Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

This Minnesota mom welcomes her daughter back from Argentina, again March 12, 2013

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WE RETRIEVED HER between bouts of morning and late afternoon snowfall from the parking lot of the Culver’s restaurant in Lakeville, wrapping winter coat arms around her thin frame.

Miranda in Valles Calchaquies, near the town of Cafayate in the Salta province.

Miranda in Valles Calchaquies, near the town of Cafayate in the Salta province.

She, her arms and torso snugged in a borrowed red parka, shivered in the Minnesota winter. Already she missed her beloved Argentina where the summer sun’s rays brushed bronze upon her skin.

As she and her dad lifted her travel-worn suitcase and lavender backpack from the trunk of her sister’s car, shifting them into the trunk of ours, I savored the sweet moment of her homecoming. Nearly four weeks earlier I’d embraced my second-born, tears trailing down my cheeks as she turned away. The scene of her wheeling that suitcase, slipping through the airport doors, remains imprinted upon my memory.

But on this Sunday afternoon, joy defined the minutes, the hour, in which all three of my adult children (it always seems odd to write that contradiction of words, “adult children”) and the boyfriend of the eldest, slid into a corner booth at Culver’s. The restaurant marked a deliberate dining choice by the oldest daughter whose sister once raved about the fast food eatery. Ironically, it’s headquartered in Wisconsin, where the returning traveler now lives.

Unique restaurant architecture in Cafayate, Salta province.

Unique restaurant architecture in Cafayate, Salta province.

I truly cared not where we ate. Rather, I cared that my family surrounded me. With two of my three now living 300 miles away in opposite directions, such togetherness happens only a few times a year. I am not complaining as many more miles, even oceans, separate families.

A tango band performs on the street during a fair in San Telmo barrio of Buenos Aires.

A tango band performs on the street during a fair in San Telmo barrio of Buenos Aires.

But tucked deep into the recesses of my mother’s worries exists the possibility that my second daughter, some day, will return to Argentina. Permanently. Twice she’s lived there, once visited. She’s been mistaken already numerous times as a local, Spanish flowing fluent from her tongue.

While she can claim a knowledge of Spanish as her own, I have passed along this genetic love of language, this appreciation for words and sentence structure and communication.

Riding the cable car in Salta.

Riding the cable car in Salta.

This desire to adventure, though, wells from within her, sourced perhaps from me. I intentionally encouraged her, like her sister before, her brother after, to travel, to see that which I’ve never seen, never will, for I possess not a distant traveler’s heart.

This has been my selfless mother’s gift—this unfurling of the fingers, this revealing of the palm, this opening to flight, this letting go.

Every Thursday afternoon the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo march in front of the central government of Argentina. They are honoring the memories of, by most accounts, 30,000 protesters who disappeared during the "Dirty War" between 1976-1983. The then military/dictorial government, so my daughter tells me, kidnapped

Every Thursday afternoon the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo march in front of the central government of Argentina, in Buenos Aires. They are honoring the memories of, by most accounts, 30,000 protesters who disappeared during the “Dirty War” between 1976-1983. The then military/dictatorial government, so my daughter tells me, kidnapped those who opposed the government and placed them in detention camps. Those detainees “disappeared,” killed in the camps or drugged and dropped from planes into the ocean, she further explains. Why have I not heard of this or why do I not remember this?  The white scarves identify the group and, she says, are embroidered with the names of the mothers’ lost children.

BONUS PHOTOS from Argentina:

Casa del Gobierno (House of Government) in San Miguel de Tucuman.

Casa del Gobierno (House of Government) in San Miguel de Tucuman.

El Mirador (Lookout), Valles Calchaquies, Salta.

El Mirador (Lookout), Valles Calchaquies, Salta.

An open air market in Purmamarca, Jujuy province.

An open air market in Purmamarca, Jujuy province.

A herd of vicunas, Jujuy province.

A herd of vicunas, Jujuy province.

A meat stand at Mercado del Norte (North Market), San Miguel de Tucuman.

A meat stand at Mercado del Norte (North Market), San Miguel de Tucuman.

Valles Calchaquies near Cafayate, Salta province.

Valles Calchaquies near Cafayate, Salta province.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photos courtesy of Miranda Helbling

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