IMAGINE PACKING YOUR ENTIRE LIFE into a steamer trunk and sailing across a vast ocean into the unknown and a future that holds both fear and promise.
I cannot fathom this as I am neither an adventurer nor lover of water transportation. Nor would I desire to leave the familiarity of the only home I’d ever known, or loved ones behind.
To be an early immigrant to this country had to be difficult.
My own forefathers, both maternal and paternal, arrived here from Germany, making their way west to eventually settle in Minnesota.
Minnesota. Home to Swedes and Germans, Norwegians and Finns and Irish and Poles and Italians and…a whole melting pot of people in those early days of settlement. Today we might add Sudanese, Somali and Hispanic to the mix.
So where am I going with this pondering?
A visit to the Hjemkomst Center on the western border of Minnesota in the city of Moorhead, snugged against the Red River of the North, prompted all this thought about immigration. The center is, among other things, home to the Hjemkomst, a replica Viking ship constructed in northwestern Minnesota and then sailed from Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota, across the Atlantic Ocean to Norway in 1982. (Click here to read my post about the Hjemkomst.)
It was the Hjemkomst Center Heritage Gift Shop which truly directed my thoughts toward immigration and celebrating the cultural diversity of our country. Here, in this store, you can purchase merchandise which connects to ethnicity.
And because I have never traveled across the ocean, not any farther west than the eastern border of Wyoming, but as far east as New York with the Statue of Liberty within my view, shops like this allow me to experience snippets of other countries and cultures.
I know. This museum gift shop does not hold the same meaning to those of you who are seasoned world travelers. But for me, a child of the land-locked prairie, such places hold a certain allure. I suppose it’s like reading a book. I can travel afar without actually ever boarding the ship.
© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling