Written April 30, 2012.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve called myself a Minnesotan. The last Minnesota driver’s license I had was ten years, two other state driver’s licenses, four kids, and one name change ago.
But now, here we are, back in the “Old Country,” as my Montana father-in-law calls this far off land of my origin. We are in the midst of burning up the moving boxes and maybe staying put until we can retire on a tropical island. So until that far off day when I can pass my time sipping mai tais in my muumuu, Minnesotans we will be.
When I lived out of state, in Montana as well as Washington and Pennsylvania, I always felt happy to say I grew up in Minnesota. It’s just good to be from here. People generally have a positive or at least neutral attitude about the land of 10,000 lakes. If they falsely assume something about people in this state as a whole, it’s often assuming everyone is that homey, quirky, lovable, good-natured Lake Woebegon-like personification of “Minnesota Nice”. And really, there are certainly worse stereotypes to overcome.
Even though I spent the first 20 years of my life here and came back on regular visits a few times a year, there is something different about once again calling Minnesota home. And so for the last month, I’ve been once again taking in what it means to call myself a Minnesotan.
Luckily, becoming a Minnesotan doesn’t require any sort of ritual gang initiation. Wearing the wrong colors around here probably just means someone made the unfortunate mistake of being a green and gold Packer fan in Viking country, where everyone bleeds purple.
A “drive-by” in these parts just means the neighbors are driving by, and spontaneously pull into the yard to introduce themselves. We’ve had several drive-bys. One neighbor left us with tickets to the local church meatball dinner, which we happily accepted, and another drive-by incident led to a neighbor helping my husband unload some heavy shop equipment. We like MN drive-bys.
Oooh that Accent
Growing up in MN, I really thought the whole Minnesoootan accent was a farse, or at least something that only existed in far northern Minnesota and in Hollywood movies. When the movie Fargo came out, I remember feeling insulted seeing Minnesotans portrayed as simple-minded and hokey, speaking with way “oooo”verdone accents. I mean, really, ooh geez, we dooon’t talk like that.
Or do we? Living in other states for over a decade suddenly made the Minnesotan accent ring clearly in my ears when we moved back here. For the first few weeks, especially in talking to people on the phone, that accent that sounded way overdone in the Fargo movie now seemed pretty accurate. I’d get off the phone with the power company, repeat a few lines to my husband, and we’d both giggle at living in the land of 10,000 “ooos” and “yahs.” The funny thing is, now a month later, I don’t really notice it as much. Maybe it’s because I’m already reverting to my Minnesotan speech patterns, dooon’t cha knoow.
Uff Da! Ya!
And speaking of Minnesotan words, uff da! On a particularly windy day, the 6:00 news anchor commented, “Boy, it sure was windy.” An emphatic “Uff da! Ya!” was the immediate response by the other news anchor. I happened to hear it as I doled out supper, and burst out laughing. I don’t believe I have heard an “Uff da! Ya!” as official news commentary in quite a while, maybe ever, but I do believe that I’m in my home state again.
I can’t drive 55.
When it comes to driving in MN, I’m not sure why, but my van just won’t drive only 55. Maybe it started when I was always running late and speeding to high school back in the day. Luckily, when I lived in Montana, where 70 mph is in fact the speed limit on rural two-lanes, I had a perfect fit for my natural lead foot inclinations.
But back in Minnesota now, heading down Hwy 14, my natural speed is still about 70. Oops. If you are highway patrol, please forgive the mini van with Montana plates. I’m really pretty nice. Can’t I still drive 70 if that is the legal speed where my vehicle is currently licensed?
Speed limit aside, I’m in love with this place in a way that I don’t think I ever would be if I had never left. When I was twenty, I was itching to get away from the familiarity of my hometown and MN life where I knew all the back roads and most of the people that lived on them.
I headed off to Montana for college because I needed to see what I was made of, and see if I could make a life for myself in an area where every sight, store, and citizen was an unknown. I loved venturing off out west into the unknown, because I had the stability of a deeply-rooted MN upbringing as my foundation.
And now, after creating a life of my own in Montana and a few other states for the last 13 years, I’m happily back here again, with not just me, but my own family of six. After checking out the grass in other places, the grass indeed is NOT greener on the side of the hill.
We loved the dry, rugged beauty of the Montana plains, but coming from Jarred’s hometown where we got on average just 13 inches of annual rain, we are both amazed to now be living in this green, bountiful paradise called Minnesota.
Some day, this will all feel commonplace to us, just like it did to me growing up here as a kid. But right now, it still feels amazing to walk across our grass that is plush and soft and grows with no irrigation or fertilizing, sit under the shade of our massive oak tree that is just one of several hardwood shade trees in our yard, and gaze out at the rich, black soil that the farmers around here are busy planting. Everything here in MN is so full of life.
Sitting next to our kids in the sandbox, even our sand here is amazing. Sand that is easily found alongside the road is the softest, finest, prettiest white sand that any kid digging in a sandbox could ever ask for.
So while we’re still living in the chaos of unpacked boxes and we’ve already had a few opportunities to get acquainted with some all-too-friendly wood ticks, Uff Da! we are so happy to be in the process of becoming Minnesotans.