For the last five years I have been a Minnesota resident. I’ve loved the city, bemoaned the heat & humidity, braved the winters, enjoyed the arts, frequented the parks & libraries. I’ve gone to school, to work, to church, to classes, to meditate, to picnic, to play, to pick. But somehow, in the midst of all this, it’s never entirely felt like home. I had an absolutely fabulous group of girlfriends in San Diego and the hole they left in my life has been empty for a long time; I have some marvelous friends here but not nearly as many as there – and let’s be honest, it takes time. And, well, we have been through a few changes since we’ve been here (careers, schools, becoming parents, need I say more?). So.
This past month, though, I’ve settled in. Something finally crystallized for me. Maybe it was getting to show off my city to some dear friends this week and see it through their eyes. Or maybe it was one of these:
Or maybe something about it being 5 years just makes it feel settled. I don’t know.
But I know that I’m home.
As spring unfurls and gardens spring to life, the blossoming in neighbors’ yards is unmistakable – particularly when it takes the form of furniture and old clothes. Something about the first gusts of spring in Minnesota draws out the inner workings of people’s houses and, inexplicably, sets them for sale. It’s uncanny – the first nice day and suddenly everywhere you look there are yard sales in full glory, replete with Little Tykes playsets, records, suitcases, and dining sets. And I am not exaggerating… I counted five on a quick drive to the supermarket on Friday afternoon.
In the corner of Southern California I grew up in, garage sales are limited to Saturday mornings and are highly specialized. A certain type of person notes in the papers when garage sales are taking place and heads out with a route in mind. Around 6:30 am. They haggle over the jewelry and clothes and relentlessly swoop from one to the next. And the sales are over by noon, absolute latest. Honestly, I recall coming across very few in my lifetime – until I moved here. My theory on this is that after months stuck indoors with their things, Minnesotans are so sick of seeing them that they’re absolutely desperate for something – anything – new. Which is why they immediately head to another yard sale to buy someone else’s castoffs.
You can find anything at all at a Minnesota yard sale. At the Festival of Garage Sales this weekend – which I confess to attending – I saw bras hanging on trees, taxidermied animal heads, half-used boxes of assorted sundries. There were full bedroom, living and dining sets, dating from the 20s to the present. Velvet posters (including Elvis). Cars for sale. Plants. Broken bikes. Golf clubs. Dog clothes.
I write this post from an Ethan Allen rocking chair that I bought for 5 dollars, which has suprisingly turned out to be the perfect office chair we’ve been searching for (Jeffery can lean back and put his feet up on the desk with perfect ease). It needs a teensy bit of work, but for $5…? My other find was a brand-new Tupperware sheet for rolling out cookies and pie crusts. I had gotten one at the Tupperware party Jeff and I threw the first year we were married (boy, does that make us sound nerdy. Doesn’t it?) that somehow got placed on a recently-used stove burner… In any case, this new one was supposed to be part of a basket of Tupperware items that someone else had already purchased, but they left it behind… and I scooped it up for $4. Hooray for the upcoming strawberry rhubarb pies!
Which is to say, I think I’m embracing the yard sale mentality. I’ve always gotten the heebie-jeebies from used things – you’ll never catch me at a Goodwill store or buying clothes from Buffalo Exchange – there’s something of the oft-uttered parent phrase “you don’t know where that’s been” that niggles for me. But I’m liking that these cotton, wood and plastic flowers shoot up in neighbors’ yards alongside the daffodils, and I can happen upon them. And maybe – just maybe – I’ll find a bouquet to take home.
I have a certain amount of pride in being a midwesterner.
If you know me at all, you know this is a very huge thing. I have long tried to distance myself from the 12 months (the first of my life) I spent in small-town Missouri, and very much prided myself on being a coastal girl. The Facebook group You know you’re from San Diego if… made me puff up my chest and look for airline tickets.
Yet, here I am, as I should have expected (never say never – it ALWAYS happens), and I have to say, for the zillionth time, I love it.
As we drove back to the Cities from Wisconsin this holiday break, I admired my beloved little round hay bales and the lovely old, decrepit red barns, and there was a pull inside me – almost like a cannonball lodged in my belly – that dragged me down toward the land. I feel an instinctual home-ness, a gravity here that pulls only for me. California I enjoyed. Minnesota I love.
And while many of my fellow Minnesotans are bemoaning the spate of extra-cold weather we’re entering (-15, anyone?), I am proud. Proud of the fluffy little snowflakes that settle into granite, the crunch of it under my boots and my tires, the coat and scarf and gloves I don to go out. Proud of the extra time I get up to go warm up (and dig out) the car, of the ice scraper in my backseat, of the salt stains on the bottom of my jeans. Proud of myself for being hardy enough to not only survive in this frozen tundra but to thrive here.
My friends back home may gloat about the 80 degree weather they’ve got this week, but I have much more to gloat about.
I am a Minnesotan.
He was so warm, and so generous. “We actually don’t open until tomorrow, but let’s see if we can set you up, anyway.” Three buckets later we had our fill of lovely pesticide-free organic strawberries, for which Paul charged us only the fee for 1 1/2. Perhaps this is because many [most] of Olive’s berries were still green… but trust me, she had eaten plenty of ripe ones, too.
Olive, Violet and I had headed to Natura Farms in Forest lake to go strawberry picking – a now annual event that started last year. It’s the most marvelous place – on a lake (though what isn’t out here?), veggies, herbs and berries in glorious rows. I am in utter heaven when we’re there, and Olive simply couldn’t get enough. She would pick one and say to herself, “Oooh, good berry, Olive!”
But beyond the heaven of fresh food and warm earth was Paul Otten. He welcomed us heartily and spoiled us rotten with horrendous discounts – we came home with freshly picked lettuce, tomato plants, potted basil and oregano, a flat of zinnias and our two boxes of strawberries (which, unfortunately, I decided to wait until the next day to slice up and freeze – and since they haven’t been genetically engineered to keep well for cross-country travel, many of them grew mold. I still have enough for jamming, though, thank heavens, and we’d already eaten our fill). All this for a mere pittance.
AND he gave gardening and composting advice and hooked me up with someone who could help me get my garden plot soil in tip-top shape! I’m in love!
So, out of the vast generosity and spoil of the weekend, I continue the giving spirit by sharing with you the world-famous recipe we make each year with our freshly picked strawberries….