The Emigrants

When I think of our move to Minnesota in winter 1971, a few things come to mind: white, white and … more white. Well, that and a movie starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman. The sheer starkness of a winter in the Upper Midwest is what lingers.

You know how long drives are perfect for rumination? Of course I can’t recall what I was thinking on the drive to Minnesota, so I’ll interject here with memories occurring to me now: In Indiana, some neighbor kids who always went around outside in their underwear, a house full of musty old magazines and newspapers, the miniature model planes some kids had when we visited their family…now everything was in motion; we’d moved twice in the decade since I was born.

Dad had learned that the moving van with all our worldly possessions was still on the road behind us when he called to get an update from Mayflower after we arrived in Minneapolis. We drove further west and spent the night at a motel just outside of Wayzata.

I’d never seen so much snow in my life, or felt such bone-gripping cold. But things got more interesting once we hit the road again. We drove the curving roads, seeing only brittle, barren trees. Then—leaping into view—the lake, Lake Minnetonka, covered in ice and snow. Brian and I were agape. The wide stretch of treeless space took our breaths away. And we were going to live here! Near a lake!

While the Maryland house was a rental the entire time we lived there, Dad had put a down payment on our Minnesota house and secured a mortgage. It was a renovated summer cottage built in 1927, almost smack-dab at the center of Casco Point in Navarre. It had a garage, a back yard, a front yard that was high on a hill and commanded a breathtaking view of Spring Park Bay.

Once we’d arrived, Brian and I were slipping and sliding down the narrow icy stairs that led to the waterfront, the boathouse and frozen dock. We went straight for the lakeside like ducks returning to water.

Our first night at the house on Casco Point Road was furnitureless. Dad was furious. The movers hadn’t arrived at the scheduled time, so we had nothing but what was in the station wagon … and the carpeting on the floor. Dad started a fire in the fireplace and we had pizza delivered.

Brian and I rolled out sleeping bags in the rooms we’d chosen as our own (we were finally not sharing a bedroom—Brian’s was closer to the back door, mine was next to a room Mom later used as a sewing room (photo at right was probably taken in 1972–73, in my bedroom, since I’m holding my first diary, purchased in Dec. 1972); two tall doors opened to a washer and dryer, then a kitchen with plenty of counter space, a microwave (first I’d seen one!) and sink/dishwasher from which you looked out over the lakefront through the front picture windows.

Can’t remember if Dad was able to get the furnace going that night, but what sticks in my memory is that pizza party in the living room in front of the stone fireplace. This is probably as good a point to mention Dad’s hot buttons; if things didn’t go as he planned, he’d get really agitated. If it was something Brian or I did, we got the belt, whacked across our asses, then sent to our rooms. No “time outs” no “gentle chiding,” just swift justice and either no dinner or “another punishment yet to be determined.” If you think about it, that makes a deep impression on a young mind. Is it good or bad? Should children be punished like this?

I’ll only say that kids are resilient. And they know more than adults think they do. They’re operating on a fresh supply of body parts: hormones, stretchy young muscles, and brains barely well formed.

Still, it’s an interesting connection —Dad’s severity and a harsh Minnesota winter.

~ by completelyinthedark on February 7, 2011.

One Response to “The Emigrants”

  1. I think the parental punishment thing was part of that time. Things were certainly the same in my house and that wasn’t too far down the road from Casco Point!


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