Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

No air travel nightmares on Tuesday for this passenger January 5, 2022

The drive to Terminal 1 early Tuesday afternoon was easy, just like in December 2015, when this photo was taken. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2015)

HE EXITED JUST IN TIME, hours before snow moved into Minnesota on Tuesday evening. Followed by high winds and, then, returning arctic cold.

If you were to ask my 20-something son, he might say he didn’t leave soon enough. After moving to Indiana in late 2021 to pursue his PhD at Purdue University, he’s found the climate there warmer. And, for him, warm is good. The body acclimates quickly. He did not appreciate the cold snap of subzero temps in Minnesota during his two-week holiday visit or the overnight temperature of 62 degrees in our house. I handed him a stack of blankets.

My gratitude for his exit relates to air travel, which has been nightmarish with cancellations and delays seemingly unending. Some due to weather. Others due to staffing shortages attributed to COVID. When he booked his flight, I suggested a direct flight rather than a lay-over in Chicago. I figured there would be less chance of problems flying directly from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Indianapolis. That held true.

When we headed up to the airport at noon Tuesday, we fully expected congestion. Long lines of traffic creeping. A replay of the scene during his arrival several days before Christmas. Instead, we found minimal traffic, breezing to departures and even able to step outside the van for goodbye hugs. It was wonderful.

No snow. No waiting in traffic at the terminal. No delayed flight.

“Just landed in Indianapolis,” he texted at 5:11 pm Tuesday CST. All is good.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Christmas homecoming December 23, 2021

Nearing Terminal 1 at MSP on a quiet December day in 2015, a very different scene from Tuesday evening. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2015)

NEARLY AN HOUR after picking him up outside Terminal 1 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Tuesday evening, my son and I embraced.

I wanted to wrap him in my arms immediately. But vehicles jammed the pick-up area. The hug would have to wait 45 minutes until we arrived home in Faribault. I recognized that if everyone stopped to hold their loved ones close, the traffic delays would only worsen. So he shoved his suitcase inside the van and climbed into the front passenger seat while I skirted the bag and slid the side door shut.

Randy and I’d already spent too much time waiting, creeping along toward arrivals. Mostly unfamiliar with the roads and lay-out of this terminal, Randy took a wrong turn and we ended up looping back around, back into the gridlock. In the end, that error proved OK timing wise.

I felt gratitude for drivers who allowed us to nudge into line. We did the same. I felt not so much appreciation for the driver of the big black pick-up truck with Wisconsin license plates. I observed bullying moves. But I suppose when you’re piloting a bulky truck…

I felt thankfulness also for the airport traffic director, attempting to create order from a traffic mess. I didn’t envy his job of keeping motorists and pedestrians safe.

Flying into MSP. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2015)

In the end, I got that long-awaited hug. Six months have passed since I’ve seen my son, who moved to Indiana in August to pursue his PhD at Purdue University. Oh, the joy in that first hug. The love that filled my mama’s heart. We held each other tight. Lingering. Savoring the moment.

In only days, that will repeat with my second daughter, whom I have not seen since mid-May. I’m anticipating the moment when she and her husband pull into the driveway after a 4 ½ hour drive from Madison, Wisconsin. I will wrap her in my arms. Lingering. Savoring the moment.

On Sunday, the eldest daughter, her husband and our two grandchildren will join us, completing the family circle. This will be our first Christmas together in five years. There will be more hugging and lingering. And joy filling this mother’s heart.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

He’s not arriving on a jet plane April 7, 2016

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I photographed this Frontier plane as it approached Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport early Saturday afternoon. Edited image.

I photographed this Frontier plane as it approached Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport early Saturday afternoon. Edited image.

SOMETIMES I AM SURPRISED by the nuances that impact me emotionally.

Recently it was the sight of jets flying into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as my husband and I traveled along 35E in the south metro. My memory map directed me to the Cedar Avenue/Highway 77 exit, the route we take to the airport to pick up and drop off our son who attends Tufts University in the Boston metro.

I haven’t seen him now in three months, not since he returned to the East Coast following Christmas break. I miss him. Not with the kind of aching heart absence I felt when he first moved there three years ago. But with the sort of ache that slips below the surface and sometimes erupts into wanting to hug his lanky body and cook his favorite meal and tell him, in person, that I love him.

I felt the same at Easter. Instead of mailing him a chocolate bunny delivered by the U.S. Postal Service in three pieces, I would have preferred filling his Easter basket with too much candy and sugary PEEPS and hiding it in our Minnesota home for him to find. I don’t care that he’s 22. Everyone needs Easter candy.

I could imagine the loved ones awaiting the arrival of this Frontier jetliner.

I could imagine the loved ones awaiting the arrival of this Frontier plane.

I’ll admit to being envious of those moms who see their grown children on holidays, who can travel along a metro interstate, spot an aircraft and think nothing of it.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

He’s home from Boston for Christmas December 18, 2015

MSP Airport, 16 Delta 2

 

WAITING IN THE CELL PHONE LOT at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport late Thursday morning, I watched plane after plane after plane land and take-off.

 

MSP Airport, 22 low flying airliner

 

Mostly, though, I focused my eyes on planes flying in from the east. A United Airlines flight would bring my 21-year-old son home from Boston, via Washington D.C.

 

MSP Airport, 15 Southwest

 

 

He always takes connecting flights to save money. And he usually flies Southwest. But this time, for whatever reason (probably cost), he chose United.

 

MSP Airport, 14 Delta 1

 

More than five months have passed since I’ve seen my son, a senior at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Too long. Too many miles between us. I am grateful, though, for text messages, phone calls, emails and Skype.

 

MSP Airport, 17 Sun Country

 

On this bone-chilling December morning, I waited, with my husband scratching numbers into his Sudoku book, me photographing planes arriving and leaving MSP. I wondered a few times if security was watching me, questioning why the woman inside the white van was photographing planes.

 

MSP Airport, 12 United Express

 

Finally, I spotted a United Express flight that matched the son’s text message description from DC: “I’m on a tiny plane to Minneapolis. I had to walk out into the tarmac in order to board.”

 

MSP Airport, 29 almost to terminal 1

 

Soon my cell phone buzzed with the news that he had landed. And then we waited another 32 minutes for his message to drive to Terminal 1 for pick-up at Door 5.

 

Driving home from MSP Airport, 36

 

He is home now as I write this at 2:40 p.m. Thursday. He’s fed. Dirty clothes are in the wash. I am a happy mama.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How I spent my Mother’s Day May 10, 2015

Heading here:

Airport, sign

 

 

Airport, terminal 1 sign

 

Waiting here (for an hour):

 

Airport, plane 1

 

 

Airport, plane 2

 

 

Airport, drivers waiting at airport

 

 

Airport, plane 3

 

 

Airport, plane 5

 

 

For this:

Airport, Delta plane landed

 

 

For these loved ones:

Marc and Amber eiffel tower

 

 

Who brought me (and my husband) this gift of Belgium chocolates:

 

Belguim chocolate

 

 

I hope your Mother’s Day was as great as mine with my eldest daughter, Amber, and her husband, Marc, safely back home from Europe and phone conversations with my other daughter, Miranda, my son, Caleb, and my mom, Arlene. There’s nothing more I wanted for Mother’s Day than to be with, or speak with, those I love. I am blessed.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Back to Boston January 12, 2015

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FRIDAY, 10:30 p.m.

I switch off the lamp. Two clicks. Pull the plug on the Christmas tree lights. Fold the fleece throw.

Then I step toward the couch, wait there until he looks up. He removes headphones, clamps his laptop closed. His arms reach up. Mine extend down. We pull each other close. Linger.

Tears edge my eyes. I cannot bear this moment, this final goodnight hug. He leaves tomorrow. After 23 days at home in Minnesota for holiday break.

I did a photo shoot of the son when he was back home in Minnesota. This was shot at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault.

I did a photo shoot of my 20-year-old son when he was back home. This was shot at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault.

I want to snapshot this moment, hold it forever in the memory of my soul. The scent of him. The brush of his curls against my face. The love between a mother and son.

Already I miss him.

 

SATURDAY, 3:05 p.m.

The son in the front passenger seat, his suitcase and other baggage rests next to me.

The son in the front passenger seat, his suitcase and other baggage next to me as we head to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

I am seated behind my husband, our son to his, to my, right in the front passenger seat. Beside me rests his backpack. His suitcase leans against the door, butting a cardboard box crammed with board games and other stuff he’s taking back to Boston.

A side mirror on our van reflects traffic along Interstate 35.

A side mirror on our van reflects traffic along Interstate 35.

The Interstate miles roll by. We are mostly silent. Until my thoughts tumble into words. “It’s OK to call me sometimes.”

He turns toward me. “I know.”

In the rearview mirror, I glimpse my husband’s smile. He and the son exchange a look.

Crossing the Minnesota River Valley on Cedar Avenue.

Crossing the Minnesota River Valley on Cedar Avenue.

Soon we are bridging the Minnesota River, skirting the Mall of America, nearing the airport. Airliners roar a reminder of departure.

Fort Snelling Cemetery lies to the right as we near Terminal Two.

Fort Snelling Cemetery lies to the right as we near Terminal Two.

Signage points us toward Terminal Two. We pass by Fort Snelling National Cemetery, seemingly infinite rows of white tombstones unfolding before me. Sorrow. Tears. Sadness. Mothers missing sons.

The road curves. We are there, pulled to the curb. Door slid open. Suitcase out. Box out. We’re all out and then the son reaches inside for his backpack, hoists it onto his narrow shoulders.

Then he is between us, stretching his arms around us. Three into one.

Tears slide down my cheeks as he turns away, pulling his box-topped suitcase into the terminal.

Already I miss him.

A plane flies out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

A plane flies out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport late Saturday afternoon.

 

SATURDAY, 8:40 p.m.

Credits roll across the television screen. I turn my face into the corner of the sofa. Crying at the movie. Crying because I want my son home. Crying because I wonder where time goes and why our children must leave.

I turn toward the Christmas tree, lights blurring through the tears. Scent of honeysuckle from a burning candle perfumes the room. The furnace kicks in. I dry my eyes on the cuffs of my sweatshirt.

I pick up my cell phone, reread his messages.

5:35 p.m.: I’m on the plane.

6:52 p.m.: I arrived in Chicago.

He’s not even to Boston yet.

Already I miss him.

 

SATURDAY, 10:21 p.m.

My cell phone buzzes.

I click on the text message: Just landed in Boston.

 

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

On my way home from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport February 22, 2013

MY VISUAL VIEW OF THE WORLD often differs from that of the average person. I notice details like…

Delta planes, edited 3

…the cold harsh lines of a building fronted by an equally forbidding fence with only a hint of welcome in the slight, graceful curves of aircraft tails.

Bridge over the Minnesota on Cedar edit 2

…the graceful arcs of the Minnesota River bridge on Cedar Avenue south of the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

Buck Hill

…the grace of skiers swooping down Buck Hill in Burnsville on a February afternoon

Barn along I35

…and the sweet redeeming grace of rural Minnesota as seen in the Sugardale barn along Interstate 35 just north of the Northfield exit.

HOW DO YOU VIEW your world?

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

She’s off to Argentina, again February 15, 2013

On the way to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

On the way to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

SHE’S LEAVING ON A JET PLANE and I know when she’ll be back again…

In reality, she’s already gone, already landed in Buenos Aires, albeit two hours and ten minutes late due to an “aircraft change” in Houston. I’ve gathered that information from the United Airlines website with no way of personally confirming her arrival.

But I can surmise my second daughter is on the ground, on her way via shuttle bus and then a taxi to the hostel where she’s booked several nights.

And I will tell you this: I don’t like any of this—her traveling alone with no real concrete itinerary and no immediate way of instantly connecting across the 6,000 miles that separate us.

She has no personal computer, no cell phone, at the moment.

Approaching the MSP Terminal 1 drop off site.

Approaching the MSP Terminal 1 drop off site.

I should be accustomed to this really, this being her third trip to Argentina. But those first two times she had a home base in Buenos Aires, studying and interning in the capital city.

Back "home" in Faribault, packed and ready to go.

“Home” in Faribault, packed and ready to leave for Argentina.

This time, though, my daughter is vacationing, taking a month away from her job as a Spanish medical interpreter to revisit her beloved South America and the friends she made there. I admire her independence and her fearless spirit. I really do. I have encouraged such qualities in all of my children. But now I am paying the price.

I cannot help myself. I am a mom. Moms worry.

And, if I was not so darned nosy and had not sought out information from my girl, I would have less to concern myself.

But I asked and she told me about the planned lengthy bus ride to Tucuman in northern Argentina. When I questioned the safety of this mode of transportation, she told me about the time her college friend Devon was riding such a bus. Would-be robbers smashed a window, but the bus driver, knowing their intent, sped away.

Then there’s Tucuman, where my girl and her friend, Ivana, were mugged by two guys on a motorcycle, in broad daylight several years ago. Crime has only gotten worse in that city, Ivana says. My daughter won’t be carrying a purse this visit. Just in case, I have copies of her credit and bank cards and her passport.

She’s planning a 16-hour journey on Train to the Clouds, a train that will take her high into the mountains and villages of northwest Argentina. To alleviate my concerns that she will be traveling on some rickety old train, my daughter showed me photos on the train’s website. That reassured me…until she mentioned the medical personnel assigned to each passenger car to deal with health issues related to the high altitude. I suppose that should reassure me. It did not.

And then my eldest had to mention the stray dogs that roam Argentinean streets.

For the next few weeks, I will try to pretend that my daughter is still only 300 miles away in the Midwest. That is my strategy, plus lots of prayer.

My daughter didn't fly Delta. But these are the only planes I saw when leaving Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport after my husband and I dropped her off.

My daughter didn’t fly Delta. But these are the only planes I saw when leaving Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after my husband and I dropped her off.

IF YOU’RE A PARENT of adult kids who love to travel, how do you cope? I could use some tips.

Since writing this post, I received an email and a call from my daughter reporting her safe arrival.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling