Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Halloween greetings from Annie Mary Twente October 31, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:28 PM
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I always wonder, what did Annie Mary look like? Anything like this little girl?

THE CARD ARRIVED, not unexpectedly, today in my mailbox as one has every Halloween for the past I can’t recall how many years.

In slanted and uneven letters, my name and address are printed across the plain white envelope, the return address a simple “A.M. 56292, MN.”

Inside I find a Halloween card, this time with a wish that we could be together, Annie Mary and I.

Then my eyes fall upon the familiar message Annie prints every year, always in capital letters: I MISS YOU! ANNIE MARY

Sometimes she adds “LOVE” to her signature note.

Chills run up and down my spine.

And then I laugh at the fun of it all, at the card A.M., aka Aunt Marilyn, sends every Halloween because she knows how very much I dislike the story of Annie Mary Twente.

As legend goes, 6-year-old Annie Mary fell into a coma and was buried alive in 1886 in Albin Township near Hanska in southern Minnesota. Later, Annie’s father had his daughter’s body exhumed only to find claw marks on the inside of her coffin.

It is a sad and unsettling, and supposedly true, story. Many years ago I made the mistake of telling Aunt Marilyn, who lives in my hometown with a 56292 zip code, that the horrifying tale upset me.

Every Halloween (and sometimes on Christmas and Valentine’s Day, too) she remembers…

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Halloween greetings from ghostly Annie Mary October 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:29 PM
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YEAR AFTER YEAR she taunts me with the same message: “I MISS YOU! LOVE, ANNIE MARY.”

Awkward block letters printed in the hand of a six-year-old ghost child. Annie Mary Twente of Hanska. Annie Mary, buried alive in 1886 in Albin Township. Annie Mary, her body later exhumed to reveal scratch marks inside the lid of her wooden coffin. Supposedly a true story and one that once scared me enough to unwisely admit as much to my Aunt Marilyn.

Each Halloween Annie Mary purchases and signs a greeting card, addresses the envelope and drops it in the mail to me. Oh, lucky, lucky me.

But if she wouldn’t send a card, I’d be disappointed. Some Halloweens I forget about Annie Mary, until I pull an envelope from my mailbox to read “A.M.” printed in the upper left return address corner.

I smile and I think, “Oh, that Annie Mary, she always remembers me.”

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A birthday treasure September 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:42 AM
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TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY. I need to think for a minute exactly how old I am. Take 2010 minus 1956 and you get 54. Yeah, that would be right.

Funny how the years pass and you lose count after 40, or 50. Where did time go?

I bet my mom wonders that, too, today. How could her second-born of six already be “that old?” Yeah, how?

Birthdays back when I was growing up aren’t like birthday celebrations today. Years ago, we gathered with extended family—grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins—a whole houseful crammed into a farmhouse. Pans of bars. Red Jell-O. Summer sausage sandwiches. Homemade dill pickles. Coffee brewing in the kitchen. Bottled pop and Schell’s beer.

And when we left for home around midnight, we wished the birthday girl, or boy, “many more birthdays!” Tradition. Sweet words, sweet wishes.

Because my birthday fell the day after my parents’ wedding anniversary, I seldom “had company” on my birthday. The relatives would come the night before to celebrate the anniversary, then forget all about my special day.

But my mom made my birthday memorable by baking an animal-shaped cake, chosen from a slim book of cake designs. There was no present from my parents—they didn’t have the money for a gift—and I didn’t really know I should expect one. My animal-shaped cake was enough, although my godmother always sewed an outfit for me. She knew I needed new clothes more than anything.

One year my Aunt Rachel gave me a greeting card with an adjustable green-stone ring tucked into a treasure chest. An emerald in my eyes. I slipped the ring onto my skinny girl finger. I wore the ring every day, all the time, until one day I lost it.

Of all the birthday cards I’ve received in my life, I remember that one and how I cried when the mock emerald became buried treasure in our farmyard.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling