Minnesota Winters: Past and Present

Minnesota Snow Storm 2010


Today when I drove through what appeared to be a sandstorm, sand swirling on the highway and in front of my car, I see the sand as what it really is: snow, and I wonder how people in previous generations managed these blizzards. I am reminded of my grandmother and her life in Southwest Minnesota. Grandma didn’t have a lot of the things I take for granted.


  • She didn’t have central heating and I do.
  • She didn’t have indoor plumbing and I do.
  • She didn’t have a heated reliable car and I do.
  • She didn’t have television for entertainment and I do.
  • She didn’t have anyone to snowplow her driveway and I do.
  • She didn’t have a dishwasher or a washing machine or an electric stove.
  • She didn’t have a cell phone and I do.
  • She certainly did not have a computer as I do.


When I see the coldness and the snowiness of our Minnesota Januarys, I wonder how my grandmother survived and not only survived, but thrived. How did she entertain herself? Was she so busy taking care of her family that she didn’t have time for entertainment? What about supplies? I just finished unloading my weekly groceries. Where did she get her food? How often did she go to a store? (I know that her town did not have a large Hy-Vee grocery store like I have.) What did she do when she ran out of stuff? How did she dry her laundry in the winter?


I wish I had asked her all of these questions and many more, but my grandmother died when I was 11 years old. I treasure the memories I do have of her, but I wish I had known more about her life. Once she visited my family in Illinois, and I did ask her what her favorite season was. She replied that she loved winter. I wish I had followed up and found out why. My dad told me it was because winter was a more leisurely time on the farm; there was no planting or harvesting to do.


On the extremely cold winter days in Minnesota, I think of her and I feel very proud of the strong, resilient woman she had to have been. I feel very petty complaining about the cold and snow when I have so many of the modern conveniences she never had. Vera was an amazing woman and I am delighted to have some of her genes making up my DNA. Nevertheless, I still don’t love winter.


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