“I don’t want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald
I was running a little ahead of schedule, a bad habit ingrained in me by my father. If he was on time, he was late. Period. But enough of my Norwegian/German/Bohemian underpinnings and tendencies. The reason for my trip to Sandstone, MN, was to drop off, and pick up, photographs at the Old School Art Center (OSAC) and to have lunch with my friends, Dee Kotaska, Mike Gainor, and Carole Bersin.
I had already been to OSAC. The artwork was hung and ready for the opening a few days away. An indulgent side note…it’s jaw-dropping how many people quietly live and create beautiful art in rural Minnesota. I feel honored to be part of this unique community. Thank you for including me!
The OSAC task checked off the list, I drove into the town of Sandstone, stopped for a Diet Coke, and then towards Sprouts, the cafe where we were to meet. (Excellent place to eat!) Kitty-corner from cafe sits the old, old, Sandstone High School.
I attended half-days there during my Junior and Senior years back in the 1970’s. Why? Finlayson High School, my high school, didn’t offer the diversity of classes needed to graduate. Such was life in the country. We made do, shared and cooperated, and figured it out.
I stared at the building, so stately in its design, sitting abandoned and vandalized. What a shame she couldn’t be somehow, some way, reborn and reused.
Across the street from the school sits the dental office I grudgingly went to as a child. Dr. Langseth. Oh boy. I can still see the 18-inch needle coming at me. Or so it seemed. When I was in my teens, Dr. Bennett came into the practice. I was surprised to see Dr. Bennett’s name still on the door. Huh. He was a fun DDS. (He doesn’t know it, but I learned the word tenacious from him. He said it during one of my appointments, and it stuck. I’m tenacious that way.)
I then turned my attention to the building next to Sprouts and became rather excited. It was, once again, a Ben Franklin store! Not many of those around anymore.
When I was a kid, I roamed the aisles of the “dime store” every chance I could get. It was the place of dreams…candy, toys, firecrackers, and possibilities. A little of everything all in one place. I noted the store now included “local art,” so I had to go inside.
The space, the feeling, of the store is entirely different from what I remember. A large area is set aside for a variety of arts and crafts. Everything from wood crate art, simple furniture, and photographs sat like lost puppies hoping for a home.
I then eased over to the central part of the store and smiled with happiness when I saw the rolls of vinyl table coverings on the wall. Mom bought a new one every year back in the day. Sometimes red gingham, sometimes something edgy like green filigree. Nothing says practical like a vinyl tablecloth when you have four rowdy, non-spill proof, kids.
I went through the row of toys, the candy aisle, and around to the home goods. It just felt good. It felt like I had come home.
Ultimately I selected a pair of cheap sunglasses (I had forgotten mine at home), and a dishtowel printed with a recipe for Finnish Pancakes. Taking my treasures to the cash register, I felt as though I was floating in a time portal.
“Did you find everything okay?” asked the man as he poked at the register.
I wanted to say I had sort of found my youth between the row of candy and toys, but that would require more explaining than I wanted to take on.
“Yes,” I said. “I used to spend most of my allowance in this place when I was a kid.”
“You did, huh?” And then he opened a drawer. “We found a box of pencils in the basement. They were from back when Wright’s owned the store. Would you like one as a keepsake?”
YES, yes I would! “I will treasure it,” I said.
He bagged up my purchase and wished me a good day.
A good day? Naw, it was a great day. And I hadn’t even had lunch yet.