Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thanksgiving Eve goodness November 22, 2012

FIFTY MILES FROM FARGO, he called his dad. His words were garbled, cutting in and out.

So he hung up, dialed my cell. “Give me Dad,” he snarled.

I waited, listening to one side of a conversation that did not sound good.

After my husband clicked off my phone, he told me that Julie’s car had broken down near Fergus Falls. Our son’s friend had managed to steer the smoking vehicle off Interstate 94 at eastbound exit 50. There they sat, four North Dakota State University college students stranded along the interstate on Thanksgiving Eve with nearly 250 miles to go.

Interstate 94 sometimes seems to run right into the sky as you drive west toward Fargo. (File photo)

What to do? We offered to drive the four hours north and west to Fergus Falls. But Caleb told us to wait, that they were trying to figure things out, to find a tow truck and perhaps hitch a ride from another friend back home to Faribault.

At one point, in several exchanged phone calls, my son ordered, “Stop freaking out, Mom.”

Alright then.

I asked Caleb to keep me posted. And eventually they worked it out, securing a tow and ride, walking from the mechanic’s shop a short distance to a nearby convenience store, waiting for the friend to arrive from Fargo. By 9 p.m., they were back on the interstate, 2 ½ hours after that initial SOS to my automotive machinist husband who was trying to long-distance diagnose problems with an aged Honda.

Shortly after our son and three others left Fergus, Julie’s dad phoned saying her car had already been repaired. (Phil didn’t know the specific diagnosis.) Julie had insisted on staying with her vehicle, sending the others on their way home.

My husband doubted anyone would repair the Honda on Thanksgiving Eve, or anytime prior to Friday. He was, obviously, wrong.

So we waited, me reading, my husband nodding off as the television blared and the minutes crept into hours, past midnight and then 1 a.m.

Shortly after 1 a.m., our son arrived home and we embraced in fierce, tight hugs. I was so relieved to have my boy home early Thanksgiving morning.

But there is more to tell, for this is also a story of thankfulness.

Thank you to the good people, the many strangers, who stopped to check on the stranded travelers at eastbound exit 50 by Fergus Falls. There were many, our son said.

Thank you to the mechanic who repaired Julie’s car on Thanksgiving Eve.

And thank you to the young woman who was willing to drive three other college students 250 miles home.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am a grateful mother.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


24 Responses to “Thanksgiving Eve goodness”

  1. God is good. All the time.

  2. This one brings tears to my eyes. From one mother to another, we both know how blessed we are when our children are looked after. I’ve had a few of those phone calls.. What a joyous celebration you’ll be having!! Happiest Thanksgiving ever!! xx Smidge

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      In those moments, you feel so helpless as you grasp, trying to figure out how you can help from afar. And then, when you realize that the situation is mostly out of your control, you trust that God will provide. And He does. And He did.

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    I can’t tell you how many times the admonition “Stop freaking out Mom” was leveled my direction!!! It’s what we do, what can I say! The true and kind hearts of people come through in such situations, I truly believe, as God sends His help in these angels. Blessings to you all, D

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I was truly touched by the angels frequenting the Fergus Falls area on Thanksgiving Eve at exit 50.

  4. Jackie Says:

    Such a helpless feeling,,,I got a little teary-eyed just thinking about those stranded kids. Glad it all worked out in the end…Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      My first concern was that they get off the interstate, because being stranded on the side of the interstate would not have been good. Fortunately they were near an exit when the trouble started. Then I was trying to think, “Do I know anyone in Fergus Falls?” I did come up with one name. Also called a friend to see if his son, who also attends NDSU, might be on the road back to Faribault. He was, but was just north of the Twin Cities.

      Bottom line, it all worked out and the kids got home safely.

  5. Beth Ann Says:

    I love the “stop freaking out, Mom”!!!! I can so hear that!!! My boys have had their share of adventures and I am always so relieved when I know where they are and that they are there safely! I am sure you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are thankful for the strangers who helped along the way!!! God is so good!!! And btw—-Micah got the call he is accepted into the Columbia MBA program on Wednesday so I guess next year we will be scheduling trips to NYC instead of Florida!!! 🙂 Thanks for the prayers on that one!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Congratulations to Micah! That is wonderful, just wonderful. I’m sure he is relieved and happy and a whole range of mixed emotions.

      I absolutely agree that “God is so good!!!” And I seldom use exclamation marks.

      • Beth Ann Says:

        And I overuse exclamation marks!!!!! That’s just who I am!!! 🙂

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Exclamation marks are a point of contention between me and a magazine editor/publisher. I have proofed/edited the magazine for years (up until now) and am constantly saying, “Writers should not use exclamation marks, but rather strong verbs.”

        You’re just fine using them in your blog. But a magazine, no.

      • Beth Ann Says:

        I totally understand. And yes—-if I was writing for a “real publication” I definitely would not use them so liberally. But they are kind of me. I have had to delete about 4 of them just in writing this comment so yes—I do overuse them. 🙂

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Just keep on being you!!!

  6. Amy Says:

    Can you double check that Caleb has my cell phone number? I think he does, but I’m not sure. I’ve got family near there, so the least I could do is get them in touch with those, or meet them myself this is to happen another time in that area!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      My goodness, Amy. Do you have family EVERYWHERE?

      Seriously, thank you for the offer. I emailed you separately to make sure I have your current cell. Thanks so much. You are a sweetheart.

      • Amy Says:

        Umm…about the family everywhere….only where it counts 🙂 I think between family and friends we can find people wherever necessary 🙂 But good friends are like family, so YES!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Excellent: Good friends are like family. So right.

  7. So glad there was a happy ending to this story!

  8. I worry every time my Emily starts out on that trip. Down and back to Grand Forks. She arrived back at school, just before dark tonight. Tired and a bit more homework to do!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I’m waiting for the phone call or text message now that my boy is safely back in Fargo with the girl who had the radiator replaced in her car.

      So…if my boy should ever need a ride back to southeastern MN, might Emily have room? I’m trying to keep a list of ride options in my head for him lest he need to tap into it.

  9. Joan Quiram Says:

    Audrey, I can totally sympathize! We mom’s are worriers at heart, but rightly so. We want to make sure our kids, no matter what age, arrive safely whenever possible. Megan was home for Thanksgiving with her boyfriend, and when they left, I reminded her to call or text me when they got back to St. Paul. Well, she forgot, I fell asleep, and when I woke up at 1:30am (they were supposed to get home around midnight) I didn’t CARE that I woke her up with a text because I never would have been able to get back to sleep otherwise. Car trouble is never fun either, so I’m glad they were able to solve their dilemma and make it home safely. I remember those “adventures” with older cars when we were first married. I’m glad everything turned out okay.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Glad Megan and her boyfriend were OK and she only forgot to contact you. I figure someday when they are parents…

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