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North Dakota – A Trip Back to My Roots & These Things of the Heart

Have you ever taken a trip back to your roots? This is assuming, of course, you live in a different corner of the world than you did in your earliest days. Taking such a trip stirs up wonderfully nostalgic memories, reopens feelings of loss, reminds you of your very temporary status in this world and so much more, at least this was the case for me recently.

Recently Dear Hubby and I made a trek to North Dakota, a trip back to my roots. As you might suspect, my emotions were all over the map.

I was born in North Dakota. I didn’t stay long though. My family and I moved to Minnesota when I was only six weeks old because my dad got a teaching job there. And the rest as they say, is history. Well, it’s my history anyway.

Every summer, my family and I went back to North Dakota for a visit with the grandparents, always my mother’s parents and sometimes my dad’s as well. All four of my grandparents were  North Dakotans, children of immigrants. Somehow my grandparents’ parents all had landed in North Dakota many years earlier. Why North Dakota? I have no idea. But then again, why not?

Summer visits to my maternal grandparents’ house were filled with the usual stuff:  Fourth of July and birthday celebrations, shopping for school clothes, spending time with aunts and uncles and cousins, long-awaited-for trips to the local swimming pool and Dairy Queen, watching what seemed to me, unlimited TV channels and going to drive-in movies, to name a few. Mostly, my siblings and I enjoyed being doted on by loving grandparents who naturally, saw only our good sides.

Then there were the perhaps more unusual things like road trips to the Canadian border, attempts at pet behavior management (long story) and the always-to-be-counted-on car rides with my siblings and Grandpa to look at Grandpa’s crops.

Grandpa farmed fields all over the county, and showing them all off to us was quite time consuming. At times, we grew bored with the seemingly endless fields that all looked the same to us, but we never let on. At least I hope we didn’t. Often he would stop the car in the middle of the road, pull off into a ditch and drive straight into a field, all the while jostling around his grandchildren who, of course, wore no seat belts. Our eyes would pop open wide as we marveled at the sounds of rocks and overgrown grass scraping underneath his vehicle. Such rides took place not in a pickup but rather in whatever large, impractical sedan he was driving at the time, such as a Lincoln Town Car or Buick Electra. All that scaping and bouncing made us feel quite wild and adventurous.

We knew our parents, but especially Grandma, would not approve of such shenanigans, so we and Grandpa kept our wild-ride secrets to ourselves.

When we were old enough to see over the steering wheel, Grandpa would often turn the driving over to one of us, though of course, we had no license or permit, much less any actual driving skills.

Yikes!

I thought about those childhood excursions and other memories as well as Dear Hubby and I studied plat maps (maps are not my forte, btw), navigated confusing, country roads and found our way to four of those very same fields I used to tour as a child with Grandpa. My siblings and I now each have a parcel of Grandpa’s beloved land. A piece of North Dakota is now mine. Literally.

Grandpa would be so pleased. As am I.

They say a person isn’t really remembered more than two or three generations after dying. I never knew my great grandparents, so I guess this is true, although I did hear stories about them from time to time. Stories help keep families alive. Perhaps this is why I love stories about families so much.

After my siblings, my cousins and I are gone, will my grandparents be remembered by anyone?

And how long will you and I be remembered after we’re gone? 

Who knows, but likely in the scheme of things, not that long.

Land, on the other hand, has a permanence to it, a reliability like nothing else. (Unless, of course, we all totally screw up our stewardship of the planet).

These things, along with many others, gave me pause to remember and reflect.

Trips back to your roots tend to have that affect. Family. Memories. Connections. Bonds that last forever. Love. Things that matter most.

My trip to North Dakota, back to my roots, was about more than a road trip, reading maps and finding parcels of land.

It was about dear ones, fond memories and more; it was about these things of the heart.

If you like this post, you might be interested in reading my memoir, Cancer Was Not a Gift & It Didn’t Make Me a Better Person:  A memoir about cancer as I know it. The three paragraphs in quotation above are from my memoir.

Where were you born and where do you live today?

Have you taken any trips back to your roots?

I would love it if you shared a childhood memory about your grandparents or someone else.

Do you recognize the crop in my photo? (I didn’t either. Answer below.) 

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North Dakota, A Trip Back to My Roots

This is my piece of North Dakota. The crop, which had just been swathed, is the plant canola oil is made from. Next year, it’ll likely be wheat. Can’t wait to see that! (see below)

 

North Dakota, a Trip Back to My Roots & These Things of the Heart

Isn’t it pretty? Wheat crop, August 2018

North Dakota, A Trip Back to My Roots & These Things of the Heart

Rebecca

Sunday 27th of August 2017

Nancy, I love this post! It bought me back to my childhood and I appreciate everything that brings me back to those magical years. You had a very cool grandpa! Love the memories you shared. And I agree, going back to your roots makes you feel nostalgic. I was born in the Dominican Republic. As you know, I was raised by my grandparents. I have visited my little town, Barahona, and even visited the house where I grew up, which my family sold (UGH!!!). I am still very upset that my family decided to sell this house. Actually, there are some things that haven't been resolved that I need to be open about one day. But going back to my childhood, the best memories I have are from my grandma. She was my best friend. One of the things I remember is that I would always bring her a flower after school. And she would always sing the same song to me while holding my flower.

I must also share a memory about my grandfather. He once took me to the family farm in the middle of the night. He didn't speak to me once but I saw how hard he worked for us. Being a farmer is no easy job.

I've lived in New York for years now and I still don't consider it my home. I am grateful for the opportunities, of course. But my real home is Barahona. Here's a picture of the coast: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-WwOxYU8j_mc/Tq25ooC4tyI/AAAAAAAAJ3I/saLu0aKrtcY/w1200-h630-p-k-no-nu/Playa+San+Rafael%252C+Barahona%252C+el+paisaje+m%25C3%25A1s+bello+del+mundo.++Hector+Rafelin+Cuello..jpg

Thank you for this post. xoxo

Nancy

Monday 28th of August 2017

Rebeca, Yes, my Grandpa was quite the character and very special. I still can't believe those rides we took with him. I'm glad you've returned to the DR to visit your hometown and the house you grew up in. I know how special your grandparents, especially your grandma, were and still are in your heart. How sweet that you brought her a flower every day after school and that she sang the same song every time. What a lovely ritual that is now a special memory. Thank you for sharing a couple memories of them both. And thank you for sharing the gorgeous photo as well. xo

Kathi

Saturday 26th of August 2017

Ah, lovely, lovely memories. Great photos! Thoroughly enjoyed this, Nancy. xo

Nancy

Monday 28th of August 2017

Kathi, Thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Lois

Friday 25th of August 2017

Nancy, I enjoyed your post. I only live an hour away from where I grew up but rarely get back there but when I do it is just such a special peaceful feeling. Brings back all those special childhood memories. I had a chance to go to see where my father was born in Montana. I believe your hubby's father was born while they lived in Montana as well. I also have had the privilege of going to the homestead where my great grandfather Stordahl homesteaded in Telemark Norway and seeing the land where they lived as well as farmed! That day was the highlight of the entire trip to Norway as I also got to see where my mothers grandparents homesteaded not that far from my dads.

Nancy

Monday 28th of August 2017

Lois, The place where a person grows up brings back a lot of memories, no matter if it's nearby or many miles away. That must have been an amazing feeling to visit the homestead of your great grandfather. No wonder that was the highlight! Thank you for reading my post and for sharing some memories of your own.

Beth Gainer

Friday 25th of August 2017

Hi Nancy,

I love this post! I think it's awesome that you own a piece of North Dakota. The pictures are stunning. It's so important to cherish our roots. As you know, I was born in New York City (born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx), so I never saw land even remotely like that of North Dakota. My grandparents (my mom's side) lived in Manhattan, and we were very close to them, seeing them often. I was also close to my dad's mom, who lived in the Bronx. Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to trace my roots, as most of my relatives perished in the Holocaust. That has left a gaping hole of loss for me.

Nancy

Monday 28th of August 2017

Beth, I'm glad you enjoyed this post. I had fun writing it. It is important to cherish our roots. It breaks my heart to read your words about so many of your relatives perishing in the Holocaust, a gaping hole of loss, for sure, and for so many other families as well. We must never forget that time and the pain inflicted on so many families. Thank you for reading and sharing.

Lisa Valentine

Friday 25th of August 2017

Thanks for this post Nancy. I am not too far from my roots in northeast Iowa, and more of my siblings and their families live in that area than anywhere else. I am proud to be a native Iowan and I lived there for 33 years. I may end up back there someday. I very much appreciate my farm upbringing and the hard work of the generations that preceded mine, as well as that work ethic that continues in my generation and beyond. Summer days when hay was baled and we got to help in small ways--like pulling the rope in for the fork and pulley system used to get hay higher in the barn--were special days, with special lunches in the mid-afternoon. I can still picture the team of my dad and uncle baling and packing the square bales one by one on a moving hay rack as it made its ways across the field. Good memories, great legacy.

Nancy

Friday 25th of August 2017

Lisa, I had forgotten about your Iowa roots, so thank you for sharing about that and for sharing a few memories. You're so right, good memories, great legacy.

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