A Mythical Place I Love to Call Home
November 15, 2015
There is a small fictitious town north of Minneapolis, Minnesota that I visit every night. You may have already guessed its name—Lake Wobegon.
Lake Wobegon is populated with mostly Norwegian Lutherans—a conservative group who mind their own business, living life traditionally as their parents and grandparents before them. Once in a while, the offspring of a couple may break with tradition, probably to the chagrin of their parents. But it happens.
Lake Wobegon is alive only because of a very talented, quiet man named Garrison Keillor. My daughter and I had the opportunity recently to see him perform when he came to Longview. A gracious man who stood in the lobby after the show and signed autographs, posed with those who wanted pictures, and conversed with everyone who had something to say to him.
Garrison Keillor is a unique individual. To hear him talk about his own childhood is to go back to an era when books, more than anything, occupied his interest. He loved to read, and recounts how he loved it when school was out for the summer and he could go to the library and get as many books as he could carry. They didn’t have to be on any particular subject, and he never had to report on them.
Garrison describes himself as a tall man with glasses, and not particularly handsome. But his voice has charmed countless people who have listened to his radio shows, or attended his stage presentations of a “Prairie Home Companion.” I think he’ll go anywhere to tell a story, and that is his gift to mankind. He tells a great story.
Several years ago, my daughter acquired some cassette tapes of stories of Lake Wobegon recorded by Mr. Keillor. She would listen to them as she painted in her studio. That’s how I became acquainted with this gifted man. For Christmas, I managed to find a couple of series of his tapes at a bookstore. They were rather expensive, but it was Christmas. So I got them for her. She listened to them in her studio, and I caught the “fever.”
I had a small cassette player on my nightstand in my bedroom. In order to squelch the busy thoughts that stole my sleep from me, I would put a tape on. Then I began filching some of my daughter’s Lake Wobegon tapes and found the stories not only entertained me, but gave me a great love for the Garrison Keillor approach to storytelling.
I wore out that cassette player listening to those taped stories. Then we bought a stereo that played CDs as well as cassettes. Finally the cassette function began chewing up the tapes, so, once again, I lost out on my “visits” to Lake Wobegon.
Enter the 21st Century and the MP3 player! Once again I’m able to enjoy all my friends from Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. They may only exist in the hearts of his listeners, but Garrison Keillor makes them come alive with their foibles, their humor, their mannerisms. And that makes Lake Wobegon a place I’d never want to leave.
Patricia La Vigne is the author of Wind-Free.