Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My son educates me about the Ides of March March 15, 2011

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My son has been painting tiny Dungeons and Dragons figurines and this one reminds me of the Ides of March, which has evolved, in my mind, into a menacing creature. I played around with the photo, adding the green in honor of March.

“WHAT DATE IS IT tomorrow?” he asks, even though he’s sitting only feet from the wall calendar.

“March 15,” I answer.

“Beware the Ides of March,” he booms in the deep voice of a boy becoming a man.

“What does that mean?” I ask.

And then my 17-year-old spouts off bits and pieces of information, bits and pieces, about Shakespeare’s famous line in Julius Caesar—the warning from the soothsayer about J.C.’s impending death on March 15: “Beware the Ides of March.”

Then we are discussing Shakespeare and I tell him how much I dislike the playwright’s work except maybe Romeo and Juliet and the line, “double, double toil and something-or-other” from Macbeth.

I find Shakespeare’s writing stuffy and confusing and not at all fun to read, and I’m an English minor.

So I’m surprised that my boy, who professes to hate writing, claims a fondness for Shakespeare and Greek philosophers, which he just studied in humanities.

He thinks he knows so much and I know so little. I try to tell him that decades have passed since I studied these things. But he surmises that I am getting old and forgetful and maybe I am.

Mostly, though, I tell him I never cared about some of this information in the first place, so why would I remember it beyond knowledge necessary to pass a test or a class? Probably not the right thing for a mother to tell her son, but it is the truth.

I don’t care if I remember that the Roman statesman Julius Caesar was assassinated by Brutus and others on March 15 in 44 B.C. I didn’t remember; the smart junior in high school had to tell me.

Then today, on this middle March morning, before he headed out the door to school, my boy warned me, “Beware the Ides of March!”

“Beware the Ides of March!” I echoed. “Beware the Ides of March as you walk to school.”

He smiled a wide grin that told me that for that moment on this morning, March 15, I succeeded in saying something that was momentarily brilliant. Oh, joy, for the Ides of March.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Part III: A flood survivor’s answered prayers

EDITOR’S NOTE: As Minnesotans prepare for spring floods, I bring you this third in a series of stories from Hammond. Last fall a flash flood raged through this small southeastern Minnesota community. Tina Marlowe, 36, and her family were among the many families left temporarily homeless. Floodwaters engulfed the basement of their home and flooded the main level with several inches of water.

In my last post, we left off with the family moving into a Rochester rental home after living in three different hotels.

Today we look at their material losses and Tina’s perspective on losing so much to the floodwaters.


A waterline on the side of this Hammond home shows just how high floodwaters rose on this house located on the south end of Second Avenue South in Hammond. Jenny Hoffman took the photo on the morning of Saturday, September 25, 2010.

WHEN TINA MOVED in with her future in-laws two years ago, most of her possessions—except for clothes and items stored in third level bedrooms—were stashed in the basement.

She lost nearly everything in the flood: Her kids’ “keepsakes.” A collection of Christmas decorations. College and kids’s books. Small appliances. Her music collection. The list goes on and on.

Her in-laws, Bob and Cathy Mann, lost a life-time of collectibles and memories stored in the basement.

“I was not able to save much, and what I did save is damaged—but I don’t care,” Tina says. “I saved my daughter’s baptism dress, cloth, candle and announcement. I was able to save her birth pillow and silver spoons, and her great-grandmother’s genuine crystal antique perfume decanters.

I was able to save my son’s first Harley Davidson outfit that his grandpa got him, and I saved the baby cowboy boots and baby blankets and, despite the damage, I kept my diploma, hat, senior yearbook and my copy of the Byron Review in which I made the front page for graduation in 1993.

I plan to tell them (my children) that just as these items are memories, the damage that they carry are memories too. I guess if one has to decide what you would save if you could only save a few things, these are the things I prayed would be spared. Somehow I feel that my prayer was answered.”


When the floodwaters subsided, Tina, her fiancé, Micheal Mann, and the rest of their family knew they were racing against time to move their soaked belongings out and gut the house.

They carried many of their possessions into their garage. In the spring they will sort through the camping equipment, the river fun equipment, the summer pool, the gardening equipment, the food processor, dehydrator, pressure cooker…to see what they can keep.

“It just breaks my heart because everything that makes me and us Minnesota was lost or damaged in this flood,” Tina says. “It will take me years to replace it all.”

CHECK BACK for Part IV of Tina’s story as she shares how her family was impacted emotionally by the flood and more.


John Bemmert took this photo while standing in his driveway along Second Avenue North on the afternoon of Friday, September 24, 2010. This shows the flooded intersection of Second Avenue and Wabasha County Road 11.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling