My dad used to drive this tractor around his own father’s farm in the mid-1950’s. During the Reagan years it was auctioned off as he, along with so many other Minnesota farmers, lost land that had been in the family for generations.
Several months ago, my dad happened upon it again at another auction. That boyhood nostalgia bit him, and he decided to buy it back. He now uses it for odd projects that have nothing to do with farming, but it did my heart good to see that youthful glint in his eye, hauling dirt around his property like he was still a kid on his dad’s dairy farm.
My niece, Lilly, spent the better part of an hour collecting these acorns and then an equal amount of time hiding them in her shirt, too possessive to share even a glimpse. Eventually, she relinquished her loot to me for a photo project and then tore off to play in the park we were in, forgetting all about them. That’s how adults are too, right? The value of an object decreases with familiarity. A new, shiner object or opportunity will always present itself, and we’ll drop what’s in our hands to run after it.
The value of my family will never depreciate, and nothing will ever replace them. So, I’m a squirrel when I visit Minnesota – collecting as many moments with them as possible and carrying the memories back to Washington to provide nourishment in the long months in between visits. Like the time I woke up to find that my niece had snuck into my room and was curled up like a kitten next to my head. God, that melts my heart.
We should all be little squirrels.
Minnesota has a lot of things I don’t miss – mosquitos, deer ticks and the ubiquitous threat of Lyme disease, the oppressive humidity. 90 degree temperatures. However, I can overlook those things because there are more reasons to be fond of the state. I’ll be thinking of them as I fly out of Seattle and into Minneapolis tomorrow.
1. Being called Auntie Jojo. Nothing beats waking up on your sister’s couch to two snickering little people, whispering and daring each other to poke you as though you’re a sleeping animal. You offer a fake snore to rouse their curiosity, and suddenly there’s a knee in your gut and a tiny face in yours begging for attention. “Get UP, Auntie Jojo!” 2. Thunderstorms. Unless you’ve lived in the Midwest, you can’t imagine the sky before a storm – heaving turquoise, warped grey clouds, and the air hanging heavy with anticipation. As a child, you can barely breathe. A crash of thunder on the heels of the first lightning strike provokes a blast of wind from the southwest. Your favorite cottonwood doubles over upon impact. Hail clobbers the windows, forcing you inside. You hide. Pray in a corner of the basement that it’s not a tornado. But afterwards – that’s when the magic happens. Gold spills hot across the horizon and the breeze skims the waters of Lake Minnewaska, offering an apology for her brief, but violent, harangue. All is forgiven. 3. Taking photos with my youngest brother. We’ve torn up rural routes all across Pope County in search of subject matter, escaped swarms of blood-thirsty mosquitos and evaded Lyme disease. He even let me photograph his wedding! I edited out no less than 50 mosquitos in the photo below…
Of course, there are so many other things I love about going home – breakfast with my dad at the Gingerbread Café, where you can still have a meal and coffee for under $10. My grandma’s stories about how she met grandpa. My mom’s cookies.
Pretending that I’m still a kid and the whole world is still before me.