I was terribly nervous before I left for Minnesota – both the fact that I was about to meet someone I had not seen for 16 years, and the fact that I had to fly to get there contributed to my “close to breakdown” state of mind on Friday morning. However, thanks to the (placebo?) effect of some long-since expired motion sickness pills and the distracting effect of the Nobel Peace Prize, I was surprisingly unaffected by the flights.
When I arrived in Minneapolis Darlene and her son, Troy, were waiting for me. It took about two seconds – the same two seconds it took to recognize each other (I have, after all, changed somewhat since 1993) – and then it was as if we had known each other for ever. It felt a lot less weird than expected to meet again someone I’ve basically communicated with through postcards since I was six years old. Darlene has always been the nicest of people, and meeting the rest of them, I was about to discover that nice runs in the family. On our way to Sartell we stopped for dinner. That was where I discovered a couple of things. First, that I was not allowed to pay even a dime whenever we ate somewhere. To Darlene, this was the most natural thing in the world seeing as this was her way of paying back for the hospitality she and her mother received in Norway when they visited (did I mention that I was only six…?). Secondly, I discovered breakfast for supper. The beauty of this is that I often find it too much to eat the American (or even worse, the British) version of breakfast in the morning. At night, however… (I love hash browns!)
Once we got to Darlene’s house, where I also got to meet her husband, Dick, she gave me the grand tour. Darlene runs a daycare from home. The basement of the house was dedicated to this. In the rest of it, however, her house was filled with all sorts of Norwegian artifacts – either souvenirs from her trip there, or items her grandmother or other relatives brought with them when they emigrated. The Norwegian identity means a lot to Darlene. She also let me see some photographs – both from her vacation in Norway (how strange it was to see how little I was, and how young my parents looked! Also it was weird to see people, like my grandmother, who are no longer with us), and some older ones inherited from her grandmother. Some of these had Norwegian inscriptions, so I happily translated for them what I could decipher (old handwriting can be hard to understand).
“North” technically meant about mid-Minnesota, to Darlene’s mom’s hometown, where a number of her (and mine) relatives still live. We got to meet her cousin Jeanie (or Janie – it was kind of hard to tell since they were identical twins. Even if I only met the one, the fact that they had such similar names made it hard for me to keep them apart. I’m told I’m not the only one) for lunch. Together the twins run a beauty salon, and Janie (I found the card she gave me, so I’m pretty sure this was her) is going to D.C. this fall on business. Unfortunately this is after I leave – otherwise it would be a lot of fun to see her again.
We spent the evening with John and his wife Shelley, and their gorgeous one-year-old granddaughter Arenda, that they were babysitting. After everyone in the family had beaten me thoroughly in every sport their Wiii had to offer, we went to the closest neighbor – Arenda’s parents Nick and Candi, where we stayed overnight. The next morning, Nick and Candi, who had been to a wedding Saturday night, were able to join us for breakfast back at John and Shelley’s. You might wonder why I am offering all these details. Basically, it’s primarily because I feel that it illustrates so well the hospitality they showed me. I felt so welcome everywhere, and they were such nice people. All this just because I’m family! Needless to say, I made sure to tell them all that they would be as welcome should they ever decide to visit Norway (I’ve got something of a debt to pay).
Leaving Minnesota behind for this time, I was so excited to go to Michigan to see Tami that I arrived three hours early... To get the details from the mayhem we caused, however, you will have to tune back in tomorrow…