Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Minnesota Memories

The first time I flew on an airplane, I went from Minneapolis to Chicago for Thanksgiving. That was just before they initiated security passenger screenings. On that first trip I just walked from the ticket counter directly to the gate with no stop for security screening at all. Anyone could stroll around airports and go anywhere. But do you remember that, for some reason, some people decided that highjacking planes and making them fly to Cuba was a good idea? By the next time I flew the security screenings were in their infancy. When I went home over Christmas they had folding tables set up before you could get to a gate. You had to put your bag on the table and some law enforcement person went through it. I was carrying a wrapped package intended as a wedding present for my friend Edith who was getting married in between Christmas and New Years. (I was a bridesmaid. We wore dresses with white lace tops and red velvet skirts.... kind of Victorian and rather pretty, but useless for anything other than weddings.) The lady security person unwrapped the whole thing and gave it back to me all in a mess. I had paid for that gift wrapping.

I flew many times between Minneapolis and either Chicago or Madison WI over the three years I lived in MN. By the second year I found myself eager to get "home" to St. Paul. I loved sitting by the window and being able to see the cities as they unfolded underneath. I would identify the river, lakes and buildings. I got to be a casual expert at getting the shuttle over to the Holiday Inn in St. Paul and from there a taxi for the short ride to our dorm.

Gustavus nursing students spent 2 years living in St. Paul in the old 3 year nursing school dorm connected to Bethesda Lutheran Hospital. I was so happy living there. I got to know a big city all on my own for the first time in my life. On Saturdays I usually went out into one of the two downtowns. If I picked St. Paul, I would walk down the block to the capital building and then walk through the middle of the building, so much faster than walking around on the outside. If I went to Minneapolis, I would take the University Avenue bus.

Those were the days when malls were fairly new and the downtowns were still nice destinations. We still had the local department stores (Dayton's and Donaldson's). I liked to eat in the restaurant at Dayton's. I got change cards for both stores and over the two years gradually shopped for non-furnture items I would need to furnish my much anticipated first apartment. It was a hope chest of sorts except I wasn't hoping to get married. I hoped to be living on my own as a working girl. I hoped to be Mary Tyler Moore.

We had a TV room on each floor of the dorm with a medium sized TV on a cart. During the week we would have to sit in the lounge and watch TV together, agreeing on what to watch. But on Saturdays most of my classmates went home, and the dorm would be almost deserted. I would leave a note in case anyone else wanted to watch the TV (nobody ever did, not even once) and then I wheeled the cart down to my room. I would watch MTM followed by Bob Newhart alone to my great delight.

This show was a miracle, It showed a career woman who grew more and more competent over time. She dated and had sex ... do you recall the famous line where Mary responded to a comment intended for someone else "don't forget to take your pill" by saying without thinking, "I won't"?  Sometimes, for short periods of time, she would perhaps find a possible "Mr. Right," but Mr. Right never did pan out and meanwhile Mary went on and was happy and had a life that got better and better over time. The show was also set in Minneapolis, I think, the first TV show not set in either NY or CA. Mary showed that interesting people and events happened away from the two coasts. I was living next to Minneapolis and was discovering the city at the same time as Mary. (I always thought it amusing that the name of the restaurant they often selected for special occasions was "the Embers" because at that time in the Twin Cities, the Embers was a chain family style place, kind of like Village Inn.)

I was going to be a nurse, and so I knew my career path. I didn't want to work in a newsroom or anything. But I wanted to live in her apartment, especially the first studio one (I still do and never have succeeded with that.) I wanted her friends, and I have found equivalent ones in all my places. I wanted to be happy especially in my work, and I have succeeded in that. I wanted to turn the world on with my smile. I think maybe I have done that too.

 I still love the Twin Cities. If I hadn't left, I would still be there.

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