Teresa asks, “What is it that makes Minnesota so special to you Grandma?” We were driving down to the Twin Cities after a week ‘up north’ where I had the pure pleasure of introducing this curious young woman to My Home. Teresa is genuinely interested in places and the people who inhabit them so I had to proceed seriously with my answer.
I start by explaining the excellent liberal “blue state” heritage, marred occasionally by the likes of Michelle Bachman, but still managing to hang on to many of the old Democratic-Farmer-Labor traditions. Right now Minnesota boasts four remarkably progressive leaders in Amy Klobuchar, surely one of the smartest woman in the Senate; Keith Ellison, first Muslim elected to Congress; Al Franken, comedian turned Senator (as opposed to the reverse which is frequently the case) and Governor Mark Dayton, who has successfully fought for the legalization of same-sex marriage. The Governor’s grandfather founded Dayton’s Department Store (which became Target Corporation). As with most graduating seniors from rural northern Minnesota I moved to the Twin Cities and to my first job as a board marker at Cargill’s out near Lake Minnetonka. After paying rent and sharing the food budget with my roommates, much of my meager salary went to Dayton’s so I feel partly responsible for Mark Dayton’s success!
“Another thing,” I say, “Minnesotans have that Scandinavian trait of almost too much modesty; don’t make too much of yourself, my mother said, don’t brag. No, the cake didn’t turn out so good this time…; I think that’s pretty refreshing in a world full of braggadocio of the worst kind.”
I tell Teresa how Minnesota used to have one of the best elementary and secondary school systems in the U.S. (true when I went to school there) and still has great universities and colleges, world-class medical facilities, low unemployment and strong community structures.
I ask, how can you not love a state with a state fish (walleye, of course); where Paul Bunyan strides the land creating lakes wherever his big feet land; where trolls still peer from under bridges (in fact I am going to watch “Troll Hunter” as soon as I post this); and where strange dishes like lutefisk and lefse survive.
I continue…a state where the Mississippi trickles out of the ground and swells to a great river and where General Mills, Pillsbury and Land O’Lakes are among the corporate leaders, helping maintain that Scandinavian tradition of bread and butter, cake and coffee at all hours of the day and night.
I also love being Norwegian and I want my granddaughter to experience the Scandinavian half of her heritage as much as the Asian side; the latter has been much easier growing up in San Diego and attending UCLA where Filipinos greatly outnumber Norwegians! Now we have been to Iceland together which remains the most Viking of places, next we’ll go to what my grandparents referred to as ‘the old country’—Norway. Meanwhile Teresa, there’s always Minnesota.
Finally I want to make a case for places with WEATHER. My brother and sister-in-law only want to be away from ‘those winters.’ Oldsters by the hundreds head out in January and February for a few weeks or months in Florida or Arizona or Mexico. That’s okay but I’m quite certain people are healthier, stronger and more alert for living where there are challenges from the natural environment. The ordeal of a blizzard is greatly outweighed by the intense green and dazzling white of the landscape brightened by the barely-green, brown, red and gold of spring and fall. More than made up for by smells of thawing earth, new leaves, clover, cut hay, boggy freezing lakes; by the scary roar of snow and rain storms, sound songs of robins and finches and bluebirds and our beloved loons, of frogs, crickets and mosquitoes, with wolf and coyote howls and yips thrown in for good measure. Minnesota is truly one of nature’s theaters.
This summer I started telling my childhood tales to Teresa and introducing her to this greenest and best of all places.
Here are some photos of Green and of Teresa, some already posted but you cannot look at either green or Teresa too much.
THERE WAS A TROLL BEHIND THE OUTHOUSE WHEN I WAS VERY YOUNG.