Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A collection of creative creches showcased in Faribault December 12, 2017

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, in a holiday funk, I opted to minimize my decorating. I’d get a Christmas tree and maybe set out a few other festive items. Mostly, though, I didn’t care. And I figured no one else would care either.

How wrong that assumption.


The Nativity set handcrafted by my maternal grandfather.


When the grown kids returned home for Christmas, they noticed the absence of the Nativity scene handcrafted by their great grandpa. It went up every year during their childhoods. Tradition, so it seems, holds value based on the protests of my offspring.

I never made the mistake again. The barn sawed, nailed and painted by my grandfather and the plaster of Paris baby Jesus, his parents and ensemble always go on display now. They should, given the reason for Christmas.


A holiday banner flags a light post next to the Paradise Center for the Arts.




The memory of that faux pas surfaced when I stopped recently at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault. I wanted to see the current (through December 22) gallery exhibit, Kathleen Putrah’s Creche Exhibition.



The show features samples from the rural Faribault woman’s 150 Nativity sets collected around the world.



Additionally, a Christmas tree holds some 700 ornaments accumulated by Putrah.





It’s an impressive collection, especially the uniqueness of some pieces. Never before have I seen the Holy Family portrayed as apes, an interpretation I found odd.


A painting by Adele Beals presents the traditional interpretation of the Nativity.


I’m more of a traditionalist.





But that’s the thing about art. It opens the doors to creative interpretation, both to the artist and to the art appreciator.


FYI: The Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue North, is open from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday and until 8 p.m. Thursdays. The creche exhibit runs through December 22.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


More than a collection of vintage drinking glasses December 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:06 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Vintage glasses stashed in my kitchen cupboard.

THE BOTTOM CUPBOARD SHELF to the upper right of my kitchen sink is crammed so full of drinking glasses that they threaten to tumble out and onto the counter.

But I have not the heart to stash a single one away in storage.

These glasses serve as more than practical vessels for the milk my 17-year-old son gulps by the gallon or the cranberry juice I favor to quench my thirst.

Rather, these glasses represent my appreciation of the past. All 27 drinking glasses are vintage, culled from family and friends, from thrift stores and garage sales.

I uncovered these glasses in the attic of the home where my friend Joy grew up. After her parents died, Joy invited friends to shop for treasures. These glasses always remind me of Joy, whose spirit matches her name.

Details on the glasses from Joy. Fun fact: I don't like roosters.

An Archie Comic "Betty and Veronica Fashion Show" 1971 jelly jar/juice glass from my maternal grandfather.

These glasses belonged to my bachelor uncle, Mike, who farmed with my dad and was like a second father to me. He passed away in 2001 and these remind me of him and his love for me.

You could rightfully say that I collect vintage drinking glasses.

Like most collectors, my collection is rooted deep in the past. I can trace my glassware obsession back to the day I walked into Marquardt’s Hardware Store on the corner of Main Street in Vesta and selected four amber-colored glasses for my mother as a Mother’s Day gift. I can’t recall which siblings were with me, how much we spent or the year we purchased the glasses. But the simple act of us pooling our coins to buy Mom this gift remains as one of my sweetest childhood memories.

The amber glasses my siblings and I purchased for our mother more than 40 years ago.

Recently my mother gifted me with these glasses. I pulled them from the china cabinet where she’s always stored them—reserving them only for special occasions—snugged paper padding around them and carted them back to my home 120 miles away in Faribault.

Her gift to me is bittersweet. While I certainly appreciate having these memorable glasses, the fact that my mom has begun dispersing of her possessions makes me all too cognizant of her failing health and mortality. She is a wise woman, though, to part with belongings now, gifting children and grandchildren with items she knows hold special meaning.

Each time I reach into the cupboard for a glass, I find myself choosing an amber-colored one from Marquardt’s Hardware. It is the glass that reminds me of my mother and of her deep love for me. I want to drink deeply of her love. Today. Forever.

The four glasses that remind me of the love my mother and I share.

DO YOU HAVE a collection or a single item that means as much to you as my vintage drinking glasses mean to me? I’d like to hear. Please submit a comment.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling