July 2007 Minnesota Family Visit

Fort Snelling and Midtown Global Market

I can't believe I've been to Minnesota five other times and I've never been to Fort Snelling. It's right by the airport--I mean right by it. Our flight was perfect and even landed early, and after picking up a brand-new blue convertible PT Cruiser from the nice folks at the MSP Airport Thrifty, we accidentally turned onto Fort Snelling Road while attempting to get on the highway. I decided it was fortuitious, and we both loved our unplanned visit. The staff is all in costume and more or less in character (the furrier was particularly charming, with his stories about the vertical integration of "his" company). We learned about the life of a company laundress in the 1820s, the history of steel imports from Europe, and the pattern of various Minnesota malarial outbreaks. (Given my history with Minnesota mosquitos, I was especially interested here!) We also learned that Fort Snelling was the place where Dred Scott lived as a slave in free territory, thereby forming the basis of his suit and the infamous Supreme Court Case--the building where he and his wife lived is still standing, and this year happens to be the 150th anniversary of the misguided court decision. ("Gee, it's kind of like our Supreme Court today. . . ," Robert mused.) We had to hustle through in order to meet my old friend Jen from Boston (who's now living and teaching ESL out here) for lunch, so we didn't see a lot of the craft demonstrations, but I would definitely come back here with lots of cousins and nieces and nephews. What's so nice is that all the actors are actually starting fires with flint, actually cooking rice and biscuits on the fires, actually making iron tools, and actually making wood barrels while they talk to you about them--I'd put this place up there with Mystic, Connecticut, Plimouth Plantation, or Old Bethpage Village for great restorations.

Lunch at the Midtown Global Market, which just opened at the beginning of last summer, was delicious. We wandered around having samples and absorbing the atmosphere before Jen met us, and although the Somali place ran out of goat, we settled on two different places for a tlayoco and a fried walleye. This is more like the markets in Phoenix or Philadelphia than Fanueil Hall--we love places like this, of course, and had a great visit with Jen.

Dinner and Hayride at Uncle Frank and Aunt Martha's

Dave and Candy had driven up from Chicago earlier that day, and we all met at Uncle Frank and Aunt Martha's house for dinner in the evening. There was an abundance of sweet corn fresh from the garden, as well as garden-fresh tomato and cucumber salads. The evening had many exciting phases, including a hayride that Grandma Gracie (with oxygen tank) insisted on going on--we took turns making sure she, the tank, and the many small blonde children didn't fall off; a minor surgery by Judy when Mitch fell on Jerry's elliptical machine, hit his head, and bled all over (this event resulted in the summoning of Uncle Mike and Aunt Nancy away from the groom's dinner they were at for Camille's wedding, but once Mitch was given the OK by the MD, they took advantage of this change in plans to eat some corn and go on the hayride); and a pirate storytime that drew more people than I had anticipated. At 10:00, there was a mad rush out to a movie--Matt, Michelle, Angelina, Josie, Lexie, Mitch, Vanessa, Robert and I all saw "The Simpsons Movie," which (though we missed the first ten minutes due to chaos and wrong turns) managed to please everyone, even the non-Simpsons fans in the bunch.

Cousin Camille's Wedding Day

After spending the night at Chez Mark et Vanessa, we met up with Judy, Dave, and Candy for breakfast at Perkin's (I really don't believe any trip to this state is complete without such a meal), followed by a trip to Uncle Frank's store and some great Depression and WWII stories from Dick, the man who's spent 20 years of his retirement working for Uncle Frank.

Camille and Charlie's wedding ceremony itself was short and lovely, with the wedding party arranged around the bride and groom in a circle, at the center altar in a circular Lutheran church. The Slattery side of the church was really a pie-shaped wedge, and the wedding gave us chances to see all of Robert's aunts and uncles.

We had some adventures getting to the reception site, as we realized belatedly that perhaps having Robert, me, Dave, and Candy--the only four complete out-of-staters--alone in a car together wasn't the best idea. Our plan was to follow Mark and Vanessa, but we stopped at a Target for a few last-minute necessities, and got unsolicited directions and compliments from an older man working at the Target refreshment stand, where we finally broke down and bought popcorn, smoothies, and slushies. These actually turned out to be necessary fortifications, since we realized (again, belatedly) that we hadn't eaten since breakfast at Perkin's and the wedding dinner was still three hours in the future. Mark and Vanessa were still getting Brady ready, so we figured we'd go to Uncle Frank's and follow someone from there. In front of his house, we saw Uncle Mike's van just pulling out, so we started following him. Apparently he was going home first rather than straight to the reception, so when we got to his house and he and Nancy were still getting ready, they sent Josie squeezed into the backseat with me and Candy to help us navigate to the reception. Strangely, Mark and Vanessa--as well as the carload from Uncle Frank's house with Judy, Bill, Jennifer, and her kids--had already arrived by the time we finally got there.

Dave and Vanessa decided that the wedding bar needed some supplementing, so they set out to find a liquor store--taking the fifteen-year-old Josie along again as a guide. "She went WHERE?" an incredulous Nancy asked when she and Uncle Mike finally arrived and wondered where their daughter was. The younger crowd was actually completely satisfied with the libations available at the wedding--you may notice John and Emily's fruit-punch smiles, above, courtesy of the all-you-can-drink Kool-Aid fountain set up on a corner table, with red punch cascading down silver beads.

Around 10:00, we decided the music was a bit loud and the dancing crowd was down to just Camille and Charlie's friends, so Matt and Michelle, Dave and Cany, Vanessa and Mark, and Robert and I headed over to Mark and Vanessa's house to order pizza, run to a convenience store for "pop" and chips, and sit and talk until 2:00 in the morning.

Post-Wedding Lakeside Brunch at Uncle Mike and Aunt Nancy's

Everyone except Jennifer, who left early that morning to drive back to Chicago to avoid traffic, and the wedding couple themselves gathered at Uncle Mike and Aunt Nancy's for an extended brunch the day after the wedding. Half of the people hung out at the lake itself, water-skiing, swimming, floating, and jet-skiing, while the rest of us remained in the air conditioning, guarding the vinegar potato chips. Judy brought along a wedding picture from Grandma Gracie's 1941 ceremony, and "guess which cousin/aunt/uncle this is" became the game of the afternoon.

Dairy Queen Send-Off

Around 3:00, when we knew we had to head to the airport to make our evening flight back to Boston, Robert and I suggested a quick stop at the Dairy Queen a few minutes down the road from Uncle Mike's house. More and more people jumped on the ice cream bandwagon, and soon the Dairy Queen was swamped with Slatteries. Uncle Mike even ended up behind the counter at one point, looking like he was taking orders, and Uncle Frank (truly picture-crazed Grandma Gracie's son) ran out with his camera and his dipped cone for just one final picture--and then one more!

It was a great weekend, though it ended too soon. Meanwhile, I'm working on Robert to try to get us to spend Christmas in Minnesota, because what could be more fun than doing this all over again in a few months--with snow?

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Created: 7/30/07. Last Modified: 7/30/07.