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Published August 30 2011

Parenting Perspectives: Minnesota kept mom in summer suspense

This summer turned out to be a real nail-biter for the Salonen family.

I’m not talking about the myriad tornado warnings that had us routinely running for cover in the middle of the night, forcing the seven of us to squish into a lower-level closet like sticks of gum in a pack and prompting numerous verbal “last wills and testimonies” and bleary-eyed mornings.

I’m speaking to the suspense that the state of Minnesota kept us in regarding our much-anticipated vacation to one of its state parks.

Indeed, for the better part of the season, my stomach knotted up daily knowing a room full of politicians held my very sanity in their hands. And until the final hour, it wasn’t looking so good.

The sleeping bags were nearly rolled and tucked away for the year when I heard the news: The state’s budget had been agreed upon. The state parks could re-open. Our end-of-summer getaway would commence.

With a collective sigh of relief, we loaded up the big yellow “banana” – a kayak my husband had won at his company’s annual party months earlier – and set off into “Big Paw Country.”

Imagine a seven-person, one-dog, two-vehicle caravan stuffed to the gills with all we’d need for a weekend – including two acoustic guitars. Or just repeat after me: the Griswolds.

“How many more hours left?” We hadn’t even left the cul-de-sac when the whining began. Eventually our littlest rephrased his question: “Well then how many years until we’re there?”

Eventually our destination arose on the horizon, and I can say now it was well worth the wondering and waiting.

It’s hard to grumble about hanging out at the “beach” (for all the kids knew, we’d landed in the Bahamas), squishing sand between your toes, snorkeling at the headwaters of the Mississippi with two straws bound together, and watching goose bumps rise on your arms at the onset of loon calls resounding across the lake at dusk.

Sure, we also had that car-sickness incident, a near-eviction from the kids’ constant slamming of our cabin door, and frequent “killer bee” sightings near the fire pit. But all was made right with a final trip through the coveted state park gift shop, where we claimed a hand-painted clay ocarina, a bird whistle, two beaded rings and a harmonica, all for less than 20 bucks.

Unbelievably, these treasures made the return trip even noisier than the drive there.

Nevertheless, the state of Minnesota has redeemed itself in our eyes, even if narrowly. Though we realize not all families came out as well following the budget fiasco, we are grateful for our brief but luxurious time together in the Deep Woods.

Now then, what’s this about a harmonica gone missing? I’m sure it’ll turn up somewhere … maybe …

Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo, where she and her husband, Troy, parent five children. She blogs on family life at http://peacegardenmama.areavoices.com