A little bit of power

I must pass my Minnesota Class D knowledge test, which wasn’t easy. Previously, I failed it three times Maybe that was because I hadn’t fully studied the driver’s handbook. Ya think?

Perhaps recalcitrant me thought, I’m not going to do what the State wants me to do. I used to crave power. I was a revolutionary.

But passing the test was instructive. I visualized it. I resolved to think through each of the forty questions more carefully, without getting nervous. About a driver’s test, you ask? I hadn’t taken a test in more than fifty years.

Beautiful Lake of the Isles, a half-mile from my apartment, where I spend a lot of time walking. Not at government offices like the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles…

But here I am on a snowy day at the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles.

And I’m not going to do what the State wants me to do. I’m just not.

But I did.

I only got two questions wrong. I was a winner! I gave the thumbs-up sign to the service reps who had directed me to my test computer.

But I wasn’t prepared to stand in line waiting for a different service rep to hand over a rash of paperwork to fill out.

Because I was a winner.

My first clue that I was different: The bespectacled working woman singles out a small group of Somali women standing in front of me.

Somalis are an ethnic group in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area that makes up the largest Somali diasporas in the United States. By 2018, approximately 43,000 people born in Somalia were living in Minnesota, and approximately 94,000 Minnesotans spoke Somali, Amharic, or a related language at home.

“You’re not listening,” she blares at them, newcomers dressed to the hilt in their good coats, earrings and dressy hats atop their well-coiffed heads. They were respectful, meeting up with American bureaucracy.

“Maybe they don’t understand what you’re saying,” I retaliate. A former Somali-American woman dressed in jeans, who spoke fluent English, accompanied the newcomers. We chat. She came from Ohio. I tell her I had moved from Tucson to participate more in my grandchildren’s lives.

The working woman leads the newcomers into the inner chamber of the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles.

A short security officer admonishes the rest of us waiting in the impossibly long line in the hallway outside of the important DVM activity: “Stand outside the door in single file. Single file only, don’t go inside until you’re called.”

“This is such bullshit,” mumbles a young, possibly 7-foot tall Black man with dreadlocks. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t need an ID.”

“Yeah, that little security man (who was also Black, as were most of my compadres in the line) needs something to do. Makes him feel powerful, I guess.”

A very large woman behind me, wearing a pancake velvet hat, pipes up: “I was just telling my husband the same thing. It’s a little bit of power.”

Oh yeah. We all chuckle. The would-be basketball star young man is still mumbling to himself.

A young woman with turquoise clumps of hair who looks like a trucker storms out of the DMV inner sanctum carrying wads of applications.

“The U.S. government is rotten through and through. Fuck them,” she bellows, stomping up the stairs.

Suddenly, the working woman gets down from her perch again. Emerging into the hallway she removes her glasses and stares at the line of humanity. I’m next in line. Disputing the short security man’s instructions, she tells me, “Get behind the door. Just watch through the glass window for me to wave you in. Don’t come inside until I do so.”

“What if I can’t see you waving me in?” I ask. Guess I’m ready for an argument, standing up for all those behind me who wouldn’t dare. They know what it’s like to grapple with authority. I take my chances. I’m an old white woman with purple hair.

“She’s waving you in,” the tall guy taps me on the back to let me know.

“That’s demeaning to wave people in like that, like they’re a herd of cattle,” I say to the working woman sitting back at her perch.

She doesn’t yell at me like she did at the Somali women.

“What can I do for you?” the working woman politely asks. I tell her and she hands me the appropriate papers to fill out, which I do. A nice Somali-American man calls me up to window 10. Super efficient, he is.

He hands over my new license plates. “That will be $137,” he says. “Welcome to big tax Minnesota.” I feel a pang of sadness. My old Arizona license plate will hang under my former Maine plate in my apartment bathroom. Part of the decor.

Perhaps I didn’t want to give up my Arizona license plate with its purple saguaro against a colorful desert background. My Arizona life rests firmly in the past. Minnesota blue license plates will match my ocean blue Toyota Prius.

I’ve lived in three different parts of the country. Because I can.

I have the luxury of owning a car. Of procuring a free global entry card with my Visa credit card that piles up travel points. Someday after covid dies, before I die, I intend to travel to Sicily.

Because I can.

Posted in America WTF?, Family Matters, Fight wimpiness, Managing Minneapolis, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments


Staying warm in Minneapolis!

I’m looking for more work from home. The fabulous Guthrie Theater is on hiatus till March due to covid. So I’m thinking…

Do you know anyone who needs a top-notch editor (ME!)?

Have you thought about starting a blog?

You don’t have time or you don’t know where to begin? As an experienced blogger I can help. 

Here’s my one-month offer: $350 for four weekly, 300-word blog posts

What would you like to promote? A sustainable product, an idea or project, you name it. I started blogging in 2010 when I worked as a journalist.

At that time, many individuals referred to themselves as “Citizen Journalists.” Pushing their opinions wasn’t journalism. I needed to say something. And I’ve been blogging ever since. 

Weekly blog posts are an effective mode of communication:

A blog is a platform for you to share valuable content with your audience.

A blog can help you clarify what’s important about whatever you’re promoting. It provides useful information that your clients or audience would appreciate knowing.

Blogging keeps you in mind. You never know what a person may remember, and what may encourage that person to contact you.

Readers will look forward to your posts (that’s what I’ve heard!).

And perhaps most beneficial, what you have to say is getting out there.

What do you care most about – in life and in work? Blog it!

*If you would like to discuss possibilities for blogging or editing please email me at sheilawilensky@gmail.com.

** And now I’m off for my daily walk around Lake of the Isles.

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Book Power in Minneapolis

Walking around Lake of the Isles last week I pulled my scarf up over my mouth. I’d never done that before but that’s how they do here. I’m starting to feel like a local, as my scarf blocked the cold wind pummeling my face.

Lake of the Isles

Woven lovingly of the softest silk and wool by my island friend Lucy Tracy, the scarf’s comforting warmth reminds me of everyone who ever worked with me at OZ Books, my bookstore in Southwest Harbor, Maine, from 1982 to 1997. The Ozettes gave me the scarf for my 50th birthday.

As a former sister bookseller I was drawn to Louise Erdrich’s latest novel, The Sentence. It takes place at her Birchbark Books, halfway around Lake of the Isles. Hers is the bookstore that reminds me most of my OZ Books. It has a purpose beyond making money, the same way OZ did highlighting kids’ books on history and social justice.

Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, focuses her twenty-year-old store on books by and about indigenous people.

I couldn’t wait to read her new book. I empathized with her, although I had never read any of her acclaimed books.

There was so much I didn’t know.

I purchased The Sentence. It so resonated with me, from its main character Tookie’s plight as a bookseller, to ghost customer Flora’s permutation of the story, to the inclusion of present-day politics such as the murder of George Floyd, and life under the pandemic,

Tookie conjured up my own blurting: “Well, tough shit,” she tells the doctor, who insists she leave her covid-struck husband Pollux in the hospital. “I’m staying,” says Tookie, who’s such a complex character.

Pollux’s and Tookie’s backstory injects a ton of intrigue into the story. But then, every character comes alive in Erdrich’s artful storytelling.

Tookie cares deeply about her bookstore customers, which is partly why Flora the bookstore ghost so consumes her. Referring to one customer as “Dissatisfaction,” Tookie prides herself on finding the perfect books for him.

Sound familiar, dear independent booksellers? Has anyone else’s bookstore been haunted?

“The world is haunted,” writes Erdrich.

Pollux is such a calm, comic relief to the many twists and turns in this novel. Additionally, the understated humor, abundant love, and power of books (see the incredible list of titles at the end) shine through.

The Sentence brought me closer to Minneapolis and its fraught history involving indigenous peoples. The Dakota War? I knew nothing about it.

The novel also urged me closer to native spirituality. Why do I immediately smudge every new place I’ve ever lived, which got me thinking about friends who tell me I’m spiritual.

“Nah, not me,” I’ve been known to respond.

The book’s title is also a conundrum. When Tookie tells Erdrich, who is a character in the book, “What I’m trying to say is that a certain sentence of the [mysterious] book — a written sentence, a very powerful sentence, killed Flora.”

“I wish I could write a sentence like that,” replies Erdrich, in character.

In reality, Erdrich’s delicious sentences grabbed me. They wouldn’t let go.

Erdrich became my friend, which doesn’t happen to me often while reading a novel. I loved the questions Tookie asked herself. I loved Erdrich’s perspective as the bookstore owner. I loved everything about this book.

A priestly confession box in a bookstore, holy moly!

Today I walked back to Birchbark Books to buy a copy of Braiding Sweetgrass. How lucky am I to have a terrific little bookstore only a half-mile from my apartment. It was a sunshiny day with the temperature in the high 30s. And I had to take another look at that priestly confession box, which serves an important role in The Sentence.

The door is open. Go.

Posted in Family Matters, Fight wimpiness, For Love of History, Managing Minneapolis | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Kid Zones

A whirlwind hit the Minnesota Children’s Museum around 11 a.m. yesterday morning. Foss, my nearly five-year-old grandson, pushed the button to open the museum’s doors.

Like a puppy sniffing his way around he was hell-bent on running into every corner of the three-story building.

“You have to tell SheShe where you’re going next,” I tell him, following close behind. When he doesn’t stop at the humungous Lego room I guess where his first stop will be. Longer than two seconds. Yep, it’s the pseudo post office on the top floor.

I have no idea why but it’s where he spends the most time on every museum visit. It seems monotonous to me. He loads boxes onto an automatic chute, then runs upstairs to send them down another chute. Again and again. I sit on the stairs for a rest.

I figure it’s Foss’s place to decide what he wants to do. He gets into a zone that I don’t understand.

That’s why I’m here in Minneapolis, to participate in my grandchildren’s lives. To watch them grow in their own ways.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love conversation. At his advancing age Foss is capable of having real conversations, which delight me.

He has a supersized memory: “SheShe, you promised to take me to the desert.” Following some negotiation, I agree to take him to Tucson for his seventh birthday present. He will remind me, I’m sure.

He helps me with directions and when I can’t find things: “I think you put a mask in that soft place (the console between the two passenger seats of my car).” Looking for my car in the parking garage yesterday, he reminds me, “We’re on level three. We’ll see your ocean blue Prius when we get there, SheShe.”

He teaches me stuff: “Did you know that bugs poop in the dirt? And they pee there, too.”

He doesn’t hold back: “SheShe, you need to get more toys at your apartment for me. And milk, too.”

He’s a quick learner: Foss figures out how to keep the museum’s laser room replenished with green lines going every which way, so there was no more waiting your turn to enter. Everyone could go in at the same time.

After one try at squeezing myself under and above the green laser lines, bumping into kids of all sizes, I remove myself from the exhibit.

“I’m exhausted,” another grandparent announces, as we both listen to the amused yelling inside the laser exhibit. I felt the same way, thinking of the kids inside as a pack of fuzzy-haired creatures.

Foss finally emerges from the pack. “I want to go now,” he says, following two hours of kid car washing, water play, climbing up four stories of ropes and coming down the twisty silver slide, ping-pong ball shooting, Lego and laser frolicking.

“I’m so tired,” he says.

“Me, too,” I reply.

And we were back in the same world together.

Posted in Family Matters, Managing Minneapolis | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Why does it take so long?

A balanced life is knowing that most of it is over, without morose or dwelling in the useless land of regrets. “A Balanced Life” is the name of a Pilates website I follow. Young Robin Long, the mother of four babies under four, has figured out how to sit on the Santa Barbara beach teaching snippets of Pilates: five minutes and eleven seconds stretching, eleven minutes of a full-body workout; seven minutes to strengthen your pelvic floor.

And it will all matter, says this exuberant mother of four. At her age I didn’t realize that short spurts of exercise would change my life, that I needed to not work so hard at OZ Books, that my then husband and I should have reserved a few weekends for ourselves?

A balanced life matters in old age, too. Maybe even more so. We’re all going to die. Prior to the grim reaper kidnapping me I intend to live. Do my happiest days lie ahead? Perhaps.

Here’s what I mean: My dear friend Claire made a quick visit from Maine to my new home in Minneapolis last week. Claire and I are a lot alike. A few years ago we traveled to Southern France together. Go, go, go was our mantra. Agog with the scenery, the weird twisted trees, the luscious baguettes, nature walks down old dirt roads, we had to do it all.

Exhausted, we returned to our room at Bastide St. Didier, stumbled onto our respective twin beds (the French are so smart, king-size beds can be maneuvered apart for singles like us). It was quiet time, with velvety breezes crossing the room through an open window above an ancient vineyard.

Go, go, go was our mantra in Minneapolis last week, too. Walk around Lake of the Isles, mesmerized by the gold and orange leaves on the turning trees. Dinner that first night at Spoon and Stable, one of Minneapolis’s finest restaurants. Just the beginning of lots of laughter and fun with our third companion, Marc, an old friend of Claire and Jay’s and a new friend of mine.

The day before heading home Claire said, “I’ve got to go to George Floyd Plaza. Can’t visit Minneapolis without doing that.”

“Let’s do it,” I say.

Walking down Chicago Avenue I recalled the same sad stroll with my son, Ethan, and grandson, Foss, a few months ago. Staring at eighty names of Black individuals who were killed by the Minneapolis police, Foss asked, “What do all those words written in chalk say?”

Black Power! Power to the People! Let the truth be heard!

Nothing has changed since then. Last week Claire and I quietly hung out at the George Floyd memorial, strewn with flowers and notes in front of Cup Foods, where Floyd’s life was squeezed out of him. I started chatting with a young Black woman about Emmett Till’s grotesque murder for glancing — at age fourteen, in 1955 — at a white woman. That set me off on my typical U.S. History rant, the theme being: “What happened to truth?” I felt sad and angry.

Claire and I left the scene. Returning to my car I posed in front of the statue, raising my fist in the Black Power stance. Hoping it might reduce the stress of all those unnecessary killings.

When we drove by Cup Foods I notice that beautiful young Black woman. Raising her fist. I felt better.

Claire and I needed a balancing act. We headed toward StevenBe’s knitting shop down Chicago Avenue. I loved the place, run by two wacky gay guys. Knitting is meditative. Making warm, cheerful hats and scarves for people I care about can only help.

Posted in America WTF?, Family Matters, Fight wimpiness, For Love of History, Managing Minneapolis, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting ready to vote in Minneapolis…

When I was a teenager I read Photoplay magazine religiously. I didn’t want to be a celebrity but I was interested in how the rich and famous lived their lives. I cared more about being smart than popular or pretty. I was shy (can you believe it?). During the daily post-lunch walkaround period in the underbelly of my mammoth old high school I wondered, what might I accomplish in my lifetime?

A horde of teens walking in circles. No talking. No touching. No, no, no. My only choice: engage with the inner sanctum of my mind every day for twenty minutes. Perhaps that was a good thing, maybe even a precursor to meditation. Or becoming an ideas person?  Sure, why not change how schools are run? What is historical truth? Why can’t I do this or that? 

A lifetime later, I recall my three fantasy careers. I wanted to be a U.S. Senator, a psychiatrist, or a rock star. Which was most improbable? I can’t sing. I didn’t know you had to go to medical school to become a psychiatrist. I served on the County Democratic Committee in Vermont, my highest level of political attainment.

Looking back, a career in politics seems the least craziest. Maybe it happened?

Watching the 1972 Democratic Convention in the tiny town of Twillingate, Newfoundland, I said to my then-husband, Henry, “Let’s go work for McGovern.” So we did. We were young and idealistic. We headed home when the summer ended.

McGovern was smart, a historian who was against the Vietnam War. Yeah, he was our guy for president.
Following that summer in the boonies, where Henry worked on his 32-foot Newfoundland fishing boat, known as a trap skiff, I advised young women under 25 about birth control. A few already had four kids. Their eyes drooped with fatigue while they popped loaves of bread into  ovens, as easily as they became pregnant.  

This cartoon has been on my fridge since 1972.

 I wanted to do something that made a difference on a larger scale. We drove to DC, ready to be assigned to the McGovern campaign in a state different from my native New England. Montana was that place. Big sky country. I could see for miles and miles…

I was in my early twenties. I had never traveled west of Philadelphia. Excitement reigned across highways and plains and cornfields and mountains. Till we reached Great Falls, our headquarters for transforming the nation into a kinder, more equitable place. That was 50 years ago. 

Out west. Wow. As a kid, whenever we drove around suburban Connecticut, I would ask my father, “Is that Texas over the next hill?”

“Yes,” he would humor me, knowing that I dreamt of being a cowgirl. 

Great Falls was like any small city. Except for the tiny cans of beer you could swig down any time of day, entering a bar through swinging doors like on Gunsmoke. Except for grown men wearing cowboy hats and spurs on the backs of their boots. “Howdy,” said some of those men, tipping their hats to strangers strolling down the street. 

My ex and I were the co-coordinators of Eastern Montana for McGovern. Our assignment included driving around in my little red Toyota to  cow-poking and farming communities. Two Easterners chatting up locals, trying to convince them to vote for George McGovern. He was from their neighboring South Dakota. 

 I learned that farmers tended to vote Democratic and ranchers went for Republicans. Local Democrats told us that Sheridan County in the northeastern corner of Montana was full of socialist farmers. No need to go there. I wish we had.

We stayed with sister Democrats in towns called Petroleum, Glendive, Roundup, and Big Sandy. Unfolding our bedrolls — uh, sleeping bags — in old school busses, basements with animal heads hanging on the walls, heatless shacks, you name it. All for changing the direction of our country. Sent by politicians back east in DC. Like the U.S. Calvary? 

“Don’t vote for Tricky Dick Nixon, he’s a liar and a warmonger, what has he ever done for the average cowpoke?” we asked anyone who would listen.

 I’m proud that Montana came in seventh in its losing vote for George McGovern. We worked our asses off. When I finally met McGovern in a packed airport hanger I leaned over and said, “Just keep telling the truth.” 

“Thank you, thank you,” he replied in what I thought of as his South Dakota twang. For sure he was in his automatic politician’s mode.

Our weekly pay was $50 for our amateur politicking around the state. The campaign ran out of money. Instead of cash, we got a new set of tires to head home, proudly displaying our Massachusetts license plate, the only state that went for McGovern. Bearing the bumper sticker that read, “Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts,” many drivers beeped and waved at us. 

After McGovern lost the presidency in 1972, I figured that teaching was the best way to change the world. That’s how I made the choice to become a teacher, my first career.

I didn’t become a U.S. Senator. But if not politics, what else would you call teaching high school, running a bookstore, and being a journalist for an organization I disagreed with? Yes, I’ve sometimes been unable to control my anger, or chose not to. I’ve often tried to be diplomatic or compromise. Isn’t that what life — and politics — is all about?

And on Tuesday I’ll vote here for the first time.

The colors. The leaves. I love this tree of life/Lake of the Isles

Minneapolis, you are a puzzle to me. I want to learn more. Fancy mansions a half-mile from the workings of the biggest city I’ve ever lived in. A horde of candidates under 30 running for City Council and mayor. A Democratic haven. Longtime segregation. Wherefore art thou, Minneapolis?

Posted in America WTF?, Fight wimpiness, For Love of History, Managing Minneapolis, Out West, Politics | 2 Comments

Life in the Big City

Contemplating dumpsters outside my bedroom window. Hearing starlings squawking upon a giant oak. Setting up house in a Minneapolis apartment reminds me of fifty years ago on 1010 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge.

The ups and downs of life’s surprises. Drinking coffee in the quiet of my bedroom. Alone. Fine by me.

Outside I walk one block to Hennepin Avenue where poverty-stricken women with orange hair, wearing too tight spandex, carrying plastic bags of belongings, stand on street corners. One block farther across 25th Street, houses turn into mansions as they sidle closer to Lake of the Isles.

Minneapolis’s Prince of Peace

It’s nearly three miles around this peaceful lake. Willow trees display their graceful branches. Lily pads dot the algae-covered water’s edge. Runners, young mothers pushing strollers, old men on missions, and helmeted four year olds on their first bikes cheerfully pass me.

Life opens up whenever I’m in nature. Like the other day: sitting on a bench, munching on almonds, taking in all the lush green. I put my phone down beside me. Never to be seen again.

A perfect storm of bad luck ensued. Wifi wouldn’t be set up in my apartment till the next morning so I couldn’t find my phone via my laptop. Circumnavigating the lake another three times didn’t help.

That night sleep didn’t come easily. At 6 a.m. the next morning I drove to a Dunn Brothers coffee shop to access their wifi. A few old “bros” sat around nursing their lack of sleep. One younger man stared at me perversely.

Ick. What am I doing here? In the Midwest. In the big city.

Sipping on my Columbian dark roast I filed a police report. One comrade lake circumnavigator had said, “Phones do get returned if the finder is nice and not an asshole.”

I believe that most humans are nice (although too many voters are idiots). I lost my phone. My catalytic converter was stolen from my Prius the first week I arrived in Minneapolis. Last week I was dismissed from my part-time job for being a techno-peasant at a children’s bookstore.

Those misfortunes dissipate with my grandchildren’s smiles, which is the primary reason I moved here.

Shay turns two.

And the restaurants: Colita. Cafe Ena. Hai Hai. Book Club. French Meadow.

Culture: Minneapolis Institute of Art. Russian Museum. Walker Art Center. Next weekend my first play, an avant garden portrayal of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors.”

Placing my favorite rug on an old oak floor makes me happy.

As I arrange the art in my apartment, nagging questions pop into my head. Art soothes. Ashley Bryan’s poster for “Sheila of OZ, with love.” Photos of my children and grandchildren at different ages and stages. A colorful wool piece and tiny yurts from Kyrgyzstan. Barbara Cooney’s “Hattie and the Wild Waves” poster signed, “For OZ with great affection.” My sister-in-law’s lovely watercolor seascape given to me on my 60th birthday.

Flashes of my well-lived life: sitting in Barbara’s Damariscotta garden among the indigo Delphinia.

“You know Sheila, you must have quiet times to bring on creativity,” she told me, sipping tea from a delicate china cup. I recall her feistiness with a howling baby at her first presentation of “Miss Rumphius.”

“It doesn’t bother me, it’s not my baby,” said the white-haired artist with the sparkling blue eyes. Later, chatting at her room in the Claremont, “Sheila, will you get me a scotch?”

Posted in Family Matters, Food/happy hours, Managing Minneapolis, Nature Girl | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Noom and Nor

Recent events in Afghanistan got me thinking about two of my favorite former students. Noom, an Iraqi American, wore an hijab every day. Nor was Palestinian American and did not. Both dressed in typical teen tight jeans. Noom and Nor were in my U.S. History class at the Sonoran Science Academy in Tucson, the only two Muslim girls there.

Some days they left class together around noon for traditional Muslim prayer, which only took a few minutes. They often hung out in my classroom during lunch or recess. They asked straightforward questions: “What do you think of Israel?” “Why do people think America is so great?” “Do you believe in god?” We learned from each other. I liked them.

“You think it’s better for my grandmother who lives in Baghdad that America overthrew Saddam? At least she had running water and could cross the street before American soldiers arrived with their war,” she said, raising her voice.

“Then why don’t you go back there if it was so great?” Tad asked angrily. And he said something derogatory to Noom, but I don’t remember what it was.

“Enough! You don’t talk to anyone in this class like that,” I said. “Everyone has just as much right to be here as you do.”

I requested that Tad’s father come in to discuss what happened. I was nervous as this lumbering man walked in, not knowing how the conversation would go. But he and I came to an agreement that Tad was wrong telling Noom to return to Iraq. That Tad had to apologize.

A few days later, a classmate asked Noom if we could see what her hair looked like underneath her white jersey hijab.

“Only if all the boys leave. They’ll have to promise to wait outside at the end of the hall.” The boys agreed, although I caught a few of them sneaking down the hall to watch, including Tad. I made them leave.

Noom’s dark eyes shone as she unwound pinned layers of the blackest hair I had ever seen. She looked so proud, smiling, sharing her unconcealed appearance with the other girls.

Teenagers who crossed a boundary together. Noom and Nor are grown women now. I sure would love to see them.

Posted in America WTF?, Bopping Around Tucson, Fight wimpiness, The Rest of the World | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Long Life!

What goes around comes around. History repeating itself. Arriving full circle.

Never had I imagined bicycling around Lake Harriet, Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun), or Lake of the Isles on a Monday morning with my grown son.

Lake Harriet has its resident bald eagle. Sometimes I imagine I’m looking across to Islesford.

Never had I imagined reading the same books to my grandchildren that I read forty years ago to my children. Now The Big Orange Splot and Sailor Dog are on their bookshelves.

Never had I imagined returning to winter, moving from Tucson’s 300+ sunny days to frigid Minneapolis.

When I was in my 20s there was no way I would consider leaving my native New England. Working for George McGovern during the 1972 presidential campaign my ex-husband and I were offered teaching jobs in Montana, big sky country that I loved.

But it wasn’t New England. Now I figure it’s a good thing to have lived in three different parts of the country.

The other day a cyclist wearing an El Tour Tucson spandex shirt stopped next to me.

“I just moved here from Tucson,” I of course blurted.

“Two great places,” he replied. “I’m going back in mid-October.”

“I’m not.”

“You must know what you’re in for,” he said. I told him I had lived most of my life in Maine. When I moved to Tucson in 2002 I was done with winter.

“But here I am, wanting to live closer to my grandchildren.”

“We all grow and change,” he offered. I was grateful for the comment.

And I got to thinking: perhaps when I’m REALLY old, when my grandkids busy themselves with teenage friends, I’ll return to Southwest Harbor, Maine.

Perhaps I’ll sit rocking on a big veranda with my dear women friends. We’ll repeat our old stories about borrowing each other’s maternity clothes, writing groups at OZ, or our fears of menopause, of becoming empty nesters. Never fully imagining what it was like to be grandmothers.

And none of us will mind.

Posted in Baby Boomers, Family Matters, Managing Minneapolis | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Part 2: Trees, Lakes, and Grandkids

“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ever since I heard there was an Emerson Avenue in Minneapolis, I wanted to live there. But it was not to be. Or was it?

Yesterday I was ready to sign a lease on the small apartment painted “agreeable gray.” It would do.

Strolling around the Emerson Avenue neighborhood last week I came across the most attractive apartment building I’d seen. A woman, who turned out to be the caretaker, was watering flowering plants out front. Astounded by the large lawn on the side of the building, I asked her if there were any available apartments.

“No, people don’t leave these apartments. My husband and I have lived here for twenty-eight years,” she said. “We raised our kids here.”

The place was a green oasis in the middle of a bustling city.

“Well, let me leave my phone number just in case,” I said.

“Just in case” happened yesterday: “This is Patti, the caretaker you spoke to on Emerson Avenue last week. We’ll have an apartment available on October 1.”

I went. I saw. I fell in love. Gorgeous hardwood floors, arts & crafts design that felt like my house in Maine, lots of south-facing windows with shelves for oodles of plants, a den/study overlooking my ocean blue Prius, and trees, trees, trees.

I couldn’t believe it. And it was the same price as the agreeable gray apartment. This one was perfect.

See the shelf over the built-in bookcase? The kitchen has a butcher block shelf.
my new workspace, with a space for a Foss sleepover or guests

See what I mean? And the lawn. More plants and a small area for a vegetable garden next spring. And a community of ten apartments. Cookouts on the patio. A half-mile from Lake of the Isles.

Jefferson Global Elementary School across the street, the original site of the Emerson Greene apartment building, which was moved across the street to make way for the school.

See the benches to sit and talk with neighbors? I’ll be there.

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