Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A mother’s gift to her writer daughter May 11, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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The only photo I have of my mom holding me. My dad is holding my oldest brother.


I SOMETIMES WONDER how my mom did it? How did she raise six kids and manage a household without the modern conveniences of today? No microwave. No bathroom or telephone or TV or automatic washing machine (for many years). An endless list of “no” whatever.

She planted a massive garden, canned and froze fruits and vegetables. Baked bread and assorted sweets from scratch. Mended clothes. She could do most anything.


Mom’s journals stacked in a tote.


And she wrote. Daily. Mom documented the happenings of farm life in southwestern Minnesota, even before she became a wife and a mother. I have those journals now, stacked inside a plastic tote. Musty-smelling spiral bound stenographer notebooks filled with her words. History inked in her beautiful signature flowing cursive.

They are my most treasured tangible part of her, a collection of information that is not personal, yet is. She writes not of feelings, but of weather and work, going to church and town and to relatives’ homes. She writes, too, of illness and new babies and skinned knees. While I’ve only read bits and pieces of assorted journals, I know that eventually I will read every word. Her single-paragraph daily entries of three to six lines or so document rural life. From her perspective as a wife and mother.

She became a mother in mid-July of 1955, two months shy of celebrating her first wedding anniversary. She writes:

Got to the hospital at 1:15 a.m. & baby was born at 3:20 a.m. He weighed 8 lb. Has a lot of hair. Folks visited me.

On her first Mother’s Day—months before my birth—Mom visited her parents, noting that her mother had gone to the Heart Hospital two days prior. Seven months later her mother died of a heart attack. I was only months old. I will always hold a certain sadness in my grandma’s early untimely death, knowing her only through the memories of others who spoke of a woman with the kindest of hearts. Just like my mom.

Through all the challenges of life, Mom has maintained a positive and cheerful attitude. She’s kind and compassionate and uncomplaining. That has been part of her gift to us, her six children, born between 1955 and 1967. Three girls. Three boys.


My mom and I at our extended family Christmas gathering in late December 2017.


Eight days before my birth, Mom put up 32 jars of grape jelly and 18 ½ quarts of tomato juice with her sister Dorothy. “Sure was tired,” she wrote. If I was about to give birth, I’d feel tired, too. But she never complained.

On my birthday, Mom writes:

Woke up at 3:00 a.m. Got to hospital at 4:20 & baby was born at 4:56 a.m. She weighed 8 lb. 12 oz.

Talk about cutting it close. But then the hospital was a 20-mile drive and my parents had to find someone to watch my oldest brother. Dorothy stayed on for several days after my birth to help with washing, ironing, cleaning and other tasks while Mom recovered and adjusted to having two kids under two.


My mom saved everything, including this Mother’s Day card I made for her in elementary school. I cut a flower from a seed catalog to create the front of this card.


And so the years passed with more babies birthed. I wondered if Mom had any special memories of Mother’s Day. I paged through several journals from the 1960s to find entries about Mother’s Day programs at Vesta Elementary School. She noted the gifts we three oldest kids gave her—tomato plants, a hammered dish and on May 8, 1964, a writing pad. From me.


I took this photo nearly two years ago of my mom holding my granddaughter’s hand. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 2016.

Now more than ever, as age steals my mom’s memory and she no longer keeps a journal, I appreciate her writing. Her words reveal a hardworking woman who valued her family and faith and farm life. That Mom took the time to write shows her deep appreciation, too, for the written word. She passed that along to me. I am grateful. But most of all I am grateful for a mom who loved me and my siblings with such depth. She was, and remains even in her advancing octogenarian years, an example of kindness and compassion and goodness that I strive to emulate. She is my mother. And I love her.


© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


38 Responses to “A mother’s gift to her writer daughter”

  1. becky Says:

    What a treasure of memories.

  2. In reading this you realize just how precious time is – her journals are like a time capsule of her life – pretty AMAZING!!! Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂

  3. rachaelhanel Says:

    What a treasure to have those journals! I love the simplicity of her entries. Can you imagine women giving birth today and writing only a couple of “facts only” lines about it? Ha!

  4. What a treasure! Happy Mother’s Day to you and your Mom (oh and your daughter!)

  5. Caryl Larson Says:

    I think there’s a book in those journals somewhere.

    • I think you’re right and I need to figure that out. Pair her writing with my poetry and photos perhaps? I’ve just started thinking on this.

      • Caryl Larson Says:

        My Dad, when he was in his 80’s, wrote down some of his memories growing up in Iowa.
        It gave us some insight into his young years. You might find it interesting.

        And I think you’re heading in the perfect right direction with that book!

      • Thanks for your encouragement also, Caryl.

        I edited the link from your comment as I wasn’t certain you wanted this shared with the general public. I should be able to access it, though.

  6. Beautiful Audrey. I agree with the above, a book. Times like those are long gone and unfortunately doomed unless we make them “born” for all to see. Slices of family history are so important, whether they are ours or others. I love reading memories such as this.

  7. This post is a gift.

  8. Bernadette Says:

    I hope you get to share your post with your mother; it is beautiful and she will know how much you appreciate all she did for the family. Have you tried reading the journals to her? They may bring back memories of her earlier years, if even for a few moments. Have a blessed Mothers Day.

  9. treadlemusic Says:

    I love the steno journals…….so typical of those days. I cannot even begin to relate to having such jottings! They are treasures, for sure! Happy Mother’s Day!

  10. hotlyspiced Says:

    What a beautiful post, Audrey, and such a wonderful tribute to your mother on Mother’s Day. It sounds like your mother worked tirelessly and just did whatever had to be done. It is so wonderful that she documented her life and that you have those journals as a great source of information, history, and the life of your family. I’m sorry your grandmother’s life ended before you had the chance to meet her – such a tragic loss xx

  11. valeriebollinger Says:

    I’m liking the book idea…I think you could do it.
    I went back and read a poem/letter I wrote for my mom and gave to her back in 1997.. I know it meant a lot to her. I, too, hope you will share this post with our mom.
    I love seeing the photo of you with your mom. Each time you see her is a gift. My mom died in 2009.

    • Thank you for your encouragement. I’m sorry you lost your mom in 2009. I fully realize that each visit with my mom is a gift. As the years pass, that becomes more evident. I have Randy take a picture of me and mom together each time we visit her.

  12. So touching and sweet. A lovely tribute to your mom, beautifully penned. ❤

  13. Sue Ready Says:

    what a lovely tribute to your mother and indeed she did pass down to you her gift of the written word. Now that her age steals her memory as you aptly put it the wealth of information documented in the notebooks is an invaluable treasure. This posting and what it has to offer needs a second look at by you as I feel her words are the seeds for future stories and poems by you. .

  14. Jackie Says:

    What a lovely post to honor your mom and her character. I love that she journaled for all those years, As you read through I hope you find some tid-bits and treasures you never knew about her and extended family. I also Love that photo of you and your mom, You are both lovely! Happy Mother’s Day to your dear friend.


    Beautiful. Thank you, and Happy Mother’s Day! Lisa sandberg

  16. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your mother and what treasures those journals are.

  17. Littlesundog Says:

    I just loved this, Audrey. Beautiful words and memories. I’m up to my eyeballs right now but wanted to comment on this lovely post!

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