

I missed my house! (Farviews Neighborhood)

Alan took all four of us girls to lunch at Fiesta En Jalisco on North Reserve Street. Lunch and the Kettlehouse Cold Smoke was the best meal I had consumed in a long time! It was difficult to find Mexican food in New Zealand, and a can of refried beans cost $5.99 at the grocery store, so both Maddy and I were psyched about lunch. We missed a lot of American foods during our travels, some of which we didn’t realize we liked so much: Ranch dressing, Dill pickles, Gold Fish crackers, bacon, donuts, brewed coffee, great locally-made beer and more.

Arriving home to our house in the Farviews Neighborhood was just Sweet As, as they say in New Zealand. It means “excellent”. House-sitter and friend Beth Sharilla was so kind to care for our home, pets, plants, mail and more, and the place was just sparkling upon our arrival. Both Maddy and I were on top of the world to be home from this long adventure across the globe more than 12,000 miles away!

We could call Missoula the Emerald City right now because it is incredibly green and lush. All the trees have bloomed, and the entire city smells like lilacs. Our home overlooks the valley from the south side of town, and the views are just incredible! The college students are out for the summer, so the pace about town has tapered a notch. The elementary, middle and high schools have three weeks of school left before the term ends.

Maddy and her friends

Maddy and her friends: Jessie, Laura, Abby and Paris.

Madelyn is excited to return to her fifth-grade class at Lewis & Clark Elementary. Her teacher, Mrs. Reeves, has been so good about keeping our daughter connected to her classroom through videoconferencing, presentations, and letter exchanges with the students in Maddy’s Room 3 at Ross Intermediate, led by Mrs. Stanley. We were blessed to have two exceptional teachers at two great schools, who welcomed the opportunities to connect our Sister Cities through youth education and our family’s travels, and we are thankful! Maddy had a great experience that she will hopefully reflect upon fondly for years to come, and that was another major goal we had at the onset. She will have a more broad-based understanding of the world, our place in it, and will have a greater appreciation for cultural differences, what it’s like to travel, and how fortunate we are to live in America.

As we settle back in to our place in Missoula, we notice big and small changes in us and about town. S we reconnect with friends and community members, we are rediscovering this place that is so familiar but has been so distant from us in these recent months. After wrapping up his responsibilities at Massey University, Tom will fly home in a couple of weeks. He has pledged to fish every single day during our separation and has scheduled an overnight float trip on the Yakima River with his brother Jim Gallagher, who owns Tightlines Angling and Troutwater Flyshops in both Cle Elum and Ellensburg . We have returned to the Garden City just in time to enjoy a glorious summer in Western Montana, and there is no place we would rather be. It’s wonderful to be home in Missoula!

(CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE AND USE ARROWS TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL IMAGES)

Leaving Tom Behind
Leaving Tom Behind
The Windmills at Tararua
The Windmills at Tar...
Ashurst Domain
Ashurst Domain
The Manawatu Valley
The Manawatu Valley
Tararua Wind Farm
Tararua Wind Farm
Tararua
Tararua
Manawatu River running through Palmerston North
Manawatu River runni...
View from Anzac Park
View from Anzac Park
Overlooking Palmerston North
Overlooking Palmerst...
Fitzherbert Bridge
Fitzherbert Bridge
Maddy and her friends: Jessie, Laura, Abby and Paris
Maddy and her friend...
Until we meet again Palmerston North
Until we meet again ...

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Linda McCarthy has served as Executive Director of the Missoula Downtown Association since 1999. Prior to that, she served as a Sports Information Director for Grizzly Athletics for 10 years. She is a two-time graduate of The University of Montana, where her husband, Tom Gallagher, is a professor in the Applied Computing and Electronics Program at Missoula College. Her daughter, Maddy Gallagher, is an outgoing and kind 11-year-old who has spent all of her school years at Lewis & Clark Elementary. They can be reached via email at: tomlinda@centric.net.