The Eye of the Beholder
These photos were taken by my father about 1950. My grandfather had a herd of Holsteins for many years. I remember the cows, the barn, the smells.
I have been thinking about connections a lot this week. Recently, the moderator of a Facebook page for current and former residents of my hometown, Crookston, Minnesota, posted a link to a page on my blog. He said he believed the author had a connection to the town. He probably would have recognized my last name (I have a bunch of siblings; one of them must have been close to his age), but I don’t mention it my posts. I realized, however, that in another generation, very few people in Crookston will have any memory that my family lived there for thirty-four years.
Neither of my parents were from Crookston. My mom grew up near Minnetonka, Minnesota. My dad grew up on a farm near Breckenridge, Minnesota. They met on the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota and married in 1952. My dad worked for the Department of Agriculture, and the move to Crookston in 1960 was his fifth transfer in eight years. Prior to that move he had worked in Milaca, Roseau, Bemidji, and Warren, all small towns in northwestern Minnesota. My older brother and I were born in Milaca. The next three kids were born before we moved to Crookston. My three youngest sisters were born there in St. Francis Hospital. Crookston became my hometown by chance. After I graduated from high school in 1972 and left for college, I only returned home for holidays and special occasions. My brothers and sisters also moved away, eventually following their dreams and aspirations to distant corners of the U.S.
After my dad died in 1986, I know there were times my mom thought of moving closer to her family but she stayed, partly because the house was home for us. When she passed away in 1994 and our house was sold, Crookston ceased to be home—there was no home to go home to. When I went to my 40th high school reunion in 2012, I realized it was more than just the lack of a physical home that had weakened the connection over the last forty years. The anchors that tied me to Crookston were gone. Both the grade school (St. Joseph’s Academy) and high school I attended had been torn down. The Catholic church my family attended was gone, and the Cathedral we moved to when St. Anne’s closed now sits empty and deteriorating. I have deep memories of St. Anne’s Church—I went to mass every morning during the school year for eight years. The Carnegie library I spent hours in was replaced years ago, though the building is now being lovingly restored. The retail stores I remember have long since closed. There is a Chinese restaurant downtown and Crookston now has a McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. My only remaining anchor is the Dairy Queen, which is only open in the summer and hasn’t changed much.
I have fond memories of growing up in Crookston. It isn’t a bad place to be from. Even the frigid winters make great story telling. Today, however, my connections aren’t strong. Both of my parents are buried there, but a cemetery where people I loved are resting is not my favorites places. and it won’t draw me back. Our family has a dear friend and extra sister who still lives in Crookston. Luckily, I see her at family events and can keep in touch on Facebook. Two of my oldest friends are high school classmates. And through Facebook I’ve been able to reconnect with and keep in touch with old neighbors and friends, some of whom still live in Crookston. And the Facebook page, Crookston Connections, has brought back places and names from fading memories. When I’m asked me where I’m from, I always say Minnesota. And if asked for a specific town, I always say Crookston. It’s my hometown, even though it hasn’t been home for a long time.