Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Is it true about “no flannel” in Boston? January 22, 2014

UNTIL MY SON PREPARED for a flight to Boston last spring to visit three colleges, I’d never heard of Tufts University.

My son in a Tufts University sweatshirt. Edited Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

My son in a Tufts University sweatshirt. Edited Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

He had to spell out the name for me, T-U-F-T-S.

That was my introduction to the private research university he now attends after transferring from North Dakota State University. The move to Tufts’ Medford, Massachusetts, campus was the right one for him. He’s challenged in his studies and happy living in a metro area far from the wind-whipped plains of Fargo. I don’t necessarily think he would be where he is today, though, without that year at NDSU.

But back to Tufts, which has a current student population of nearly 11,000 with 5,255 of them undergrads.

Last Thursday I was watching NBC’s Parenthood. The TV show focuses on the lives of the Braverman family, including college student Drew. Drew’s girlfriend, Amy, is currently staying with him in his Berkeley dorm room. I missed the season 4 finale in which Amy revealed she’d gotten into Tufts.

In Thursday’s episode, Amy shared that the girls at Tufts are snobby and everyone is smart and she simply cannot return there because she doesn’t fit in.

Awhile ago, I asked my son if he ever felt out of place at Tufts. I mean, this is a college where lamb is served in the dining center and there’s a sailing team. Not exactly a part of his lower middle class upbringing.

A man of few words, he said that depends on who he is with and that even then he doesn’t let his lack of family wealth bother him. Unlike Amy on Parenthood, I’ve never heard him call anyone at Tufts “snobby.”

Financial aid at Tufts is based on need, the sole reason my son can afford to attend this distinguished university. Annual attendance cost far surpasses our yearly family income. Tufts has set a goal of “ensuring that no highly qualified applicants are turned away because their need exceeds the university’s resources,” according to information on the Giving to Tufts portion of the university’s website. Our family is grateful to Tufts for embracing that philosophy of admitting students “not based on ability to pay, but on ability, pure and simple.”

That all said, when the son was home in Minnesota for holiday break, we went clothes shopping. I swear he grew an inch or more in the three months since I’d seen him.

About one thing he was adamant: “They don’t wear flannel shirts in Boston.” This from a 19-year-old who, only after entering college, began caring about attire. Not to say he dressed poorly. But fashion simply never mattered much to him.

Now he’s back at Tufts with these new clothes: four sweaters, three pairs of jeans, grey pants, and a winter scarf (in Tufts colors).

Legendary Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots edited file photo.

Legendary Paul Bunyan (dressed in his flannel lumberjack shirt) and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots edited file photo.

Surprisingly, though, he took his flannel back to Boston, too. He likely can wear the shirts, unnoticed, under his new sweaters.

Had he left his flannel shirts behind in Minnesota, I would have swiped them. I take no shame in dressing like Paul Bunyan.

FYI: Click here to reach Tufts’ Facebook page and the latest on the university’s mention in the Doonesbury comic strip.

Click here to reach Wikipedia’s “Tufts University in popular culture.”

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Transitioning through parenthood and letting go June 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:14 AM
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In December we helped move my second daughter into an apartment as she started her first post-college job.

ONCE UPON A TIME, like 15 to 20, maybe even seven, years ago, I dreaded my kids graduating from high school, leaving for college and then eventually landing jobs. It would mean they no longer needed me and I could barely stand the thought of their absence.

But since then, since the two oldest followed the path of degrees, jobs and their own apartments, I’ve changed my attitude.

I rather like the lessening of parental responsibility that comes with their independence. It’s freeing. Not that I don’t worry about them; I still do. But it’s different now when they can basically fend for themselves.

My second oldest daughter graduated from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, last spring.

With that frame of mind, I recently visited my second oldest daughter in eastern Wisconsin, where she started work in December as a Spanish medical interpreter. Her first post-college job. Her first apartment of her own. She’d officially grown up.

I would have preferred that she settle closer to her hometown of Faribault instead of 300 miles away. But I’ve reminded myself many times that at least she’s in the U.S., within easy driving distance, and not in Argentina.

Nothing against Argentina. My daughter studied abroad in Buenos Aires and later returned for an internship. But I didn’t want her settling there, 6,000 miles away. I feared she might. Live there. Permanently.

That said, I have only myself to blame for the wanderlust spirits my 23-year-old and 25-year-old daughters possess. Because I grew up on a southwestern Minnesota dairy and crop farm, I seldom traveled as a child—once to Duluth and once to The Black Hills. I wanted my children to travel. I didn’t want them to be like me—someone who prefers, as my dad would have said, “to see the smoke from the chimney.”

And so I let them go, first as young children, to bible camp. Then, in high school, my eldest took her first out-of-state spring break mission trip to Texas. More mission and church and school trips followed as step by step by step they stretched their travel wings.

Then, during my eldest daughter’s freshman year of college, she signed up for a mission trip that took her to Paraguay. Heck, I had to dig out the globe to locate that country which borders Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia. I panicked, regretting for more than a few days my decision to raise children who enjoyed traveling.

Later, when my daughter journeyed to Costa Rica for a brief study sojourn, I barely gave her trip a second thought.

I could handle those short trips.

But then one summer the eldest worked in West Virginia and she was definitely gone for more than 10 days.

That, thankfully, prepared me for her sister’s decision to study abroad and do mission work in Argentina for six months and then return a second time for an internship.

Through the years, I’ve watched that desire to travel, to see the world, become an integral part of my daughters’ lives. The oldest one, who lives and works in the metro, is always plotting her next adventure.

The daughter who lives in Wisconsin will need to chisel away at her college loans and save some money before she can travel again. Right now she earns barely enough to pay the bills. But the time will come when she can resume traveling.

My oldest daughter and my son.

ALL OF THIS BRINGS ME back full circle to the first paragraph in this post, the one about lamenting my children growing up and leaving home. In a year my 17-year-old graduates from high school. He doesn’t know yet where he’ll attend college—whether close or far away. Life could take him anywhere.

Like his sisters, I won’t hold him back, won’t stop him from pursuing his dreams, from traveling to far away places. I’ve already let him go—to Spain on a Spanish class trip. That wasn’t easy, not easy at all, to allow my boy to journey so far at the age of 16.

But his sisters have blazed the way, have shown me that I can handle this part of parenting and handle it with grace. I’ve raised them all to be strong, independent and fearless individuals.

I’m beginning to enjoy this stage of life, with fewer parental responsibilities and new types of relationships forming with my adult children. I’m confident I’ve done my best as a parent, although best certainly isn’t perfect.

Now it’s time, almost, to move on, to continue supporting and encouraging my 17-year-old son as he transitions into adulthood and to always support my daughters, holding all three of them forever close, yet letting them go.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A mother’s love on a daughter’s birthday February 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:47 AM
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HOW CAN IT BE that I already have a daughter who’s 25? Where did the days, weeks, months, years go?

It seems like only yesterday when I welcomed my sweet baby girl and discovered the depth of love I held in my heart for this child of mine. Yesterday was February 10, 1986.

It really is true that, until you become a mother (fill in “father” here if you’re male), you cannot comprehend such love. There is much to be said for experiencing parenthood. I don’t think you can ever define the personal shift to parenting in words.

Thinking back on my first pregnancy and then my daughter’s birth, I remember, especially, how much my mother-in-law wanted a granddaughter. She had already been blessed with one granddaughter and then four grandsons in a row. Betty figured it was time for another girl.

She got her granddaughter and then another and another and another and another and another. If you’re counting, that’s six granddaughters in a row.

As for my husband and me, we honestly did not care whether we had a boy or a girl, as long as the baby was healthy. But, my gut instinct told me my unborn child was a girl. I was right, of course, as I was in guessing the gender of my other two children, although I didn’t have the boy figured out until my husband and I were en route to the hospital.

By the time my son was born, one day short of eight years after my eldest, my mother-in-law wanted a grandson. She got her wish, but never lived to see my baby boy. She died, at age 59, of a heart attack nearly four months before his birth.

Every year on the February birthdays of my oldest and my youngest, I think of their Grandma Helbling and how she got her wishes. I got mine too—three beautiful, healthy, wonderful children (the third was born in November 1987) who have given me love and joy beyond measure, and, yes, the occasional stress and maybe even some of my gray hair.

I love my trio with a mother’s love that cannot be defined in words, but can only be felt by the heart.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, oldest daughter of mine!

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling