This Time Last Year


I won’t always post here as a University of Montana parent, but the reality is that for the past few years, it’s the most important reason I’ve shown up in Missoula. Just about this time last year I was busy trying not to address both the empty bedroom and the empty nest I’d be returning home to, and trying hard to concentrate on moving my son into his room in Aber Hall.

The three of us lugged what he’d brought from home, what we had picked up at Target and Costco, from the back of our truck and then on up to the second floor.  This time last year he was a freshman, settling into a city two states away with two of his oldest friends. Acquaintances yet to be made traveled the same campus pathways and an older brother lived nearby. He would be just fine. I wasn’t so sure about myself.

Somewhere along the way I should probably say ‘Thanks, Missoula” for making the whole process of moving a child to college a bit easier. For taking great care of two of my boys.

One of them graduated from The U of M last spring and has changed so much from the 18 year old fresh-out-of-high-school kid I moved here a few years ago. I’ve observed him become his best self while he’s lived here and as a parent, I couldn’t ask for more. Diploma in hand, he and his black dog have decided to stay on for awhile. Funny, but I was pretty sure he wouldn’t actually be able to leave.

Thanks to those who care enough about your city to stay involved — for keeping it real and beautiful and at its best. It may seem as if students who move here are just visiting campus for a few years, but what they take away truly matters. It’s so much more than what is learned in a lecture hall or printed on a document handed out at graduation.

Missoula has much to offer a student. So many choices and things to do. It is interesting, diverse, active, fun and adventurous. Its attitude suggests ease, accessibility and acceptance. Our boys have spent some pretty important and formative years here along with the rest of the kids on campus who purposefully chose Missoula to live and learn in. Those who recognized it as a great place to try themselves out. Authors, art, musicians, music venues, cool boutiques, record stores, coffee shops, water and outdoor activities combined with a cool dose of hipster and great bike lanes all increase the potential for the perfect college experience.

Just about this time last year we moved our son into Aber. A couple of weeks ago we settled him into a rental home close to campus. On our way back to the hotel one night we stopped at a crosswalk lit only by street lamps and the night sky and watched as a young buck…..the kind with antlers…… wandered slowly across Arthur Avenue and onto campus. In the dark, we could make out the silhouette of one on the other side.

 I’m sure we’ll be in and out of town again soon. Probably a few more times than either of our boys thinks is absolutely necessary.

 If you’ve enjoyed this Visit Missoula post, please link and share! If you’re interested in using the written piece or photos for any other purposes, please contact its author, Margaret DeWilliam Horton at She will be more than happy to help you. Peace!


Margaret is a writer, photographer and mom who lives in the rainy but green Pacific Northwest. She has been a frequent visitor to Missoula and the surrounding landscape for many years and knows that a part of her lives there as well. Please stop in to find out about her visits and why she looks forward to coming back each time. Hopefully it will make you want to visit as well. You can find out what else she’s been up to, thinking about and take a look at more of her photos on her website at