Where is Minnehaha Avenue, anyway?

Minnehaha Avenue illustration

Illustration: Liz Argall

Fiction by Barbara Schlichting

Inga tried to hurry her husband, which was no easy feat. They were expected to be on time. After all, Norwegians were never late. That’s the crux of the matter. Martin still hadn’t finished milking nor loaded the two dozen donuts she’d made last night for her granddaughter’s confirmation. The church, Minnehaha Lutheran, was located on Minnehaha Avenue in that big city, Minneapolis. They lived in central Minnesota, Lowry.

“Martin! Ja, hurry up!” Inga shouted outside to her husband. He was just leaving the barn.

“All set now, Inga dear,” he said. Martin walked in with a grin on his face. “The milking is done so we can go now.”

“Ja, vell, it’s about time!” Inga said. She took a deep breath. “Go change now and hurry!”

“Don’t hurry me so!” Martin hurried to the bedroom where he found his suit and tie all laid out on the bed for him. He quickly changed. “I’m coming!”

“Ja, you look good,” Inga said when he reentered the kitchen. She glanced at the wall clock as it chimed six times. “We’ll make it just in time.”

The 1952 Chevrolet parked in the yard hadn’t been any further than to town and back in years. Normally the kids visited them, but now they had to drive all the way to the Big City. Their daughter’s house was a three- to four-hour drive, if you didn’t get lost, and the church was nearby.

Martin held the door for Inga to climb inside the car. When she was settled, he gave her the box of donuts.

“Where’s the coffee thermos?” Martin asked. “I must have a cup, or I shrivel up.”

“On the seat already, plus your favorite sugar cubes,” Inga replied. She nodded at them. “Martin, do you know how to get to the church? Minnehaha Lutheran?” Inga sniffed, and glanced down at her box of donuts. “Smell good, ja?”

“You betcha!”

Martin put the car into drive and drove from the driveway. The Highway 55 intersection went through town where he turned onto it. The day was sunny and bright, a lovely day for a long drive through the country.

“We’ll be on time, Inga, don’t you worry,” Martin said. He kept his eyes on the road.

The winding road brought them through more farmland and near the town of Glenwood where Martin’s brother lived. They kept driving. After a half-hour, Martin licked his lips and thought about his cup of coffee.

“How about a cuppa, Inga?” Martin said. “I need something soon, I’m thirsty. And, one of your delicious donuts, too.”

“Ja, coffee but no donut, Martin. They’re for Magdalene, remember,” Inga said. She carefully set the donuts between them as if they were heaven-sent, before reaching for the thermos. Spreading her legs wider, she leaned over to pour the coffee so that if she spilled, it’d land on the floorboards. “Here, Martin.” She handed him the cuppa.

“Many thanks,” he said, and sipped from it. “I can’t hold it and drive right now, Inga. There’s a barn coming up and the cows are out. I need both hands on the steering wheel.” He handed over the coffee.

“I don’t see any cows,” Inga said.

Martin quickly sneaked a donut from the box.

“See here now, Martin! It was an excuse to make me hold it.”

“Let me have the cup back, then.” Martin looked over to her and took the cup. “Magdalene won’t mind.”

“Rotten scoundrel,” Inga said. They drove through the town of Paynesville and then Buffalo. “The Big City isn’t too far now, is it?”

“Highway 55 goes right through downtown and will bring us to Hiawatha Avenue, Inga, then we’re almost there,” Martin said. “How about another donut?”

“No! You’ve had your share for the day.” She shook her head.

“You’re a hard woman sometimes, Inga dear,” Martin said. “I could use another cuppa, Inga.”

“Magdalene will be relieved to see us early, ja?” Inga said. She poured more coffee. “I wonder what we’ll eat for dinner?”

“Fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy,” Martin said. “Here now, we’re on Olson Memorial Parkway, which is the scenic part of the trip.”

“We’re going to Minnehaha Avenue, not Hiawatha,” Inga said. She took Martin’s empty cup and tightened the lid on the thermos. The donut box she set back on her lap, clutching it.

“We’re going right through downtown now, Inga, and onto Hiawatha.”

“It’s Minnehaha Avenue we want, Martin.” Inga broke down the opposite ends of the box as she clutched it.

“Ja, Inga, I know. First we go to Hiawatha,” Martin said. “Don’t worry.”

Martin followed the road signs and was soon at Minnehaha Falls.

“No church! Only water!” Inga said as they drove to the lookout. “Martin, we’re lost.”

“It’s Minnehaha, isn’t it? There must be a church,” Martin said.

People dressed in their Sunday best clothes descended the nearby steps.

“Magdalene must be with all those people. There’s also youngsters all dressed up, Martin. Hurry up and park the car!”

Martin carefully drove down the scenic route until he reached the parking lot where he was able to fit the car into a spot. Inga didn’t wait for Martin to hurry around and open her door, she climbed right out with the donut box. Martin arrived on her side just in time to shut the door for her.

“Look at the waterfall, Martin,” she said. They walked to the railing and gaped over the beauty of the falls.

“Look down below, Inga dear.”

“Vell, Martin, there’s the congregation down the steps,” Inga said. “Just in time, Martin. We’d better hurry.”

“Ja, sure.”

They briskly walked toward the flight of stairs and descended toward the gathered group. A young woman reminded them so much of their Magdalene that tears came to Inga’s eyes.

“You’re just lovely, my dear, and so much like your mother,” Inga said to the young girl.

The girl smiled sweetly and her dimples showed just like their daughter’s when she was that age. Inga smiled through tear-stained eyes.

“Here’s your donuts, from Grandma.” Inga smiled. “Go ahead and eat one. They’re your favorite.”

“But you’re not my Grandma,” the girl said. “Grandma’s over there.” She nodded to the flock of people.\

“Vell, aren’t you Magdalene?”

“No.” the girl shook her head. “I’m Sandra.”

“Aren’t you from Minnehaha Lutheran?”

“No. I go to the Basilica.”

“Inga, we’d better hurry to the church,” Martin said. He took her arm, steering her away. “Minnehaha Lutheran must be right around the corner.”

Martin hurried Inga so fast to the car that she almost dropped the donuts.

“Here we are, Inga dear. Climb in. Hurry!”

“Don’t hurry me so, Martin!”

Martin started the old car and off they puttered out of the parking lot and into the street. Horns honked and someone waved a fist at them, but Martin kept driving.

“The man just waved at us. Wasn’t that nice of him?” Inga said.

After a few more horn-honks, Martin drove down Minnehaha Avenue.

“See the sign up ahead?” Martin said.

“Ja.”

Martin found a near parking spot in front, and they hurried into the church.

“No one’s here,” Inga said.

“We’d better ask.”

They caught up to the minister and introduced themselves.

“Ja, I’m Magdalene’s grandma. Where is she and the other confirmands?”

“The confirmation service is next week.”

“Gud i Himmel, Martin!”

“Ja, Inga dear, let’s go home.”

Barbara Schlichting has always been dreamer, so she writes books. She likes to wander through bookstores and fall in love with fictional characters. She also loves to travel and has had an English penpal for about 55 years. Barbara is the author of the First Ladies Dollhouse mystery series, as well as several published short stories. Originally from Minneapolis, she and her family moved farther north to Bemidji, Minn. Learn more at www.barbaraschlichting.com.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 12, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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