Visit to Minnesota comes with a lesson in leaving

Dorothy Wilhelm
Dorothy Wilhelm

“Welcome to Joint Base Lewis McChord,” the young soldier said as I stopped my car at the DuPont Gate of Fort Lewis. “How’s it going?” I asked. “Living the dream, Ma’am,” he replied. “Really?” He nodded solemnly. “Remember, Ma’am,” he said, “a nightmare is a dream, too.”

Summer vacation months are here, time for living the dream with an accent on family togetherness. Seems like it isn’t a real vacation unless something goes irreparably wrong.

My mom and I traveled from Montana to visit my grandmother in Oregon every summer when I was a little girl. Since my dad worked for the railroad, we were entitled to a free pass – which restricted travelers to the most inconvenient imaginable accommodations, confined us to one car, and apparently required the conductor to come by to sneer at us at least once an hour. We left Warland at midnight, changing trains in Seattle and Portland. We arrived in Roseburg at 2:30 the next morning – 26 hours later. As soon as possible I’d be out rambling the seemingly endless acres deeded to my grandparents in the early part of the last century, under a Homestead Act grant. By11 in the morning, I’d be covered with poison oak blisters and unlikely to be able to get out of bed until we left for home two weeks later. This was not as much fun as it sounds. It might appear that at some point we would have got the cause and effect vibe and eliminated the ramble, but that was the best part of the trip.

I’ve already enjoyed the best possible family trip this year. As previously reported, my visit to Minnesota for my grandson’s high school graduation, was perfect in every way.

Or it would have been perfect, If only I hadn’t committed that terrible gaffe at the party afterwards. It really wasn’t my fault. Certainly we all know that when traveling to far places, one should learn the language and customs but I didn’t know about the “Minnesota Goodbye.” If you ever expect to visit Minnesota, read and be warned.

I should have listened when my youngest son visited for my birthday earlier this year. He mused that he didn’t think my birthday party was completely successful because, at the end of the evening, “Everybody said goodbye and then they all left,” he mourned. This just couldn’t happen in Minnesota.” The Urban Dictionary offers this definition for the Minnesota Goodbye: “when one person has to leave, they proceed to talk for another hour, then the departing party is walked to the front door, where they talk for another hour, then the departing party gets walked to their car while the host family talks to them through the car window for an hour, and finally the departing couple SLOWLY departs down the drive, yelling back & forth with the host family.”

I didn’t know any of this when I enjoyed a delightful evening at the graduation party but then the lady across from me said, “Well, I guess it’s time to go.” So, not wanting to overstay my welcome, I promptly got up, said goodbye, and left. According to Twin Cities TV which has created an instructional video on the subject, that was where I went wrong. It was fine to say I had to leave but then I should certainly have given the host the chance to talk me out of it. I should have accepted another dish of pudding and stayed for two more hours. It would also have been correct to put on my coat and linger another hour, but the temperature was a very humid 87 degrees. Finally, after two hours, I could have reluctantly taken my leave. The story is that this custom started because the winters are so cold that you linger inside while the car warms up – or it could just be that people like each other better there.

Washington people don’t do that. We’re out the door and in the car just as fast as we can make it. All of that extended politeness seems to pay off because Minnesota always ranks top of the list for longevity of state residents. Washington comes in a measly ninth. I came home determined to learn from my mistakes and never be the first to leave anywhere.

At the Lakewood YMCA recently, my teacher watched me as I completed the Wang Family Short Form in Tai Chi. You know, that’s really amazing, “ he said “You’ve done that nearly 100% wrong.” After 10 years, I was delighted with the progress. That meant I was at least 3% right. Finally! I was learning from my mistakes. Living the dream!

Dorothy Wilhelm is a humorist, writer and professional speaker. Listen to her podcast, Swimming Upstream, at www.itsnevertoolate.com. Her latest book is “True Tales of Puget Sound.” Information on book events, call 253-582-4565. Email Dorothy@MyGenerationGap.com or write – PO Box 881, DuPont, WA 98327

Book signings

Dorothy Wilhelm’s new book, “True Tales of Puget Sound,” has just been named one of the Best Sellers from The History Press for 2019.

July 17: Mystery engagement, 1:30 p.m (Dorothy’s note: If this is your organization please let me know. The information fell off the calendar. Help! Call 253-582-4565.)

July 31: Rotary Club of Clover Park, noon, Carr’s Restaurant, 11006 Bridgeport Way SW, Lakewood.

Aug. 3: Women Writing History Open House, 1-3 p.m.,Tacoma Historical Society, 919 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma. For information 253-472-3738.