Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Double the family birthdays in February February 9, 2022

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(Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo)

THE EARLY DAYS of February hold a special place in our family. On subsequent days years apart, I birthed my eldest daughter and then, the day before her eighth birthday, my son. What are the odds? My second daughter was born in mid-November.

Amber, age six months.

Time has a way of slipping by. It seems only yesterday that Amber arrived via emergency C-section following a labor so ridiculously long that I don’t even want to remember it. Eventually, my doctor determined she was frank breech. I’ll always remember the joy I felt in seeing my first-born. All 9 lbs., 7 oz. of her. A darling girl turned woman who has always possessed a loving, caring and giving spirit. And a dose of humor inherited from her father.

Often, Randy and I told young Amber that we loved her more than pizza. She observed, in blooming tulips, that “the flowers are opening their mouths.” And once, on a lengthy trip to Mandan/Bismarck for a Helbling family reunion, she refused to nap because she said she might miss something. She declared, then, too, that everyone lived in hotels (given the lack of farm and town sightings). I was pregnant with her brother. It proved a long trip with frequent bathroom stops.

For his eighth birthday, Caleb’s sisters created a PEEF cake for their brother. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

When Caleb was born, the bond between brother and sisters proved almost instantaneous. Both girls eagerly cuddled their 10 lb, 12-ounce baby brother, giving me much-needed time to prepare meals, for example. They later taught him numbers and letters and once created a PEEF birthday cake for him. They remain bonded not only by genetics and memories, but by a genuine familial love and care for one another. Sure, they sometimes got under each others’ skin while growing up. That passed.

Caleb at 1 1/2 days old. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

My first memory of Caleb post C-section birth was watching as a nurse brought him to me, near enough to kiss his warm baby soft cheek. Oh, love beyond love. If only I could have taken my chunky son with the head of thick reddish hair into my arms. But the surgeon had yet to perform inguinal hernia surgery.

Post surgery I experienced an excruciating spinal headache that left me nauseated, in pain and unable to hold Caleb for any length of time. Nothing, and I mean nothing, worked and I left the hospital days later still feeling awful. I shall forever feel grateful to the OB nurses who loved on Caleb when I couldn’t.

Love. When I became a mother all those decades ago, then expanding my mother’s love twice more, I understood what it meant to love selflessly. I will always always always be there for my daughters and son. To encourage. To support. To celebrate.

Caleb and Amber. (Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2017)

This week I celebrate the birthdays of two amazing individuals. Amber, a full-time mom to my two darling grandchildren. I love watching her as a mother; she’s patient, loving, kind, encouraging… Caleb, back in college as a full-time PhD student, whose strength I admire. I miss him and think of him every day, as I do my second daughter living in eastern Wisconsin.

Yet, despite our geographical separation (Caleb lives in Indiana), nothing can distance us from the years we all lived under the same roof. Years of love and memories that bond us as family. Our love endures and so does that we’re-always-here-for-one-another attitude.

Happy birthday, Amber and Caleb, with love from Mom!

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In celebration of my daughter & son on their February birthdays February 9, 2018

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A cake made by my niece, also named Amber, for her daughter several years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

FEBRUARY BRINGS NOT ONLY the dreaded time of year when I must prepare information for the tax preparer. But it, thankfully, also brings joy as two of my three now grown children celebrate birthdays. Today and tomorrow.

 

Amber at six months old. File photo.

 

Eight years apart in age, Amber and Caleb are at two distinctly different points in their lives. Amber is well-settled into married life and life as a mom to Izzy, nearly two. Caleb lives with several other guys in a greater Boston apartment and is just beginning his career in technology.

With nearly 1,400 miles separating my oldest and youngest and with their sister living in between in eastern Wisconsin, we manage to gather as a family about once a year—the last time for a family reunion in August. I don’t like that such distances separate us. But it is our reality and we rely on technology to stay connected.

 

Caleb at 1 1/2 days old. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

When I think back on the connection between my eldest daughter and her brother, I smile. From the day I came home from the hospital with my 10 lb., 12 oz. bruiser baby boy, Amber doted on him. She was at the perfect age to embrace a baby. Later Amber assumed the role of teacher, teaching Caleb his numbers, the alphabet and more. She read books to him, too, and simply loved on her brother.

 

Caleb and Amber. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2017.

 

That love still shines strong. When I observe the two of them together, I see the depth of love they hold for each other in the gentle teasing, the arm draped across the shoulder, the warm hugs. Amber has been there for her brother, always, whether working a puzzle with him at age four or flying across the country to Boston years later.

I see in Caleb an admiration for his sister, a genuine desire to spend time with her when he’s back in Minnesota. I note him bonding with his niece. When I see Caleb holding Isabelle and reading to her, my mama’s heart overflows with love. Love is coming full circle.

On these two February days, the ninth and the tenth, I celebrate Amber and Caleb. I have watched them grow into two loving, caring and strong individuals. I am honored to be their mom. While geographical distance separates us, love keeps us close. For that I am grateful.

 

Amber at three months. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Happy birthday, Amber!

 

One of my all-time favorite photos of my son at age five. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Happy birthday, Caleb!

I love you both more than pizza. And, yes, that is an inside-the-family saying.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling