Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Christmas gratitude, Part II December 24, 2019

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A handmade ornament for sale at Fleur de Lis in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


“YOU GOT A LARGE PACKAGE,” Randy said. “From Amazon.”

“I’m not expecting anything,” I answered from our bed where I was layered in sweats, a tee, flannel shirt, and heavy sweater under a flannel sheet, two blankets, a comforter and a denim/fleece blanket. With a fever, I simply could not get warm.

I awakened this morning to a full-blown case of crud that caused us to cancel a planned trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to celebrate Christmas with our second daughter, her husband and our son. I felt more than a bit down. Then that unexpected package arrived.

Randy wrestled the huge box inside the front door just as I emerged from the bedroom to see what this was all about. He slit the taped box to reveal an Instant Pot, an item included on my wish list in Saturday’s “Dear Santa” post.

I was stunned, overwhelmed by the kindness of the anonymous blog reader who was moved to give me an item on that list. I found a sweet note inside, signed by Your Ms. Santa.

I also received a copy of Amanda in Spain—The Girl in the Painting by Darlene Foster. That arrived in a separate package so I’m uncertain whether the two items are from the same giver.

It matters not. What matters is how grateful I am for these gifts, for the thoughtfulness of Ms. Santa, for experiencing, for the second day in a row, the true spirit of Christmas. Yesterday I received a cash gift from an anonymous individual.

In these days when so much unkindness exists, these individuals exemplify goodness, kindness and the giving spirit of Christmas. I am blessed. Again.


© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Lunchbox love in January January 30, 2019

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HE DROPPED HIS BLACK LUNCHBOX onto the kitchen counter upon his arrival home. “I have something for you,” Randy said, flipping latches to unlock the box.


Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of cheesecake.


I anticipated a sweet. Randy occasionally grabs a birthday treat for me from work. Not that I need sweets—because who does—but I enjoy the occasional piece of left-over cheesecake, square of apple pie bars, slice of chocolate cake. When Randy brings me a sweet rather than simply tells me about it, I am particularly happy. Already I craved whatever he’d stashed away for me.

“Here, I brought you spring,” he said, reaching inside.

Puzzlement flushed my face. Lemon bars? Rhubarb pie? What did he have inside that lunchbox?



Then Randy handed me a dead Monarch butterfly. Brittle. Wings folded. A dead butterfly when I’d expected dessert?

I regrouped my thoughts, put my disappointment on hold and reconsidered. In the midst of a record-breaking cold snap and recent snowfall (which required joint snowfall removal efforts that very morning), Randy decided I needed a glimpse of spring. Or, more accurately, summer, the season butterflies emerge. How sweet is that?

But where did he find this Monarch in January in Minnesota? Randy works as an automotive machinist. He found the butterfly—along with acorns and leaves—inside a cylinder head dropped off by a customer. More often he finds a mouse nest or evidence of mice.


The forecast for Minnesota on a Twin Cities TV station at noon-ish Tuesday.


He may not have given me what I expected. But Randy gave me exactly what I needed on an especially cold evening in late January. He gifted me with hope. That spring always follows winter. And that, even after nearly 37 years of marriage, love still offers sweet surprises.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A sister’s love, more precious than jewels December 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:53 AM
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ONCE UPON A TIME, in the land of Prairieville, an aging princess (in name only) arrived at the country estate of her middle brother just days before Christmas.

Unbeknownst to the princess, her middle sister, who is nothing like Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters and who also had journeyed from a yonder land, planned for the princess the most splendid surprise.

The princess had just shrugged off her pea coat and greeted her family when Sir Stephen stepped forward to present a present to the stunned princess. Thinking perhaps that her fun-loving nephew was about to play a prank upon her, as family members are sometimes wont to do, the princess accepted the gift with trepidation.

The first gift package, from Nixie, Fairy of Water.

The first gift package, from Nixie, Fairy of Water.

She pulled a dainty tissue-wrapped package from a gift envelope, allowing the tiny package to fall onto the floor for fear of what she may discover inside. With great care, she soon retrieved and unwrapped the gift. A lovely ring fell into her palm.

Before the princess could even slip the jewel onto her finger, another family member stepped forward with a present, followed by nine more packages into which child-size rings had been tucked.

By that time, the princess had determined that her kind-hearted sister, Lanae, had hatched the entire marvelous scheme to write a happily-ever-after ending to a story which began decades earlier on a Prairieville farm.

Many years ago, when the princess was much younger, she lost an emerald ring (not a “real” emerald, of course) gifted to her by her godmother. Despite a frantic search of the family farm, the precious jewel was never found. The princess was overcome with inconsolable sadness and never forgot that lost ring.

A sampling of the rings gifted to me by 11 fairies. These will be passed along to some sweet little girls I know.

A sampling of the rings gifted to me by 11 fairies. These will be passed along to some sweet little girls I know.

Because all fairy tales should end happily, the princess’s loving sister, Lanae, gathered, from various fairies of the world, a collection of fine jewels. Nixie, Fairy of Water; the White, Frost, Tooth, Sugar Plum, Woodland, Snowflake and Ice fairies; the Queen of the Fairies; The Little Fairy Fayette; and Tinkerbell all contributed gems to the cause.

The final ring, an "emerald," to replace the one I lost nearly 50 years ago.

The final ring, an “emerald,” to replace the one I lost nearly 50 years ago.

After the princess had unwrapped 11 packages of child-sized rings, a final box was presented to her from the Fairy Godmother. Inside, the princess found a sparkling imitation emerald, even more beautiful than the one she had lost on her childhood farm nearly 50 years earlier.

The aging princess was overcome with joy as she slipped the emerald ring onto her finger and raced to embrace her sister whose kind heart overflows with goodness and love.


THANK YOU, LANAE, for blessing me with this wonderful gift. I appreciate the thought, time and effort you put into pulling off this royal surprise. You made me feel like a real princess and I shall always cherish this gift of the heart from you to me.

TO READ my first posting about the lost ring of my youth, click here.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling