By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The third installment of Truth Be Told, the Valentine’s edition, was held in the Colfax Municipal Building auditorium the evening of February 11.
The event started with music by the Colfax High School chamber choir under the direction of Carrie Christensen.
Featured storytellers were Michelle Knutson, Lisa Bragg-Hurlburt, Jaci Ackerlund and Trevor Hovde.
Michelle Knutson lives in Colfax and is a history teacher in New Richmond.
Here is her story:
It was on this stage [in the Colfax Municipal Building auditorium] that I became Michelle Knutson, or as you might know me, Mrs. Troy Knutson.
[Troy and Michelle’s wedding is believed to be the only wedding held in the Colfax Municipal Building auditorium. Troy is president of the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group.]
The story starts before then. Every Valentine’s Day, Troy puts this out. Troy is awesome about decorating for any kind of holiday.
I got this when I was in the fifth grade. It’s a little jug. It’s got a little lady bug and on the back it says, “Lucky in love.” I got this from Grandma Riba, my dad’s mom.
My grandparents were married 70 years. My parents were married almost 50 years.
And I thought, “Oh my gosh, in fifth grade, I’m going to be lucky in love.”
I was a hopeless romantic. Every song I listened to, “that’s so sweet.” And every movie I watched, I would cry, and I would think, “that’s going to be my story.” Every commercial, I would cry, you know, like the Hallmark commercials. “That’s going to be me.”
If you’ve ever heard the “Small Town” song by John Cougar Mellencamp, I am that hopeless romantic. I always have been. Even though sometimes I try not to be. I was married at 19. I was divorced at 25. I was married at 28 and I was divorced at 38.
I have two amazing kids: Eddie and Josie.
I really did think when I was jumping into those marriages, I thought, “Oh my gosh. This is it! I’m going to be married 70 years just like my grandma and grandpa. I’m going to be married 50 years, just like my mom and dad.”
But it was when those two children were born that I truly knew what love was.
When I held Eddie, and I looked at him, I thought I understood how much my parents loved me. And then I held him. And I had no idea how much my parents loved me.
Then I thought, “how in the heck can I love another?”
Then here comes Josie. I hold her. Oh my gosh. My heart. It’s like the Grinch. She was amazing. She was a great baby. She’s a great kid.
Eddie — well, Eddie is a teenager — whatever — I love you, honey!
When I got divorced the second time, I thought, “what am I going to do?”
I made a promise to Josie when she was a three-year-old: “We’re going to see every state before you graduate from high school.”
Our kids have seen 30 states. We’re 20 short. She is in the sixth grade. I am so proud of that. I started that by myself, and I made my dad totally nervous.
It’s so funny, as a 40-year-old, to make your dad nervous because of course, I didn’t want to let him down. He’d say, “call me and give me your itinerary” and all that stuff.
We have really been taking on the world to see the United States.
Another thing I did is — I rediscovered me.
I kind of figured out who I am.
I’m a teacher, and I really like to teach. I have a great gig in New Richmond. It sucks to drive but I have it so good there. I really do appreciate my job very much.
I feel like I’m really me for the first time in a long time.
And I thought, “hey, three is my favorite number, this is all good.”
Then, and I’m starting to get political here, Scott Walker comes around, and he puts into effect Act 10.
What Act 10 did is it took away our ability to be a union at our school.
And you know, that was kind of upsetting.
I’m not very political in my own mind. It’s funny because Scott Walker really is a key player in this story, even though he doesn’t know me. Or Troy.
Troy ends up going to Madison to protest. And he goes with a whole bunch of Colfax teachers, and he makes some pretty sweet connections.
And one of the connections he makes is with my cousin’s wife.
There’s a graduation in 2011 when my cousin, Brian, graduated from high school, and there’s this set up that’s supposed to be happening at this graduation party because I’m supposed to meet this Troy Knutson.
I’m serving food, and I’m making food. I have to play piano at church the next day, and I live in New Richmond, and that’s an hour away. I’ve got two little kids. I’ve got to sleep. I’ve got to get up. I’ve got to go to Osceola to play piano.
So we met for five whole minutes.
And he thought — well, I don’t know what he thought.
He didn’t call.
I call him, and I say, “sorry I had to be in such a hurry.” So we met.
We had the best first date ever.
Rod and Debbie Larson — Rod is my number one cousin — Troy and I went out in Menomonie, and we’re talking, and he’s telling me about everything he loves, about Colfax, and I’m telling him about everything I love, and these amazing kids that I made, and we decided we were going to play a prank.
Debbie Larson, fourth grade teacher [at Colfax], and Missy Prince, kindergarten teacher [at Colfax], were kind of the match makers.
I said to Troy, “let’s send them a text. And I’m going to say — you are weird. And what were you doing, thinking about setting me up with this guy? And you do the same. Say — she’s crazy.”
We did that — and we had them both in tears.
I thought, “what did we do?”
And then I said, “hey, you live in Colfax. Nobody locks their doors, right?”
And he’s like, “yeah.”
And I said (in a whisper) “let’s Saran Wrap their house.”
So we bought about six rolls at the Dollar General. That was my first experience at the Colfax Dollar General.
We didn’t do the mean stuff. We just Saran Wrapped. And we did an amazing job.
Someday, if you know Rod Larson, you have to ask him the story about his Saran Wrapped bed.
After that first date, there were other things that happened too. There was this peacock in their yard that dive-bombed us. We named him Paul. That became a theme in our relationship.
I went home. I went back to school.
And I told my colleagues in the history department — I found somebody who is absolutely going to be my best friend. We laughed. And we laughed. And we laughed.
I’ve never felt like that before.
It turned into something more than that, obviously, because I’m Mrs. Troy Knutson.
After a little bit of time, seeing Troy with the kids, and seeing his commitment to the kids, I became nervous that I was on that same path again.
My grandma gave me a jug that says “I’m lucky in love” but I don’t feel real lucky.
I knew I had met my match.
By the end of summer, the day before I started school again in September of 2011, Troy proposed.
I said “yes.”
I thought, “I’ve just got follow this. It’s all good.”
And little did I know where it would take me.
I realized I was gaining a husband, and I was ending up in a relationship with someone who was absolutely going to be my best friend.
But I got more than that.
Not only did I get Colfax’s own Troy Knutson. (I know! Everybody’s jealous!) I made a list of other things I gained: I got a welcoming community. I got a supportive church family. I got a school with many opportunities for my kids to shine. I got a new family that loves and supports me and the kids. I got closer access to my oldest cousin and his family. I have gained some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my entire life.
And ultimately, I did learn that Grandma was right: I’m lucky in love.