Friday, June 10, 2011

Back to the farm

In 1957, we learned that my Aunt Norma was engaged to be married to a man named Bob Kristensen. She had known him for many years; most of her life, actually. We had never heard of him.

But that wasn't the worst of it.

It meant she would be moving from St. Paul, Minnesota, back to her hometown, the small farming town of White Lake, South Dakota, following her June wedding.

Now this came as a real shock.

Aunt Norma, my Dad's sister, was our very special, beautiful aunt who stayed with us to babysit, bought us things and, in any way possible, spoiled us. She had a bubbly, outgoing personality and an infectious laugh.

She had been dating a handsome man in St., Paul named Don. So, I just naturally assumed if she got married someday, it would be to him.  Don was jovial, fun, a tease, and...well yeah, okay, maybe a bit boisterous. Maybe even more so after a few beers. Okay, sometimes obnoxious.

But who in the world was this Bob Kristensen guy, and why would Norma leave the glamour of her city life to settle down in White Lake? On a farm, no less. It was great fun to visit White Lake every summer as kids, but to live there? All the time? That was another matter altogether.

Aunt Norma worked in a contractor's office, not far from our home in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood. By this time, I was old enough to venture that far on my bike, so I occasionally rode over that way to stop in to say hello.

Of course, I was reasonably sure I'd also be treated to a ten-cent cherry phosphate at Towey’s corner drugstore on the corner of Selby and Snelling.

To a twelve-year-old, pre-teen girl, Aunt Norma was just the type of young woman to be idolized. She always wore the most beautiful clothes, red nail polish, clip earrings and high heels. And she had a winning smile and that wonderful, charming laugh.

So the whole move-to-White-Lake thing was baffling to me. 

And then we met Bob Kristensen. His quiet, soft-spoken and gentle ways very quickly won us over. So opposite the boyfriend, Don. So less artificial; so very much more real. Our new "Uncle Bob."

June 1957
The wedding was at Trinity Lutheran Church in town. 

Construction had just been completed at the newly-built brick church, but the landscaping had been delayed due to many days of steady, soaking rain.

With no sod having yet been laid, the entire church yard resembled a muddy pig-pen  Not just your mere garden-variety mud, but something more like quicksand. My memory is very vivid in that regard because I got stuck in the mud, and I wasn't the only one. Someone, I don’t know who, had to come pull me out, my shiny black patent shoes caked with the wet, sticky, gritty substance.

It was a beautiful wedding. Following the church basement reception, a party that continued to the wee hours was held in the garage at Grandma and Grandpa’s farm.

Norma and Bob settled on the Kristensen family farm, not far from Grandma and Grandpa's farm. Uncle Bob continued to share farming the land with his twin brother, Ray.

And so my glamorous, Aunt Norma became a farm wife. She took pride in tending her chickens, cooking, baking, and playing the organ at church. She was actually a natural in, what was to her, a familiar environment.

Come to think of it.....she never seemed happier.