Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A gathering of family on the Minnesota prairie July 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:24 AM

I’m standing on the edge of the park, looking to the northwest, across the soybean field at a sky tinged pink by the fading sun. I have missed the best of a prairie sunset. I know that.

But yet, I savor these moments, breathing in the cool night air on a summer evening as perfect as I’ve ever seen in southwestern Minnesota. This is a day made even better by its ending, here in the Vesta Park, gathered with family for a weekend reunion.

Already we have sipped homemade wine, toasted super giant marshmallows over the camp fire, belted out Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, swapped stories of teenage antics.

As the evening progresses, we reminisce about Chinese jump rope made from recycled underwear elastic and about Old Maid. And running around dark farm yards playing Starlight, Moonlight, Hope to See the Ghost Tonight.

Laughter slices through the darkness.

Flames flare in the camp fire as more wood is added. Later, we draw our lawn chairs closer to the fire, absorbing its warmth.

Above us, stars emerge, filling the sky. Later, my son and niece will tell me they saw six shooting stars while lying on the basketball court with a cluster of star gazing kids.

“Twinkle, twinkle little star…” the kids sing. I tip my head, spot the Big Dipper, and take in the vastness of this prairie sky, the sky I knew so well as a child.

I am back here now, for this weekend, to be with the family that I love—the aunts, the uncles, the cousins, some of my siblings and their families, my mom—reconnecting, remembering, celebrating and making new memories.

Already, we are planning to return next year on Saturday, to extend our family reunion beyond the typical Sunday afternoon potluck. We’ve chosen a theme, recruited volunteers, come up with a list of games

And we’ve vowed to learn all of the words to Ring of Fire.


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