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Bringing It Home

April 26, 2019

 

St Croix River

This is the St. Croix River. It flows 164 miles between Minnesota and Wisconsin before it joins the Mississippi. This is the river of my childhood. When I look at this picture, I see myself holding onto a rope on a bluff working up the courage to jump. My younger brothers are yelling catcalls at me; Mom looks worried and Dad’s got a big smile on his face… that’s my girl. I don’t know whether I can do it. “Jump!” yells Dad – and I fling myself out over the river and let go. For a brief moment, I’m flying. I can see the sky and the clouds and the river below me… I did it…I did it! – and I hit the water.

 

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As a child, the river – and the small town of Marine, Minnesota on it’s banks – were a playground. When the family took the canoes upriver, I sat in the bow, trying to imitate Dad’s powerful stroking, paddling and sweating, and hoping against hope that we would stop soon for lunch. I remember sitting on the riverbank eating egg salad sandwiches, my toes digging into the warm, brown mud. My father’s family has lived in Marine for three generations. When I visited my great-grandmother every summer, I remember reading: sitting on the porch overlooking the river, glancing up every now and then to see the sparkling on the water filter through the trees.

 

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I haven’t lived near the St Croix and the little town of Marine for over fifty years. But I visited – and each time I did, I learned a little more about the history of this place and it’s significance to the people who lived – and continue to live – here. My youngest brother has a beautiful “cabin” on the river. It’s one house down from where my great grandmother lived. He is the third generation of my family to live there and, like the generations before, he has become a strong member of and advocate for the community. As a storyteller, I have fused some of my childhood memories together with some of the history I discovered in my research and the result is a story – which has become rather a signature story for me. But it’s never been told in the actual site of the story – until now.

 

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In late June, I will journey back for a visit. It will be the first time in many years that all three of us kids will be together in this place. It seems a perfect time to bring the story back to it’s origins. So, on a warm summer night, we will gather – with others – in Marine’s Village Hall and I will share my story.

 

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The librarians of the small adjoining community library will have set up a display of books on Marine history for people to look at. I will look out at that audience of Minnesota folk… and remember so much more than what is in the story. After over twenty years of work as a storyteller, I will be bringing one of my stories HOME.

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