Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

last one: why here

Those of you who follow Twins baseball probably already know that Kirby Puckett is dead tonight. Those of you who don't follow Twins baseball probably don't care beyond the general wishing all humans well, or even know who I'm talking about. He was a baseball player from my childhood. He was, in some ways, the baseball player of my childhood. And look: Puck and Kent Hrbek were playing a game. They played it as well as they could, and they took it seriously. When you were watching them, you never got the sense that they thought they were curing cancer or ending hunger in the Third World or fighting government corruption. They were having fun. They loved baseball, and they knew that doing something extremely well and having a good time with it were not trivial elements to combine. And that was a good thing for a sometimes over-serious kid to see.

The last question I have left to answer from my sleep-dep night is, "I'd like to hear about why you relate to Minnesota(ns) so well." And I think in many ways, the answer is, because I choose to, and in other ways it's not so much of a choice.

I was raised by wild Minnesotans -- exiles, and exiles are often more attached to the place they feel exiled from than the people who still live there. Minnesota people and events were the cast and calendar of my childhood. So one of the things it means to me, living in Minnesota, is that when public figures as different as Paul Wellstone and Kirby Puckett die, I can be around other people who know what it means. I'm not saying that it means the same thing. Not at all. Their work, their personalities, their personal lives -- very different men. But I was glad beyond measure to be home in Minnesota for a visit when Wellstone died, and I'm glad to be living here today. And every time I considered this question over the last two months, I had different reasons, a different focus, something else that makes it special for me, something else that makes it worth the time. Whether I was worried for dear ones or mourning a stranger, humming through a quietly perfect day or bouncing off shiny delights, I could always come up with different reasons to be glad to be doing it here. That seems like it should count for something.

I choose to take delight in the vowels, in the weather, in the communicative silences. I choose to blow a kiss to the skyline whenever I cross the Mendota Bridge. I choose to have picnics at the Falls and walk around the lakes and keep track of what's thawed and what's still frozen over. It is an utter pain in the ass to have to throw salt on the driveway at 5:15 a.m. on my way to taking markgritter to the airport. But it is my own utter pain in the ass. There are interesting artists of various kinds elsewhere, but more of the ones here feel like mine. There are festivals and events elsewhere, but these hit the rhythms of my blood. The words sound right in my ears, Aquatennial and Fest, Holidazzle and Winter Carnival. The air smells right, shifting temperatures off standing water. It hits my blood and my bones, and here I stay.

Not every Minnesotan shares every experience of Minnesotanness, and that's okay. Tonight, not every "real" Minnesotan is thinking of how Kirby Puckett used to bob around like a little ballooon on the field, or how funny his legs looked motoring around the bases when he pulled it out for them in the 9th again; not every "real" Minnesotan's childhood prayers featured Kirby. Not every "real" Minnesotan had childhood prayers at all. Not every "real" Minnesotan eats lefse or herring or wears Dale of Norway sweaters while shopping at malls that all end in -dale. Not every "real" Minnesotan has had all-you-can-drink milk for cheap at the State Fair. Not every "real" Minnesotan has spent alternate weekends at Fest dusty and hot, then muddy and freezing. But these things all go into a pool, and we draw out what we can, and put in what we can. And some of us look down when we dip into it and say, look how clear the water is, look how cool, look how sweet. "But other lands have sunlight, too, and clover," as the song says; other places have their own pools. But this one's mine, and I have the right rings to get in, but I'm not sure I have the ones to come back, and I'm not sure I want them.
Tags: grief sucks, true north strong and slightly less free
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