Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

I’ll miss you, family July 26, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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The potluck offerings at a past Kletscher Family Reunion. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


ON THIS, THE LAST SUNDAY in July, for decades, the descendants of Henry and Ida Kletscher have reunited in the small southwestern Minnesota community of Vesta. We—siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles and in-laws—gather in the Vesta City Park to reconnect. To share updates on our lives. To laugh. To enjoy a potluck meal of homemade dishes that cover several picnic tables. We are a big group given my grandparents raised 10 children. And we know how to cook and bake. Hotdish. Desserts. Too much food, but, oh, so good.


In this game, played at a past reunion, contestants race to move gummy worms from a pie plate into a cup, with their mouths. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


This is our annual July tradition of family, fun and food. Our one time a year, other than funerals, when we now meet. Most years I attend. Last year I couldn’t. So I anticipated the Kletscher Family Reunion of 2020.


The one-block Main Street of downtown Vesta. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


But, because of COVID-19, the reunion is canceled. And rightly so. Even though my home county of Redwood has only 28 cases (as of Saturday), many of us come from hotbed areas. Like the Twin Cities metro. Or my county of Rice with 944 cases, including eight deaths.

Sometimes I think it’s easy to feel insulated, protected, from the virus in rural areas. But COVID-19 knows no geographical boundaries. No age limits. No nothing. COVID cases in Minnesota’s more rural counties are increasing.


Contestants in the Minute-to-Win-It competitions gather around a table right after the potluck at a reunion held several years ago in the Vesta Community Hall because of the heat. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


The call to cancel the reunion was the right one. I would not have attended had it been a go. I have been careful for five months about trying to protect myself and reduce my risk. And, as much as I love visiting with family, it’s not worth the risk to see them. I can wait.

Kris Ehresmann, Minnesota’s infectious disease director, reported this week that her department is seeing more cases directly linked to family gatherings. I am not surprised. The relaxed setting, the desire to hug and get close and more, seems the making of the perfect storm.


My plated food from a previous reunion. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


And so today, on the final Sunday of July, I won’t see the extended family that means so much to me. I won’t indulge in a plate filled with incredibly delicious homemade foods. I won’t engage in conversations with cousins or admire the newest babies. But I will think of them and hope that, next summer, I can reconnect in the community of our roots with the family I love.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


12 Responses to “I’ll miss you, family”

  1. Ruth Says:

    I’m sorry your family reunion has to wait but it’s the only safe decision. So many disappointments to endure.

  2. Liz W Says:

    Ruth said it well. So many disappointments, but the alternative is so much worse. I just do not understand the lack of compassion and concern when people are anti-mask and anti social distancing.
    Hopefully, next year you will have the best reunion ever!

    • I am hopeful that by this time next year, we will have a vaccine. And, yes, it would then be a fantastic reunion.

      Like you, I don’t understand the lack of compassion and the anti-masking and anti social-distancing. That said, when I was grocery shopping in Faribault on Saturday, I spotted only one person without a mask, an elderly man. I don’t know his reason for going mask-less. At the outdoor Faribault Farmers’ Market, some vendors wore masks, some not (which surprised me). Some customers wore masks, some not. We’re making progress…better than it has been in Faribault.

  3. Carol Allis Says:

    I had to give up an annual trip to Grand Marais with my granddaughter and family — we’ve gone every year for 14 years since her father — my youngest son — died. It was heartbreaking. The kids decided to go (my granddaughter is now 24) — I paid for the rooms — but I was in tears most of the week. Missing these events with family and friends is just agonizing. Yes — hope for next year.

    • Oh, Carol, your pain shouts in your words. I’m so sorry you missed this time with your granddaughter and family. And I’m so sorry for the loss of your youngest son 14 years ago. You had every reason to be in tears most of the week. Next year! Yes, next year!

  4. Missy’s Crafty Mess/Missy’s Handarbeid Says:

    Glad to hear that you are all staying safe! This year has been disappointing to say the least.

  5. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    Sorry you are missing your reunions, Audrey. These times are hard for sure.

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