Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mayberry No More . . .


Once upon a time there was a little town in Minnesota called Monticello (Monti to those who called it home). Monti was a lot like Mayberry. All of my grandparents lived there, one mile apart. One grandma was a little tiny Swedish farm wife. She worked hard inside and out. She baked yummy treats and always had them in the freezer, ready to pull out for afternoon "coffee" if someone dropped in (she cut the cake into the tiniest little pieces - in a crazy little aside, I would, later in life, blame her for my love of frozen Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes - I put them in the freezer to avoid eating them, but learned I loved them frozen even better!) She also had a bathroom. This was huge.


The other grandma was a very young "working" grandma - she worked at the bakery in town, bowled, and brought treats, including pop, home from town. We loved being at both places. But they still had an outhouse - I always tried to "wait" till I got to the other house.

I loved going to town with Grandma W, the "working" grandma - she was always proud to have my sister and me walking down the street with her, and enjoyed introducing us to her friends (well, everyone knew everyone) as "Margaret's girls." I don't recall ever going to town with the farm grandma.

Unfortunately, "progress" entered the scene and the idyllic little town changed everytime we visited. My mom's folks (the "working" grandma) retired from farming when they were paid a large sum to sell the farm to allow the Interstate highway to cut through their land. The farm on the hill was no longer. I know my oldest brother mourned especially - it was literally his playground when he went to stay in the summer for a few weeks.

I walked past the old driveway last week when I took my morning walk from my aunt's (mom's sister) apartment. I came to the old cemetery that we used to love to explore (not the one my uncle was buried in). This cemetery was at the base of Grandpa and Grandma's driveway. It looks much larger than I remember, which is the opposite of what usually happens when you look at things from your childhood. But it used to be a bed of weeds covering the stones. Now it is well maintained.



The gas station sign you see rising high above the cemetery is the location of Grandpa's hilly pasture, the one we used to sled down and stop just in time to avoid the barbed wire fence just this side of the train tracks.


This paved street was once the steep hilly driveway that we climbed to get back to the house.




I did what I used to do when I was younger - looked at the names and dates and tried to imagine why so many young children were buried there, what had happened to decimate these families, such as this one. . .



. . . and these . . .




. . . and what happened to this one with no known name . . . and who is on the broken one?




This one especially gripped my heart - twin brothers, Harry and Herman, gone a day apart just before their 6th birthday. I can't imagine the grief.




I've read a lot of historical fiction of the pioneers and my mind can imagine the kinds of illnesses that ravaged these people in this little town back so many years ago.

The really old ones are learning precariously --





The most elaborate ones must have been placed much more recently . . .


But - someone forgot to come back - I wonder if she is buried there - because I know she couldn't still be alive!





I continued my walk that day and found what I was looking for - a piece of Monticello that had not been built on - yet.





I wish little towns could stay the same - I know people come back here to my town, who lived here in their youth and are saddened by the changes (I don't like it myself!) I know, life has to move on and progress is inevitable, but it is hard to realize what has happened to the wonderful places of your childhood.

My cousin, who serves in Mali, says that Monticello has lost its charm - it is just another town now. It has all the fast foods, the big box grocery store, large schools, new houses - it has become a bedroom community for folks who work in the Twin Cities, but want a bit of respite for the evenings and week-ends. But in the meantime, it is no longer "Mayberry." I look at their houses and their businesses and realize they have no idea what it used to be like. I wonder if they call it Monti.

This same cousin, several years ago when we were together in the same place, was with my sister and me as we tromped around my Grandma and Grandpa Swanson's old place, looking for souvenirs. We each did eventually get a piece of the old lilac bushes, which are growing healthily in our yards. I said I wondered what people must think as they whizzed past the property and saw these middle aged people wandering around in the weeds. My cousin, Ann said, "They probably think we're a bunch of missionary's and preacher's kids hunting for our roots." And she was right.

More about Ann and others to be continued . . .

13 comments:

Needled Mom said...

I often wonder what it would be like to step back in time and relive the memories for a few days. Do you think we would appreciate it more than we did?

It looks like it was a wonderful spot to spend your childhood visits.

I always wonder the same thing when I visit old cemeteries. You can almost feel the agony that they must have experienced when you read those old tombstones recalling infant and child deaths.

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

I am thankful that our little town has not changed that much but it has seen it's changes and some not so good.

Tiffany said...

"..a bunch of missionary's and preacher's kids, looking for their roots" - such a poignant statement. It is so hard to go back to those childhood areas and see what "progress" has brought. Sometimes I wonder if it really is for the best.

grammy said...

Great remembrance of your roots
My town was small but i always say it was NOT Mayberry. Rough tuff bars and Italian Mafia (o:

I have some family history journals and it so so sad how many babies and children one woman could loose
so sad

Linda said...

I've enjoyed catching up with you Dawn. I wish the old places didn't have to change too. Even our present neighborhood has changed almost beyond recognition over the past 28 years. I know we need progress, but I just wish we didn't need quite so much.

A Hint of Home said...

Thanks for taking us down memory lane.
I like looking at the names, dates on tombstones. Like the twins--you have to ponder what happened and feel the familiy's grief.

nannykim said...

I love old cemeteries and always wonder about the people there. It is strange about the one you have shown without and ending date.

It is sad to me, too, to see communities change. But at least some of the old things remain. Like old soda fountains in old pharmacies, old bakery shops, old railroad trestles, etc. Sometimes you can still find some old things!

Nicoolmama said...

this is a sweet post, dawn. it's always bittersweet to go *home* to California...so much has changed since I was a 13 year old girl.

I would LOVE to know your niece's blog address...

nancygrayce said...

A lot of small towns have changed, including mine!

I love the old tombstones and wonder what happened too.....I do think there was so much disease then and no vaccinations. I know vaccinations have gotten a bad rap lately with autism, but the consequences of NOT getting them could be much worse.

Loved reading this and especially that statement .....probably looking for their roots! You found some of them huh?

HOOTIN' ANNI said...

Oh Dawn!! First of all, that one marker of the twins' death just a day apart...sent chills down my flesh. But to go back in time with the memories you've shared [and I too love walking around in old cemeteries] was just some kind of awesome this morning for me. I loved your share.

AND!!! May I add, I LOVE your 'new look'....and your new profile photo. Sorry it's taken me a while to get here to visit, just a busy time right now trying to get things done around the house and today, I'm taking time off to visit all.

Hope your Thursday treats you kindly.

[I too nearly drowned when I was just 5...my brother threw me in to 'learn how to swim'...and I didn't. LOL]

Glenda said...

Looking for your roots . . . I like that! Aren't you glad that even though our home places change that we can still "see, feel, hear, and taste" them in our memories? I.'m glad you got to go back for a visit

Sharon Lynne said...

Letty (who I take care of) and I recently visited a very old cemetary and did the same thing. Read tombstones and wondered...
For some reason, I do find graveyards interesting. I think it might be because I love old things, and I long for the "old" days. But it seems the "old" days were pretty HARD!

Your post was sentimental, a little sad...scattered with some beauty (your wonderful memories). I loved it. I'm so glad you walked around and figured out where everything used to be.

Midlife Mom said...

I enjoyed your walk through your old town. It is a shame that it has lost it's Mayberryish quality. Our town used to be like that too but lost it's innocence when there was a murder committed here about 35 years ago. Something changed and has never been recaptured. We still are small town but a few of the big box stores have moved in and it seems like so much more traffic then there used to be. I remember when Walmart opened, I was so upset to have that in our little town! ha!

Glad you got October tickets! What are the dates that you are going to be here?????