Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A birthday treasure September 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:42 AM
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TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY. I need to think for a minute exactly how old I am. Take 2010 minus 1956 and you get 54. Yeah, that would be right.

Funny how the years pass and you lose count after 40, or 50. Where did time go?

I bet my mom wonders that, too, today. How could her second-born of six already be “that old?” Yeah, how?

Birthdays back when I was growing up aren’t like birthday celebrations today. Years ago, we gathered with extended family—grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins—a whole houseful crammed into a farmhouse. Pans of bars. Red Jell-O. Summer sausage sandwiches. Homemade dill pickles. Coffee brewing in the kitchen. Bottled pop and Schell’s beer.

And when we left for home around midnight, we wished the birthday girl, or boy, “many more birthdays!” Tradition. Sweet words, sweet wishes.

Because my birthday fell the day after my parents’ wedding anniversary, I seldom “had company” on my birthday. The relatives would come the night before to celebrate the anniversary, then forget all about my special day.

But my mom made my birthday memorable by baking an animal-shaped cake, chosen from a slim book of cake designs. There was no present from my parents—they didn’t have the money for a gift—and I didn’t really know I should expect one. My animal-shaped cake was enough, although my godmother always sewed an outfit for me. She knew I needed new clothes more than anything.

One year my Aunt Rachel gave me a greeting card with an adjustable green-stone ring tucked into a treasure chest. An emerald in my eyes. I slipped the ring onto my skinny girl finger. I wore the ring every day, all the time, until one day I lost it.

Of all the birthday cards I’ve received in my life, I remember that one and how I cried when the mock emerald became buried treasure in our farmyard.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


10 Responses to “A birthday treasure”

  1. Kristin Says:

    Happy birthday, Audrey. Wishing you a lifetime of memories as treasured as that “emerald” ring.

  2. Just read your blog to that Aunt Rachel. She laughed about the sewing of clothes and said she honestly doesn’t remember the ring. She will get a letter off to you. and probably answer this blog next time she is here.

    O yes, you and your siblings were special to your Aunt Rae and I.

    Love you, Dorothy

  3. bevalker Says:

    happy birthday Audrey! It is my sister Marilyn’s birthday today, also. I remember the family get togethers too. We would make sure the house was cleaned and the magazine rack was organized. Then we would stand by the living room window and watch for car lights or if it was still light out, we’d watch for the dust on the gravel road miles away. I always loved having “company”.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Bev, your words capture exactly what I remember of preparing for birthdays and waiting for “company” to arrive. I’m so glad we have such a loving extended family.

      And, yes, I do remember that today is also Marilyn’s birthday. So “Happy birthday, cousin Marilyn!”

  4. Amber Says:


    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you to everyone for the birthday wishes. I had a wonderful day, spent at a country church, pulling together a mini art show for my 92-year-old friend, Rhody Yule.

  5. lanae Says:

    Hope you had a wonderful birthday my 31` year old sister.
    I remember the good old days too. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY and MANY MORE from your 29 year old sister.

  6. 4evered Says:

    Happy Birthday.
    Years ago I lost a ring like you did. Do you still live on the farm where it was lost? Reason I ask, is years and years later, my sister found my ring. It ended up in the garden area. After a rain storm, she saw something shiney. It was broken, a chunk out of the bottom and one side of the circle, but it was my ring. I still have it broken and all in my jewelry box. Just wondering if maybe someday yours too will surface.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I don’t live on the farm where I grew up, although it’s still in the family. I don’t even live in the country anymore. The ring was likely crushed under a tractor wheel, or…, but I will always have the sweet, sweet memories.

  7. Amy Says:

    It isn’t only you that forgets how old you are. I had a co-worker (freshly graduating from high school) ask me once how old I was. I had to stop and think about it and I spit out “24?” She was confused. I said, “Well, I have graduated high school and college, celebrated my 21 birthday (in Las Vegas of all places) and got married. What do I have to look forward to? 30? She laughed and it made me realize that age is just a number…it numbers the days you have enjoyed your life so far, and if it has been filled with happy memories, you should lose count!!

    Happy Birthday “Other Mom!” I pray your next year of life is as joyous and thrilling as the previous 53!

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