Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Left behind: A doll & a lizard September 28, 2021

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Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2021.

DECADES AGO, WHEN THE SON was but a preschooler, he left his favorite teddy bear in the church nursery. Not until evening, long after church doors were locked, did the parents notice Bear Bear was missing. And then panic set in. Efforts began to retrieve the beloved bear. While I don’t recall how entry was gained—nothing illegal, I assure you—Caleb had his bear back by bed-time, much to our family’s collective relief.

Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2021.

That memory popped into my mind during a recent visit to Mission Park in Crow Wing County. There I spotted not one, but two, cherished possessions abandoned on picnic tables inside the park shelter. A doll and a lizard. Plus a bonus bottle of hand sanitizer.

Now, as most parents and even grandparents realize, losing a cherished doll or stuffed animal or blanket can cause angst, distress and unstoppable tears for a child. I empathized when I saw the two lovies and hoped whoever left them would soon retrieve them.

Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2021.

But that was not to be. A day or two later, upon returning to Mission Park to, once again, hike the trails, the three abandoned items remained, now grouped on a single picnic table.

I mentioned this to an older man working in the park. He speculated that children from a daycare (who frequent the park) left the doll and the lizard. Perhaps he’s right. I can only hope some adult remembers and returns…before winter blows in and vacationing on the Caribbean island of Curacao centers thoughts and plans.


TELL ME: I’d love to hear any stories you may have about dolls, stuffed animals and other comforts forgotten somewhere.

Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Left behind November 23, 2020

I found this kindness rock lying on the ground in Nisswa Lake Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo September 2020.

I LOVE FINDING KINDNESS STONES. I appreciate the effort an artist or wordsmith takes to craft a message, add some art and then drop the stone in a public place. Each time I discover these sweet surprises, I feel uplifted. And I wonder about the individual inspired to show such kindness.

On a recent weekend, while out and about, I didn’t discover any inspirational stones. Rather I found several items left behind, the first at Medford Straight River Park. An abandoned purple scooter leaned against a picnic table in the shelterhouse near the playground with no kid in sight. As Randy and I ate our picnic lunch, a Grandma showed up with her 5-year-old granddaughter to reclaim the well-used scooter, forgotten the previous evening. How small town, I thought.

The next day, while picnicking again, this time at Mill Park in Dundas, I noted black-frame glasses stuck in the crack of a picnic table. What is it about picnic tables and stuff left behind? Now, if I’d left my glasses behind, I would struggle to see, such is the state of my vision. Randy checked and confirmed the lost glasses were cheaters. Whew.

From Mill Park, we crossed the Cannon River pedestrian bridge to Memorial Park by the ball field.

There, by the playground, sat two perfectly fine lawn chairs. Opened, as if someone had recently occupied the two spots. But there were no adults, no kids, anywhere, except a couple picnicking by the ball diamond, bikes parked nearby. Obviously not their chairs.

Next, we drove to Northfield, parked downtown and walked around. While crossing the pedestrian bridge over the Cannon River, I discovered a mini skull atop dirt in an otherwise empty flower box hanging on the bridge. The skull looked pretty darned real to me. But then I remembered that just days earlier it was Halloween and I figured that was the reason someone left a skull behind.

TELL ME: Have you ever found something particularly interesting left in a public place? I’d like to hear about your odd discoveries.

© 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling