Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My view of “The Cities” February 16, 2016

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MINNEAPOLIS AND ST. PAUL. Two cities. The Twin Cities. Or, as I called them growing up, simply The Cities.

Frame 7: I love this painterly view of the Minneapolis skyline.

The Minneapolis skyline, Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2015.

I am more familiar with Minneapolis, specifically south Minneapolis where an aunt and uncle lived until retiring to Arkansas.

Sailboats sit upon the waters of Lake Harriet.

Sailboats sit upon the waters of Lake Harriet. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, September 2009.

About once a year during my childhood, our farm family would pile into the Chevy—Dad, Mom, six kids and Grandpa—to visit our metro dwelling relatives. And, on a few occasions during summers of my youth, I boarded the Greyhound bus in Vesta to travel solo some 140 miles to Minneapolis for one-on-one time with my Aunt Rachel. We would bike around Lake Harriet, tour the Rose Garden, catch a city bus to purchase fabric at Munsingwear.

The Minnesota state capitol

The Minnesota state capitol, Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

To the east in St. Paul, my youthful memories connect to the State Capitol building and Minnesota History Center, which I toured as a sixth grader. I waited in our farmhouse kitchen one dark spring morning for headlights to swing into the yard indicating my ride to Vesta Elementary School had arrived. My stomach churned at the thought of leaving Redwood County on a school bus bound for St. Paul.

Driving through St. Paul on a recent Saturday morning.

Driving through St. Paul on a recent Saturday morning.

Growing up in a rural area, I’ve never been particularly comfortable in big cities. Traffic and tall buildings and cement and closeness and busyness sometimes overwhelm my senses. But I manage and I appreciate the cultural opportunities a place like the Twin Cities offers, although I seldom take advantage of such offerings.

Creeping along in a congested area near downtown Minneapolis.

Creeping along in a congested area near downtown Minneapolis. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

My trips to The Cities are primarily through or around. To visit family.

Approaching St. Paul from the south, the speed limit drops.

Approaching St. Paul from the south, the speed limit drops.

Each city, I’ve observed, has a unique look and feel. Minneapolis appears urban while St. Paul seems rooted to the land with a deep sense of place and history. I feel more comfortable in St. Paul, where even the Interstate 35-E speed limit drops to 45 mph for awhile upon entering the city. In Minneapolis, traffic races along Interstate 35-W toward downtown.

For awhile, my eldest daughter and son-in-law rented an apartment in a high-rise in the Mears Park neighborhood of Lowertown St. Paul. It’s the happening place, akin to Uptown or Northeast Minneapolis. The daughter lived in Uptown prior to her marriage and subsequent move to St. Paul. Now she and her husband have settled in a northern burb.

I prefer gravel roads to interstates. My East Coast dwelling son appreciates the extensive mass transit system in Boston.

I prefer gravel roads to interstates. This scene was photographed while traveling under an Interstate overpass in St. Paul. My East Coast dwelling son appreciates the extensive mass transit system in Boston.

My rural roots, and those of my husband, have not threaded into the DNA of our offspring. All three of our adult children live in metropolitan areas—in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. They need to be where they are happiest and feel most comfortable.

Not where I wish they lived. Geographically close and far away from any place defined as The Cities.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling