Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Walking around the Tufts’ neighborhood the day after graduation June 7, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:01 AM
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Art on a utility box by campus.

Art on a utility box by campus.

THE MORNING AFTER MY SON’S recent graduation from Tufts University in Medford/Somerville, Massachusetts, life was back to normal.

 

Snapshots, 331 construction workers in Medford, MA.

 

Construction workers labored on a campus building project while a police officer stood nearby to stop traffic if needed. His Boston accent matched every preconceived notion I held of a Boston accent. Thick. Unpronounced “r’s.” Perfect Boston diction to my Minnesota ears.

 

Snapshots, 334 watering dog in Meford, MA.

 

On this Monday morning while my son attended appointments, my husband and I walked around his neighborhood and lunched at a campus coffee shop on a busy street corner. I people-watched. The construction workers. The cop. A young woman who pulled a water bowl and water bottle from her backpack to hydrate her dog on a street corner.

 

Snapshots, 338 congrats on house in Somerville, MA.

 

After lunch we walked around the neighborhood, skirting smelly garbage cans on the narrow sidewalk while also surveying the broken furniture, rolled rugs and assorted goods emptied from college students’ apartments. Parents filled car trunks and U-Hauls. A college co-ed carried boxes from campus to a new off-campus apartment.

 

Snapshots, 343 scavenging Somerville, MA.

 

And, in the street, a woman rolled a cart bulging with can-filled garbage bags and assorted loot from all the graduation parties the day prior.

 

Snapshots, 337 grad napkin on ground Somerville, MA.

 

I noted the residue of those celebrations—a stray napkin, a congrats banner stretching across a porch, a commencement banner still hanging from a post.

 

Snapshots, 349 carvimg on tree

 

And, etched into the bark of a hillside tree, I noticed names. Knifed there by college students, I suppose. Not just this year. But through the years.

 

Snapshots, 346 house on hill Medford, Ma.

 

The day sparkled with the kind of light that is bright and sharp and new, as in this is spring, your kid has finished college, new.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Touring Tufts University in greater Boston June 6, 2016

Tufts melds almost seamlessly into the residential neighborhoods of Medford and Somerville.

Tufts melds almost seamlessly into the residential neighborhoods of Medford and Somerville.

PRIOR TO MY SON considering Tufts University as a potential transfer college three years ago, I’d never heard of this Massachusetts university. But Caleb had done his research, followed by a flight to Boston to explore three colleges there. All three eventually accepted him, with Tufts offering a financial aid package that would allow him to afford an education at the Medford/Somerville campus.

Caleb and Randy climb Memorial Steps, in honor of Tufts' war dead, to the campus. There are a lot of steps.

Caleb and Randy climb Memorial Steps, in honor of Tufts’ war dead, to the main campus.

I shall always be grateful to the benefactor who gave my son this opportunity to learn at a highly-ranked student-centered research university. Caleb needed the challenges Tufts offered. He needed to leave the Midwest. He needed a place like Tufts.

I zoomed in on the Boston skyline from the patio roof of Tisch Library.

I zoomed in on the Boston skyline from the patio roof of Tisch Library.

After visiting Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus for the first time the day before commencement, I understood why Caleb loves this university. The college, set atop a hill and with a spectacular view of the distant Boston skyline from the roof of Tisch Library, is stunningly impressive.

Eaton Hall

The political science, sociology and classics departments, among other offices, are located in Eaton Hall.

A newer building on campus.

A newer building on campus.

New construction is underway on campus, as seen to the right in this photo. That's the John Hancock building in the distant Boston skyline.

New construction is underway on campus, as seen to the right in this photo. That’s the John Hancock building in the distant Boston skyline.

Aged buildings define the campus, although newer ones also stand and are under construction.

This new Jumbo sculpture was recently installed on campus.

This new Jumbo sculpture was recently installed at Tufts. It’s a popular spot for photo ops.

Tufts (with four campuses) was established in 1852 and has an enrollment of nearly 12,000 students. It’s mascot is Jumbo the elephant of circus fame. President Barack and Michelle Obama’s daughter Malia toured Tufts in March 2015, settling later on Harvard University in next-door Cambridge as her college choice. Noted individuals like Meredith Vieira, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Michlle Kwan are Tufts alum.

Ballou Hall, built 1852-54.

Ballou Hall, built 1852-54. Graduation ceremonies were held on the adjacent green.

Goddard Chapel, built in 1883.

Goddard Chapel, built in 1883.

Beautiful stained glass windows and dark wood dominate Goddard Chapel.

Beautiful stained glass windows and dark wood define Goddard Chapel.

The Gifford House, home to the college president.

The Gifford House, home to the college president.

Given my appreciation for old buildings and lovely architecture, I loved the historic feel of Tufts. There’s something comforting and storied about structures that have existed for a long time. There’s an ongoing connection to generations of students who’ve walked these halls and this campus under a canopy of trees with spacious green space, seemingly a premium in the greater Boston neighborhoods I saw during my late May visit.

I adore the reading room in the Edwin Ginn Library at The Fletcher School.

The Edwin Ginn Library at The Fletcher School looks like something out of a movie set. Oh, to study here. And my son did.

A sculpture on campus.

A sculpture on campus.

Posted on an athletic field fence.

Posted on an athletic field fence.

It is easy to love Tufts.

Caleb spent a lot of time here, in the computer lab.

Caleb spent a lot of time here, in the computer lab.

I understand why, at age 22, my son likes living in greater Boston. This metro area teems with young people. There’s a certain vibe, a constant hum, a busyness that prevails. People are walking/hurrying everywhere. The mass transit system makes getting around easy.

My son and I pose atop the Tisch Library with the Boston skyline as a backdrop.

My son and I pose atop the Tisch Library with the Boston skyline as a backdrop.

It’s not a place I would choose to live. But it is, for now, my son’s home. And although I don’t like having him 1,400 miles away, I have accepted that he lives here, too far from Minnesota, in a city he loves.

FYI: Check back for a tour of a neighborhood surrounding Tufts.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

When a Minnesota mom attends her son’s East Coast college graduation June 3, 2016

A Tufts University graduate decorated her graduation hat.

A uniquely decorated graduation hat at Tufts University 2016 commencement.

I’VE ATTENDED THREE COLLEGE graduations now, for each of my three children, with eight years separating the first and final commencements.

The tented area in the background served as the stage during the all-school commencement ceremony.

The tented area in the background served as the stage during the all-school commencement ceremony at Tufts.

The daughters’ ceremonies were held in gyms at public universities in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I don’t recall much about either other than the Wisconsin politician who used his commencement speech as a campaign platform. I was deeply disappointed, even angry. This wasn’t supposed to be about him, but rather about the graduates.

Congratulatory balloons floated among spectators.

Congratulatory balloons float among spectators.

So when alum and Emmy-award winning actor Hank Azaria was slated to deliver the all-school commencement speech at my son’s May 22 graduation from Tufts University in greater Boston, I was wary. I had no idea who he was, which is no surprise given I am unaware of most Hollywood celebrities. When I learned that Azaria voiced many of The Simpsons characters, I was delighted. My son is a big fan of The Simpsons.

A snapshot of the crowd before the all-school commencement began.

A snapshot of the crowd before the all-school commencement begins.

To my relief, Azaria gave a humorous speech with the simple message that graduates should be honest with themselves and trust their instincts.

The second phase of graduation moved us nearer the stage and to the ceremony for The School of Engineering.

The second phase of graduation moved us nearer the stage and to the ceremony for The School of Engineering.

He voiced several characters from The Simpsons, providing much needed laughter in a morning with an abundance of drawn-out pomp and circumstance.

I caught this dad napping at The School of Engineering commencement ceremony.

I caught this dad napping at The School of Engineering commencement ceremony.

Role-playing Moe the bartender, Azaria said, “I didn’t have a high-falutin’ education. I went to BU.” The audience roared at the comparison between Tufts and Boston University. I understood, feeling a bit like a country hick myself amidst the obvious wealth of many Tufts families.  I am keenly aware that my son, too, felt at times out-of-place on this East Coast campus as a Minnesota boy from a lower middle class family.

Lots of photos were taken at the ceremony and of Tufts' mascot Jumbo, in the background here.

Lots of photos were taken at the ceremony and of Tufts’ mascot, Jumbo, in the background here.

Laughter also erupted when Azaria mimicked the Indian-American owner of the Kwik-E-Mart (from The Simpsons): “We both worship an elephant.” Tufts’ mascot is Jumbo the elephant. P.T. Barnum was an early benefactor of the university.

Tufts police and EMS stood ready near the main commencement stage. Just weeks prior to commencement, a car was torched on campus and a bomb threat discovered.

Tufts police and EMS stand ready near the main commencement stage. Just weeks prior to graduation day, a car was torched on campus and a bomb threat discovered.

Light-hearted moments were welcome among the formal protocol, which began at 9 a.m. and extended well into the afternoon. Thousands gathered on the campus green for, first, the all-school commencement ceremony, and afterward for individual school commencements.

A father photographs the

A father photographs The School of Engineering commencement ceremony. That’s a side profile of Jumbo the elephant in the background.

My husband and I were sitting so far back from the stage that we could see little. I used my camera’s telephoto lens as binoculars several times.

Thousands of chairs covered the campus green for commencement. The event went on, rain or shine. Rain drizzled briefly.

Thousands of chairs cover the campus green for commencement. We sat in this side wing area near the back. Apparently you need to arrive really early to get a good seat.  The event went on, rain or shine. Rain drizzled briefly.

I was thankful events were held outdoors on the beautiful university green rather than inside some stuffy auditorium. Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus sits atop a hill with a picturesque view of the Boston skyline. Campus buildings are aged and solid, trademark visuals of a long-established and respected educational institution.

Flowers and balloons await graduates.

Flowers and balloons await graduates.

Visiting Tufts for the first time on graduation weekend was an experience, an opportunity to see this place our son has called home for three years. Many other families traveled, too, from across the country and across the world to watch their sons and daughters graduate. We shared that commonality. Maybe not of financial wealth, or lack thereof. But of parents celebrating.

BONUS PHOTOS:

After the two commencement ceremonies, we were finally able to eat a picnic lunch--salad, strawberries and a bar--on a grassy hillside.

After the two commencement ceremonies, we were finally able to eat a complimentary picnic lunch–salad, strawberries and a bar–on a grassy hillside. Everything was recycled.

Vendors hawked flowers before and after commencement ceremonies.

Vendors hawked flowers before and after commencement ceremonies.

Beautiful flowers for a graduate.

Beautiful flowers for a graduate.

FYI: Check back next week for a tour of the Tufts campus.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thoughts upon my son’s graduation from Tufts University June 2, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Caleb returns to his seat after graduating from Tufts University School of Engineering with a bachelor of science degree in computer science.

Caleb returns to his seat after graduating from Tufts University School of Engineering with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science on May 22.

HE’S GRADUATED. The son. My youngest. Through four years of college with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from Tufts University in Medford/Somerville, Massachusetts.

Posing afterward atop the roof of the Tufts library with the Boston skyline some 10 miles in the distance.

Posing afterward atop the roof of the Tufts library with the Boston skyline some 10 miles in the distance.

I am thankful. Grateful that Caleb was given the opportunity to attend such a noted private research university as a selected transfer student. Grateful for the academic challenges he needed. Grateful for the financial gifts that enabled him to attend an institution where the annual cost of tuition far exceeds our household income.

After attending college for a year at North Dakota State University in Fargo, Caleb was accepted as a transfer student into the highly-competitive Tufts University.

After attending college for a year at North Dakota State University in Fargo, Caleb was accepted as a transfer student into the highly-competitive Tufts University and two other noted Boston colleges.

He’s grown into a strong young man of whom I am immensely proud. I am proud of his ability to leave the familiarity of Minnesota to attend college half a country away. He knew no one and learned on his own to navigate greater Boston.

Caleb graduated in four years. Had he stayed at NDSU, he would have finished in three.

Caleb graduated in four years. Had he stayed at NDSU, he would have finished in three. However, Tufts did not accept all of his college credits from high school and NDSU.

I am proud that he graduated in four years, magna cum laude.

Caleb poses in front of the school mascot, Jumbo. And, yes, that would be Jumbo of circus fame. This latest sculpture of the elephant was recently installed at Tufts.

Caleb poses in front of the school mascot, Jumbo of circus fame. This latest sculpture of the elephant was recently installed at Tufts.

I am proud, too, that he loves to learn. Caleb craves expanding his knowledge. He hopes for a research career with plans to some day attend graduate school. He’s interviewing for jobs in the Boston area. Any place would be fortunate to have him as an employee. And I’m not just saying that because I am Caleb’s mom. I have seen his focus and determination when working on tech projects. He is a problem solver, an innovator, a young man seeking solutions and answers and better ways of doing things. He wants to make a difference in this world.

Students in the School of Engineering gather for that school's commencement ceremony.

Students in The School of Engineering gather for that school’s commencement ceremony.

Commencement speaker, Emmy-award winning actor Hank Azaria who voiced numerous characters on the TV show The Simpsons, offered some good advice to graduates like Caleb. He advised the 160th Tufts graduating class to calm down, trust their instincts and they will, at the end of the day, know what to do.

The commencement ceremony begins at The School of Engineering, Tufts University.

The commencement ceremony begins for The School of Engineering, Tufts University.

Graduation is a time of adjustment and change. A scary time in many ways as young people leave the security of the educational setting. It is a time of change for Caleb and for me.

The message on this balloon probably fit the feelings of many students.

The message on this balloon probably fits the feelings of many students.

As my son continues on his life’s journey, I wish for him contentment, peace and happiness. I want him to always be passionate about his life’s chosen work, to feel joy in getting up each morning.

My husband, Randy, waits for the first of two commencement ceremonies to begin.

My husband, Randy, waits for the first of two commencement ceremonies to begin. We drove 3,029 miles round trip to attend Caleb’s graduation.

And I want him to know that, above all, he is deeply loved by his family back here in Minnesota and in Wisconsin.

FYI: Check back tomorrow for more graduation photos followed the next day by a tour of Tufts University, Medford/Somerville campus.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Watching from afar as my son’s college deals with a bomb threat May 9, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:54 AM
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At 11:37 AM, I received this email from Tufts University:

Update #2 on bomb threats on Medford/Somerville campus

There is an ongoing criminal investigation involving multiple law enforcement agencies, who are continuing to clear buildings on campus. There will be an enhanced police presence on campus for the remainder of the day. At this time, we are unable to provide information relating to that investigation. We expect to be able to provide additional information relating to final exams and campus operations shortly.
The Counseling and Mental Health Service (CMHS) at 120 Curtis Street is open for students, while faculty and staff may seek confidential support resources through the Tufts University Employment Assistance Program (EAP).

Here’s the post I finished just minutes prior to getting that email:

Bomb threats on Medford/Somerville campus (email received at 7:50 a.m.)

It’s not an email I expected to find in my in-box alerting me to a car fire and a bomb threat on the campus of Tufts University early this morning. My son is set to graduate from this Boston area college in less than two weeks.

Within a half hour of receiving that email, I spoke with him. He assured me he is safe in his apartment across from campus. Students, according to Mary Jeka, senior vice president for Tufts University Relations, have been asked to stay in their dorms and to “take care going to the dining hall.”

Jeka spoke at a recently concluded news conference which I watched live-streamed. Her words that she is “terribly concerned” about the safety of students both reassured me and rattled me.

While the bomb threat, found in a note taped to the door of the health services center concerns me, it is the additional factor of that car fire which multiplies my concern.

During the press conference, a reporter asked whether the incident could be connected to terrorism. Jeka noted she did not know the answer to that question as the investigation continues. Likewise, others raised the possibility of a connection to disputes with the campus janitorial staff. Jeka declined to speculate on that also.

Meanwhile back here in Minnesota, nearly 1,500 miles from my son, I continue to monitor the situation which has garnered coverage from major media outlets. And I’m awaiting another email from Tufts to reassure me.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Shopping at the picker’s market, Part II July 19, 2015

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The barn is filled with goods, from lower level to hayloft.

The barn is filled with goods, from lower level to hayloft.

LOREN MARTIN’S BARN SALE features an eclectic mix of merchandise. Milkers, milk cans, pedal tractors, wooden chairs, crocks, lamps…

One of the many treasures packed into the hayloft.

One of the many treasures packed into the hayloft.

Way too many items to list.

A vendor.

A vendor.

He’s a picker. You have to appreciate a guy like Loren who invites folks onto his rural Medford acreage once a year to pick through his picks and those of selected vendors.

Loren has several old pick-ups for sale.

Loren has several old pick-ups for sale.

I perused his farm yard Saturday afternoon, taking it all in. The kicked back feel. The wind whipping my hair. Gravel drive and pick-up trucks. Rust and metal and memories.

Not sure if this 4-H sign is for sale.

Not sure if this 4-H sign is for sale.

I love this place, the rural junque displayed thereon.

There's plenty to see.

There’s plenty to see.

You have today (Sunday, July 19) to shop, until early evening or until the last shoppers leave. The sale opens at 8 a.m.

A vintage clothespin bag offered by a vendor.

A vintage clothespin bag offered by a vendor.

BONUS PHOTOS:

A vendor set up under the shade trees by the house.

A vendor set up under the shade trees by the house.

Spotted by the hosta.

Spotted by the hosta.

A vendor takes a lunch break.

A vendor takes a lunch break.

Lots of furniture possibilities.

Lots of furniture and decorating possibilities.

An old game for sale.

An old game for sale.

Another view of the merchandise.

Another view of the merchandise.

Stacked inside the barn door.

Stacked just inside the barn door.

Several pedal tractors were for sale, including this one reflected in a mirror.

Several pedal tractors are for sale, including this one reflected in a mirror leaning against a shed.

Vendor's merchandise on the left.

Vendor’s merchandise on the left.

FYI: Click here to read my first post about the Barn Sale. The sale is located at 5415 Frontage Road East, rural Medford, just off Interstate 35 across from the Medford Outlet Center in southern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

If you love vintage, check out this rural Medford barn sale July 18, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 4:56 PM
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ATTENTION ALL PICKERS, collectors, decorators, flea market lovers and anyone who’s interested in vintage junque.

Park along the edge of the circle drive or on Frontage Road and then amble up to the Barn Sale.

Park along the edge of the circle drive or on Frontage Road and then amble up to the Barn Sale. And, yes, the barn is packed with stuff.

Loren Martin, food scientist by day and picker on the side, is offering a farm yard full of eclectic old merchandise at his annual Barn Sale in rural Medford today (Saturday) and tomorrow. My husband and I happened upon the sale this afternoon while driving home from Owatonna.

The sale is located along Frontage Road East, about a mile from the Medford Outlet Center round-about.

The sale is located along Frontage Road East, about a mile south of the Medford Outlet Center round-about off Interstate 35.

This is the third year Loren has held his third weekend in July sale at this location, 5415 Frontage Road East, just across Interstate 35 from the Medford Outlet Center. However, he’s been a picker in southern Minnesota for 30-plus years, scouting for goods in barns and elsewhere. He’s from a family of pickers.

One of several vendors.

One of several vendors.

Folks, this sale is worth your drive. In addition to Loren’s finds packed into a barn and sheds and scattered around the farm yard, several other vendors are also peddling their wares.

A snippet of the merchandise for sale.

A snippet of the merchandise for sale. See that striped table in the center. Should have bought it for $20.

The hot items this year, according to Loren, are anything wine or garden related. And galvanized. Furniture for repurposing is also popular with shoppers.

There are lots of vintage wooden pop crates for sale.

There are lots of vintage wooden pop crates for sale.

This picker’s finds are also sold at Urban Finds at the Medford Outlet Center. And, if you’re looking for something specific anytime, ask Loren. He’s always picking.

You're in the heart of farm country in Steele County, Minnesota.

You’re in the heart of farm country in Steele County, Minnesota.

You’ve got until early evening today (Saturday, July 18) and tomorrow, beginning at 8 a.m. until early evening to shop in this rural setting next to busy Interstate 35, rural Medford. Even if you don’t purchase anything, browsing junque on a farm yard next to tasseling corn fields will give you your country fix.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Lots of rustic and country, including this old door.

Lots of rustic and country, including this old door.

A vendor grabs lunch and settles in next to a bear he's selling.

A vendor grabs lunch and settles in next to a bear he’s selling.

If you'd rather have a deer mount than a bear, another vendor had that. I asked why I often see deer heads at flea markets. The vendor answered, "Because they never sell."

If you’d rather have a deer mount than a bear, another vendor had that. I asked why I often see deer heads at flea markets. The vendor answered, “Because they never sell.”

A Hardware Hank statue.

A Hardware Hank statue.

There are some great old outbuildings on-site, including this corn crib.

There are some great old outbuildings on-site, including this corn crib.

And inside the corn crib, this chandelier was for sale.

And inside the corn crib, this chandelier was for sale.

A vendor's dog.

A vendor’s dog.

Art

Art

Rural art and more.

Rural art and more.

A cupola country touch on the corn crib.

A cupola country touch on the corn crib.

The farm yard and buildings overflow with vintage finds.

The farm yard and buildings overflow with vintage finds.

FYI: Check back tomorrow for more photos from my time at the Barn Sale.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling