Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My view of “The Cities” February 16, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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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

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19 Responses to “My view of “The Cities””

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Isn’t it interesting how all three of your children have moved to metropolitan areas? I am glad there are options in our country for every comfort zone. 🙂

  2. I know that there is a lot of The Cities that I don’t know and should explore. Even having lived there for three years…but of course being a seminary student meant that studies were more important than sightseeing!

    • And you probably did not have the money to spend then on cultural activities either.

      • True enough. We did splurge and go to Les Miserables one year and Phantom of the Opera another, but that was about it! I remember hearing that The Lion King was coming through in a pre-broadway tour but I thought, “That sounds just dumb. How could that be good?” So I passed up cheap tickets and then a few months later heard how wonderful it was and I’ve been bummed about that decision ever since!

      • I went to a few cultural events in The Cities when I was a college student in Mankato. My last cultural experience there was nearly 10 years ago when my daughter treated me to the “Little House” play at The Ordway. I enjoyed the experience with her, but the musical was not that good.

  3. Dan Traun Says:

    Love lower town area of St. Paul. Just for kicks take the light rail into downtown St. Paul or Minneapolis and just walk around for a while. The concrete jungle awaits you. There are so many photo opportunities. I am very comfortable with St. Paul; mpls is another animal.

  4. I grew up in Southern Minnesota and traveled to Detroit and Fort Lauderdale for weeks or months at a time until I was 14. I have been very fortunate to grow up on farms as well as experience the big city and everything in between. I love the Ordway and loved my one apartment close to Lake Calhoun as well as another great apartment in Richfield. I enjoy exploring the skyways in Mpls and checking out Macy’s Downtown during the Holidays – the Holidazzle Parade too. Ahhh the memories! I have made 2 cross country moves and my spouse 3. I tell people we are modern day gypsys. We get it from out parents – one set winters in AZ and summers in MN and the other set RV’s 365 between 5 different states. My family is rare in that we grew up in the Midwest, but have not stayed and slowly worked our way South – ha! I actually had someone say to me “You Midwest people usually stay where you were raised” – cracks me up – I still have deep MN roots, but I grew wings to fly to gain life experiences 🙂 For me HOME is where the LOVE is!

    Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

    • You have a great perspective. I grew up without traveling as we were “tied” to the farm by the cows. I recall two vacations during my entire childhood–one to the Black Hills and the other to Duluth.

      I’m glad you had these opportunities. They define who you are today and you certainly embrace the gypsy life.

  5. Littlesundog Says:

    I think we grew up with similar comfort zones. While I love visiting large cities, I am always happy to come home to a rural setting. It is always interesting to see where people land in the world. You have done well, giving your children wings to fly to wherever it is they long to be and experience life.

  6. Gunny Says:

    The one picture that you posted of the boats is what springs forth and hits me smack dab in the face. True enough, I love what big cities can provide in the way of employment (a very big draw to the young) but I also love the smaller communities. But what I LOVE best, is an address that can change locations (boats)!. I would LOVE a 30 footer seagoing U.S. register sailboat sitting on a waterway with access to the Great lakes (and there fore the Atlantic Ocean). Nothing like being rocked to sleep by the gentle wave action. I have actually sailed the California Coast in a 22 foot Catalina (which would be too small for my purposes as a primary residence). Nothing like the wind in ones face or one my back. a fair wind and following seas! Now, when the weathers turns, wake up! Time to batten the hatches and reef the sails!

  7. Jackie Says:

    St. Paul is by far my favorite! Summit avenue is lined with big mansions and much history. I much prefer the smaller city of Rochester, but love that I still have the option to jump in the car and head to “The Cities” without much thought to it at all.

  8. There is a certain beauty in the city but I’m with you. I’d rather take a slow drive down a gravel road


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