My Own Prairie Home

Tonight I listened with no small amount of sadness to Garrison Keillor's last live radio broadcast with A Prairie Home Companion.  The show and its iconic host, with his characters of Guy Noir and The Cowboys, the Powdermilk Biscuit theme and the news from Lake Wobegon has been a part of my weekend routine for years, and have come to represent a portion of my childhood, one that now, with Keillor's departure, seems well and truly over. 

This all sounds a bit strange considering that I'm a relatively new listener.  I really only started tuning in after Luca was born, needing something to listen to while I nursed him and tried desperately to get him to sleep.  I do remember my mother listening on occasion growing up, or making vague references to it, but I really started listening as an adult. 

The thing is, all the things I grew up with are what I hear when I listen to Garrison and his strange meandering monologues.  My Lake Wobegon was Roseville, Minnesota, where my mother was born and raised, and was filled with stories of Ms. Clackston, who dressed in purple right down to her tights and pearls, and her son Rodger, who my mom smacked in the mouth with a metal lunch box that got stuck in his braces. (She always ends that story with "And he went on to become a minister". I think she feels a little guilt to this day.)  There was the story of my Grandmother, who hit a stranger's child over the head with a hymnal for talking in church, and how my mother saved my uncles from only time my Grandfather threated them with corporal punishment for shoving her off her bike. 

My childhood was peppered by that strange wonderful Minnesotan dialect, courtesy of my Grandmother.  "Hot dish" was served regularly.  "Garage" had one syllable, "Battery" had two.  Sentences started with "so" and ended with either "then" or "yeah, right, exactly..."  The character of Duane's mom puts me in mind of a composite of both my mother and grandmother.  And when my mom played a tape of my Grandfather talking to me as a toddler, it was in a nearly identical cadence to what I have heard coming from my radio every Saturday night. 

I think that is what touches me most about this last Prairie Home. Listening to Prairie Home each week kept me in touch with the childhood I was rapidly losing.  Both my Grandparents are gone now.  My mother, gray hair and all, is a grandmother herself.  But there was still a part of me that wasn't quite ready to accept the reality of being an adult, despite two kids, a husband and a mortgage.  And Prairie Home spoke directly to that part of me.  For the space of two short hours, my childhood was real again. I guess that's what his last show means to me.  My childhood has faded to memories, and at last, at 31, I feel like an adult. 

Goodbye Garrison, I will miss your voice on my radio each week.  Thank you for helping usher me into adulthood. 

New Family Photos

We recently took some new family photos. Here are a few highlights:

These were taken at Pope Farm Conservancy just outside of Madison, WI in June 2016.

Father-Daughter Day

A couple of weeks ago, Nana and Ave decided to rent a camper and go on a camping trip with Liliana and Dalila. On the first day, they arrived at Devil's Lake, and we went up to meet them, play at the beach, and have dinner.

Kyra decided to stay with them that evening, along with Luca. Since Astrid is still so young, we decided that I would bring her home so she could sleep in her crib. The following day would just be me and Astrid. But father-daughter day really started on the drive home.

Usually Astrid falls asleep in moderate-to-long car rides, but on the way home I decided I was still a bit hungry, so I stopped at a restaurant and ordered a chicken sandwich. While we were waiting, Astrid and I played in the car, with me reaching back to grab her hand and make funny noises at each other.

When we got back home, it was late and past Astrid's bedtime. I had showered her at the park so I could just put her to bed, but since she was still rather awake, we snuggled for a bit before bedtime.

Astrid has been teething lately, and I might have forgotten to give her medicine before bed. She woke up at midnight, probably with tooth pain. I ended up pulling her into bed with me since I was too tired to lean over the crib and get her back to sleep. She fell asleep as we snuggled, but I couldn't get to sleep. I was too worried I would roll over her in the middle of the night, so I put her back in her crib.

Of course, when we woke up that morning, I was still too tired, so I brought her back to bed again and we snuggled and chatted about the ceiling fan. (Kyra says Astrid thinks the fan is waving at her.) She's making all these funny noises now - not quite words, but she's trying.

After a morning of playing and reading, we went to visit the principal at Luca's school (Huegel Elementary). She's leaving for a new job in the southwest, and she was a really great principal. I wanted to say goodbye, and let her see Astrid one more time. During the school year, I would watch the kids in the mornings, and she was often out there too. During the warm spring weather, I would bring Astrid on occasion. Grandpa Bill was at school that day, too, cleaning up the school after Luca (and his classmates, I suppose). We had a good talk and headed home.

When we got back home, we decided to play ball in the front yard. Astrid took this little blue basketball and dropped it at the top of the driveway. It would roll down and I would catch it and bounce it back at her. A simple game, but she got a kick out of it.

During lunch, Astrid was being goofy and had food all over her hands. She started clapping for some reason, so I started clapping with her, and I tried to get her to do a clapping game. She thought it was hilarious. Once we cleaned up, it was time for more reading before naptime.

After nap, everyone else was scheduled to come back to our place. So ended a father-daughter day. I'll remember the laughter, playing in the car, snuggling, and clapping with food all over our hands.


We were in the car on the way to lunch talking about spelling. We started spelling names when we realized Luca didn't know how to spell his middle name. Granted, there isn't really a need for him to write it much, although he hears it often enough (I almost always refer to him by his full name, Luca Theodore). But typical of a seven year old, he hated the fact he didn't know something, so rather than try to learn the spelling, he decided to reject the name outright.

"Why did you name me Theodore?! I don't like it!"

"Hey!" I replied, "I wanted your first name to be Theodore."

"Mom, you wanted to name me after a chipmunk?"

Chris snickered. "I'm glad you recognize that, Luca." He wasn't a huge fan of the name either. It was more of a concession to me, really.

Luca went silent for a minute, then out of the blue said, "Mom, you should have named me 'Calvin Alvin'."

"Why? Do you like those names?"

"Well, its just a little bit of me is Calvin, and a little bit of me is Alvin."

I started to laugh immediately, but it took Chris a minute to get it. "Oh, you mean your personality is a little bit Calvin, and a little bit Alvin?"

"Yeah, that's what I mean."

"Why do you say that, Luca?"

"Well, Alvin gets yelled at a lot, and Calvin has some really dumb ideas."

There are moments when children can have great insights. Really, really funny insights.

Today, Tomorrow, and Some Yesterdays

I got my love of dancing and big band music from my grandfather. One of my earliest memories of him was dancing on his shiny black shoes, holding onto his rough, work-worn hands.

Recently while going through storage I came upon some old cassette tapes marked "Roy D. Mattson, Personal Refections". How I came by them I have no clue, but they turned out to be tapes my grandfather made after being diagnostic with advanced stage prostate cancer, the disease that eventually claimed his life. My mom and I sat down and listened to the tapes the last time she stayed with us. The first few were up beat and positive. "As I sit here", my grandfather begins, "I don't feel like there is a thing wrong with me. If I had a little music I'd get up and dance the lindy!" Two or three entries continue in this positive tone, with my grandfather saying how good he feels, how he knows he can beat the cancer.

Then we came to an entry that was immediately different. His voice sounds tired and frail. We didn't get more than a minute into the tapes before my mother started to cry. It was the first entry he made after he broke his hip, and this, my mother said, was his realization that he really wouldn't make it beyond the cancer, that it was, as the doctors had told him from the beginning, terminal.

She told me the story of what happened that day. He had been filling up his SUV with gas, and when he swung himself up into the driver's seat his hip cracked. That was how severely the cancer had weakened his bones. And what did my grandfather do? He drove, not to the hospital, but home. He had my mom help him get dressed up in his best suit and drive him and my grandmother down to the lake for a photo shoot they had already planned. When my mother, the physical therapist, protested, he said to her he wanted "one more picture with his glamor girl". Only then would he go to the hospital.

I have that photo. From the huge smiles and the stylish clothes (both my grandparents were fashionistas in their day) you would never suspect the pain, both emotional and physical that must have underlaid that photo. All you can see is the love.

Today is Chris and my eighth anniversary. And when I think about what I want for our relationship, it is that photo. I want a love that is strong enough to transcend the aches and pains of everyday life, so that all that shines out is the love. No marriage, no life is without pain and struggle. My grandparent's marriage wasn't necessarily a model union. But, in the end, they loved each other, and that love was strong enough to carry them through the hardest times in their lives.

Chris, I love you, more than I can clumsily express. We have been through a lot, and after each and every struggle I love you more. I cherish each day with you, because I am continually reminded how brief and fleeting life can be. Eight years with you has been a treasure, and I am so lucky to have the life and family I have. Here's to tomorrow, today, and the next eight years.

All my love,