Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An unexpected guest tours my Faribault home April 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:08 AM

WOULDN’T YOU KNOW, on the day the beds are unmade, because I’m washing sheets; dirty dishes are stacked on the counter; dried fern leaves litter the carpet; Minnesota Moments magazine proofs are strewn across the dining room table; and cardboard still covers a hole in the wall (has for six months), I get an unexpected guest.

And it’s 100 percent my fault.

If I wasn’t the curious person that I am, this man never would have set foot inside my unkempt house.

But I had to go and stick my nose (my whole being really) out the front door (onto the sidewalk really), literally.

I can’t help myself. As I’m working at my computer, I notice him loitering in front of my house with his fancy, schmancy camera. He’s taking photos. But of what? There is nothing I can envision that is worthy of a photograph.

This deserves investigation. But by the time I find my shoes, pull open the door and run down the steps, he is already walking away.

“Sir, sir,” I yell, feeling a bit foolish about the formality of my words. But since he is a stranger, I figure politeness is my best approach.

“I’m curious,” I say. “What are you taking pictures of?”

He is in town, visiting from Alaska, and once lived in the neighborhood, he tells me.

“Oh, I live down there,” I say, pointing to my house, the green house, on the corner.

“504?” he asks.

Yup, that would be it, my home for the past 25 ½ years.

“I grew up there,” he says.

I decide then and there that I’m going to invite him inside.

He is pleased as punch.

“I’m Audrey,” I say.

He’s Randy.

Once inside, I give him the tour and he can’t get over how bright the interior is with all of the paneling gone. He helped his dad nail the hideous 70s décor in place, he says.

And while we talk, he snaps the occasional picture while I apologize and try to tidy up my home. I can just imagine Randy showing these photos to his family.

They’ll likely think, maybe even say, “Oh, she sure has a messy house.”

Yeah, well at least it’s light and airy and stripped of all that dark, dark paneling.

Thankfully for me, my unexpected guest seems not to care. I fill him in, room-by-room, on the changes we’ve made: new sheetrock, new carpet, new windows, new insulation, new furnace, even a new toilet.

But not a new kitchen sink. It’s still the same hideous brown of his youth.

Oh, yeah, and Randy notices the “new” tree. Yeah, the one that we planted 23 years ago and which he passes coming and going via my backyard, after he’s thanked me profusely for allowing him inside his childhood home.

It was my pleasure, Randy, and you’re welcome back to reminisce any day. Just call ahead next time.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


6 Responses to “An unexpected guest tours my Faribault home”

  1. Greg Budig Says:

    There is a strange yearning in most of us to go back to the houses of our youth. My family’s first house in Morris, my Grandma’s old house in Wadena, even my old basement apartment in Moorhead.
    Sometimes the years have not been kind to these places, but in our minds and in our hearts, they will always hold a special place.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You are spot-on with your comments, Greg. I, too, have found myself wishing I could get inside the apartments, the lake cabin, even the dorm where I once lived. Each place was once “home” and holds memories.

      The farmhouse where I lived for the first 11 years of my life was demolished when my family built a new house. So there’s no returning except in photos, stories and memories.

      I would like to think that my husband and I have taken good care of Randy’s childhood home. He seemed happy with our changes as he, too, remembered years past.

  2. Dawn Tietz Says:

    How exciting for Randy to see his childhood home. I bet he never expected to actually get a tour of your house.

    I was thinking by your title that Annie Mary or Norman or a four-legged gray creature visited you unexpectedly.

    Now they would be unexpected guests wouldn’t they?

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, Randy was most pleasantly surprised that I invited him into his childhood home.

      And I’m glad I could surprise you too, you with the preconceived notion that my most frequent “guests” are fur-covered and with long, skinny tails.

      Annie Mary has only been here once, in disguise as Aunt Marilyn.

  3. Kristin Says:

    I’m sure your house wasn’t remotely messy except in your own mind. Randy doesn’t sound like the type to judge, more like the type to be eternally grateful to be invited into his childhood home.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, my house was somewhat messy, Kristin. But you’re right. Randy could have cared less that the beds were unmade (because I was washing bedding), that my table was strewn with a work project, that…

      And, yes, he seemed absolutely grateful to have gotten inside his childhood home.

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