Alice Smith has been the single most influential person in my entire life; for more than the simple fact that she was one of the people that created me. She was born on March 23rdnineteen hundred fifty-nine. She grew up on mink ranches and would go hunting and camping in northern Michigan with her father and I believe that is where her love of the outdoors started. She had many adventures with him. She is the oldest of her siblings and grew up poor with both of her parents working full time jobs and many of the household responsibilities befell her. As she grew through her adolescence so did her passion for camping and backpacking. In nineteen seventy-eight she decided to go on a NOLS expedition. It was a winter backpacking expedition in Yellowstone National Park. She always told me it was the hardest most rewarding thing that she had done up to that point in her life. After her course she received a degree in finance and continued to spend her free time in the backcountry. She traveled and had experiences and enjoyed her twenties until one day she found out that she was pregnant. Single motherhood is the decision that she made for herself (which I am forever grateful for). After I was born she went back to graduate school to give me a better life than she had. The earliest memories that I have are of me riding on the back of her bicycle all around Michigan State campus. After she graduated with an MBA she moved us to southeastern Michigan where she started a career in banking. All through my life we went camping, skiing, traveling, and backpacking. Her love of the outdoors was transferred to me. As I grew she fostered a love of wild places and would tell me stories of her trips as a young person and things that she wished she would’ve done. She was always a frugal woman and could make anything fun, I remember finding two wardrobe boxes. Her and I turned one into a spaceship and the other into a police station and we worked on those for hours and played in them for even longer. After I graduated from high school she offered me an opportunity to go on a NOLS trip myself which was a pivotal moment in my development. As I got older I started abusing drugs and alcohol which quickly turned into an addiction, and no matter how big of a shit head I was, she never gave up on me. She supported me through treatment and my halfway house. She always would impress on me the importance that physical activity and going into wild places in my sobriety.
This woman taught me so much. She taught me how to love and respect the wild places of the world. She taught me the value of hard work and the satisfaction that comes with it. She taught me how to stretch a dollar and how to be responsible with the money that I have. She taught me that experiences, not possessions, are the measure of someone’s life. She taught me how to love another person unconditionally. And she taught me how to be a man and step into my life with conviction. This is one of the most incredible women on the planet that I have the great pleasure of calling my mother. I want to say thank you Mom for giving me everything that you have and happy birthday.
Your loving son,