Hi everyone. My name is Abbie and I’m 24 years old, born and raised in suburban Minnesota. I thought I’d mix up this month’s Jam Packed Blog with a short story about a kid named Riley and what it feels like to grow up in Minnesota. Please enjoy...
Northern Nostalgia: Growing Up in Minnesota
Late September, in the year 2007, a young child named Riley was playing in the back yard of their family home with the cool wind whose name was Autumn. Riley slept late that morning due to the bonfire their family had hosted late into the night. This was one of the many gatherings that the neighborhood families would partake in between the treasured months of March to November. These parties were not extravagant, nor usually elegant in any way. This was no matter, because the friends at these gatherings felt like relatives and spent their time together laughing, crying, or something jumbled in between.
While the parents spent these nights telling stories, sharing drinks and making each other smile; Riley and their friends debated the perfect way to roast a marshmallow, and whether the chunk of Hershey’s chocolate should go on the top, bottom, or on both sides of the s’more. After the sun would go down and each of the children successfully wrestled the impressively sticky bonfire snack into their bellies, the necessary shenanigans would always begin.
Most warm nights included a classic game of Olly Olly Oxen Free; other nights it was Ghosts In the Graveyard or Sardines. For Riley, the most exciting nights were when the younger kids finally could convince the group of “too cool for school” older kids to play a game of Capture the Flag. Luckily, that was one of their shenanigans from the previous night's gathering and Riley had woken up from their late sleep feeling quite content with the way the weekend had gone.
The Sundays after the “extended family” had gathered were always so blissful for Riley because they were able to spend their time however they pleased. This particular Sunday, the weather had changed capriciously from the rather warm temperatures that had been the past few months. Riley remembered because just yesterday they, and the warm breeze who spoke that her name was Summer, had played under the clouded blue skies.
Though Riley felt a bit sad that Summer had gone without saying goodbye, they always liked it when Autumn came around. Autumn could be nippy and dismissive, but also brought a calming and creative spirit that signaled it was time to spend as much time as you could outdoors. After spending a long chunk of the day soaking up the cool sun and watching Autumn turn the leaves an array of beautiful colors, Riley wandered into the house. Dad watched Sunday football in his lounger, as Mom wrapped up dinner and their sibling Charlie played Club Penguin on the computer.
The house smelled cozy, like garlic and tomatoes. Just as it clicked what they were smelling, their mom belted an out-of-tune melody... “chili is ready!” From there, the days began to darken earlier and earlier, and the pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, pie eating season rapidly passed. Autumn became more and more restless until the falling of the leaves became lazy and the grass turned to brown. As fast as Autumn had come, Winter landed with a thud that sent the sun running.
Night games turned to board games, and the neighborhood parties lessened as Winter became ornery and cold. Riley spent more time reading books and doing crafts. These were things they enjoyed and yet, the things to do were feeling thin and less exciting than they first were. Outside didn’t look too swell, as the grass was grey, along with the trees, along with the skies. Everything began to feel quite glum, including Riley themself.
Mom and Dad got some new craft supplies and offered movie nights, but Riley still felt there was something missing. They grew weary of board games and spent more time by themselves. It started to feel like Winter was out to ruin Riley’s fun. On a day that they felt would never end, Riley looked down the driveway waiting for Dad to get home from work; possibly with an idea of what to do. Just as Riley thought their brain might melt, something else very exciting happened.
The snow began to fall! With one falling flake, Winter reminded them that there are holidays to celebrate, traditions to keep, and snowy activities to partake in. Riley felt excitement again and couldn’t believe that they had forgotten about all the fun that Winter brings from December to February! The cold was no longer a drag; Riley ran out of the house with their dog, Lucy, who loved snow the most out of anyone in their family. They did laps around the house together and Riley caught snowflakes on their tongue.
Winter saw how much the snow was loved and made sure to make lots more. Eventually there was enough for a snowball fight, then a snowman, and then even enough to snow-mobile around the town. The snow got deep enough that it felt like a cloud when you fell, or a wave you could surf.
Riley felt bad for assuming Winter was always so gloomy and became his friend. When it was time for Winter to start melting away, Riley said farewell. As Riley and Winter hugged goodbye, they felt the breeze turn warm and opened their eyes to Spring whispering “hello.”
Seasoned continued to cycle and Riley learned more and more each year that Minnesota is beautiful September through August.