Flat on my back and surrounded by cornfields, I watched a duck become an airplane, a scarecrow, and a dozen new shapes as summer clouds shifted high overhead. I loved being a farm girl and I knew one thing for sure; I didn’t want to be a town girl. But my father’s death and my eventual marriage started a migration…from cornfields…to town…to suburbia.
Today I wrap the sights and sounds of my suburban home around me like a comfortable old blanket. I must admit they are as sweet and clear as in days gone by. Cicada buzz in rounds in my backyard. Crows “caw” to feathered friends in a neighbor’s tree. And a skywriter writes in white ink on blue paper far overhead. As I lean back in my lounger, I close my eyes and reminisce of people I knew then and of those around me now. I find that the generosity and warmth of old farmers lives in the hearts of my neighbors. Jeanne offers cucumbers from her garden. Don brings syrup from his Maple trees. Pam, Mary and Loris share sugar and spice from their cupboards.
But what about family and roots – do I have a history? Extended family live within walking distance. My father-in-law eagerly shares stories of Bloomington’s transformation from farmland into cityscape. He recalls the verbal battle of the City Fathers over whether to name their growing settlement “Bloomington” or “Oxboro.” He remembers the first “stretch” of blacktop covering the gravel on Old Shakopee Road – “all the way” from Penn avenue to France Avenue, just a mile away. His eyes look deeper into the past as he recalls March Gardens on 100th and Lyndale. Mrs. March paid him ten cents an hour to pot flowers. He tells me about a woman affectionately known as Grandma Bradbury who fed the hungry and clothed the threadbare during the Great Depression. Her garage was piled floor to ceiling with government food staples and second hand clothing. He remembers blustery winter afternoons sitting around the potbelly stove at Sunde’s Garage on 98th and Lyndale absorbing Old George’s wisdom.
His stories give me a sense that I have not been plunked down in a cold and rootless maze of streets and freeways, but in cornfields gently shaped by the lives of real people into a town that a farm girl gladly calls home.