The ground was sprinkled white by the time we pulled up to Mom’s childhood home on Wilson Street in Winona. It looked like the coating of powdered sugar from the Embassy commissary that Mom shook to over our Norwegian Christmas cookies.
It was just the four of us again, Dad driving, Mom talking quietly to him, and Susie and I tucked into the back seat, me on the left side, her on the right side, headed off into an adventure. Instead of the Italian blue book country guide, Mom had an American map open on her lap; a hotel guide was at her feet.
Mom and Dad made their protocol farewell calls on the Ambassador and Mrs. Sparks and other senior diplomatic couples. They were fèted at our first “despedida,” a goodbye party routinely thrown by Embassy colleagues for departing friends; the “bienvenida” was the party counterpart to welcome new diplomats and their families into the Caracas Embassy.
From the burgeoning gardens of the Hotel de Ville in Alma, Wisconsin to the splendors of Snooky, Julie and Ruth's flowerbeds along the St. Croix, these images from our mini-Home Leave to Minnesota stay with me....
In South Dakota, where my dad's from, you swim in a crick, you put a ruhf over your head and you set down ruhts. In the Foreign Service, where I'm from, they sent Dad and Mom and Susie and me back to his ruhts every few years to remind us that we were Americans. It was called Home Leave.