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Prochnow: Packing for more than a trip to the lake

FARGO - I’m a lake girl. With the exception of attending an occasional wedding, my summer weekends are spent at the lake with family and friends. Nothing’s better than waterskiing, tubing, fishing, roasting marshmallows or simply the tranquility of a lakeside sunrise.

But like most lake-goers, the process of getting there is anything but peaceful. Every Thursday night, the weekly chaos ensues. Buy groceries, make food, mow the lawn, water the flowers, wash and pack clothes. No matter how many times I do it, it’s still an all-consuming rush to prepare for Friday afternoon’s lake departure. Then I keep my fingers crossed that nothing important gets left behind.

Unfortunately, summertime in this region also means packing for more than a trip to the lake. It’s when many women seek safety from domestic violence, making it the busiest time of year at the YWCA Emergency Shelter in Fargo.

Unlike other seasons, summer offers a unique chance to leave. It’s common for a woman to wait until her kids are out of school to maintain routine and summon the courage to leave her abuser. She knows the journey will be a little less trying when the weather is warm enough to sleep in her car or outdoors. And when she leaves, it’s usually done quickly, packing secretly, in hopes of not being caught by her abuser.

The stories shared by the women in our program remind me each summer that my chaotic lake-packing ritual pales in comparison to what it feels like to pack up for a new way of life. The “important” items on my list suddenly don’t seem as necessary as before. And I wish the peace the lake gives me could be felt by everyone.

Erin Prochnow is the executive director of the YWCA Cass Clay. She can be reached at