It’s midnight in Minnesota and Jensen Marie Christiansen is dreaming of a rosy future. It’s daybreak in Denmark and Anders Westerlund is waking up to a world full of stark realities. When parchment paper and faded ink meet computer screens and fax machines, the old-fashioned magic of a great-grandmother’s letters sets the stage for a steamy Internet romance…
It wasn’t just her own life that flashed before Jensen Marie Christiansen’s eyes as she watched the ribbon of black smoke curling up from the horizon. It was her mother’s, her Grandma Victoria’s, and her Great-Grandma Maren Jensen’s.
Her car fishtailed on the loose gravel and she gripped the steering wheel. A gust of wind rattled the windows and the smoke billowing in the distance scattered in a merry dance that she might have thought pretty if she hadn’t been so intent on strangling her brother. The last mile raced by and she roared into the farmyard, careened around the barn on the circular driveway and slid to a halt in front of the house.
Her brother was standing nonchalantly in front of a bonfire, a package tied with pink and blue ribbons clutched in one hand, drawn back like he was ready to lob a baseball.
She leapt from the car. “Peder – no!”
Peder turned at the same moment he released his grip. A cluster of old letters sailed by her face and landed in a pile of smoldering embers at the edge of the fire.
She cringed at the smell of burned hair as she leaned into the flames, grabbed the ribbons holding the bundle of letters together and pulled them from the fire. The heat dried the tears on her cheeks faster than they could form.
Peder grabbed her sweater from behind and yanked her away from the flames. “Are you nuts?”
“Let me go.” She shoved him away with one hand.
He’d always been stronger than she was. “Stupid girl. Look at them! They’re in Danish. Risking your life to save a bunch of old letters that you can’t even read.”
“So? Someone, somewhere certainly can,” she said.
“They’ve been in the attic for thirty years. If no one’s looked at them in all that time, no one’s ever going to.”
She cradled the sooty stack of letters to her chest and glared up at him. “You said you would wait until I got here.”
“You said you would be here first thing in the morning.”
“It’s only nine-thirty. I left the house at eight. If you wanted me here by six, you should have said so.”
“So now it’s my fault that you sleep away half the day and work half the night? You’re the one marching to a different drummer here, not me,” Peder said, sounding strangely like her father had when she was a teenager. He took a rake and stirred the hot part of the fire to spread the flames. “If the world waited to start spinning until you woke up, nothing would ever get done.”
She resisted the urge to pull a stack of old Farmer’s Elevator calendars from the fire and watched instead as the flames licked away at Grandma’s handwritten notes. Maren had kept track of everything that happened on the farm… what day they’d planted corn in 1962, when the beans had turned back in ’53, and how many pigs had been born to each of their sows.
She looked at the fire and blinked away tears. Grandpa Frederik’s old tube radio was illuminated in a ghostly aura. The charred remains of the carpet that had been her great-grandma’s pride and joy were cocked at an odd angle, the bottom half burned and the top half ready to fall back on itself.
“You threw away Grandma’s trunks? They came over from Denmark in the bottom of the ship.”
“And smelled like it, too,” Peder said. “Damp, musty old pieces of junk.”
“I would have taken them,” she said, another tear slipping down her cheeks. “Damn it, Peder. This is our legacy. Our family’s history.”
“The trunks were built for a purpose. They served it – a hundred years ago. Let them rest in peace.”
“If that’s all any of this means to you, maybe you should tear down the house, scrap the whole place.”
Peder poked his rake deeper into the fire until what was left of Grandma’s rug fell into the flames with a poof of red-hot embers. “Don’t tempt me.”
A chill ran down her spine. “You’re not serious.”
Peder’s body radiated an obstinate stance that had probably come over on the same ship as the Jensens and Christiansens. “This place needs a lot of work.”
This place? Her head throbbed. Peder might love the rich, black dirt it sat on, but it was she who loved the house. Images of supper times, birthday celebrations and family reunions set against the house’s beautiful quarter-sawn oak pocket doors and leaded glass windows flashed through her head like a slide show. She’d dreamed about living in that house with her husband and children just like her mother had, and her mother before her, and her mother before her.
“Tara’s brother is an architect,” Peder said, his fair cheeks red from the heat of the fire. “He thinks we should build down on the rise overlooking the creek.”
Emotions she’d been holding back – ever since Ed had come home from the outpatient clinic with an ice pack between his legs – poured over her. It wasn’t just the fire. It was Mom and Dad leaving for Arizona and Peder and Tara moving into the house she’d always wanted for her own and not appreciating it. It was growing up in a family who were research papers to her poetry. It was dreams so rusty and corroded with age that she barely recognized them.
“Enough with the tears already.” Peder coughed and looked like he wanted to pat her on the back but didn’t know how.
A tear dripped off her chin as she raised her head to look Peder in the eyes. “You have no right to burn or tear down property that’s just as much mine as it is yours.”
“You can’t save the whole world,” Peder said, looking irritatingly unfazed. “Your basement is a ten foot square hole of dirt and Mom and Dad’s condo is barely big enough for them.”
She couldn’t even save herself. “I could have sold the radio on eBay,” she said, reverting to a language Peder understood. “A friend of mine found one at a garage sale and sold it for over two hundred dollars to some guy in Italy.”
“For every musty old artifact I threw in the fire, there are two more still in the attic. Stop griping and come inside. If we get to it, we can be done sorting the stuff by noon.”
Unlikely. Peder and Tara’s attic was – had been – stuffed to the rafters, not only with mementos of her Great Grandma Jensen’s, but boxes full of stuff from when they were kids.
“Do you know how much fuel oil it takes to heat this monstrosity of an old house?” Peder said in a voice that sounded old and cold instead of young and boyish.
“So get the insulation in and put the things back where you found them,” she suggested, trying a nice tack this time.
Peder frowned. “You try hauling all Mom’s junk up and down these steep stairs. Once it’s out, it’s staying out. Besides, if we’re going to live here, we’d like to be able to use the space to store our own stuff.”
It took every ounce of restraint she possessed to keep from pointing out the fact that if it weren’t for the people whose ‘stuff’ was in the attic, the house wouldn’t be his. The house wouldn’t exist. Neither would Peder for that matter.
The stench of smoke grated on her throat. “So store the boxes in my old room until Thanksgiving when Mom and Dad come.”
“Uh, Tara’s planning on taking the wallpaper down and painting in there as soon as we finish picking corn.”
Okay. So that hurt. She’d spent hours putting up that wallpaper… a tiny calico design on top with blue, pink and green stripes on the bottom and a border of hearts in-between. It was still in perfect condition. She’d even left the quilt and curtains she’d made to match for Tara to use.
“What’s she going to…?” She managed.
“Turn it into an exercise area,” Peder said.
“You always wanted my room.”
“Don’t go getting all offended now. Tara’s just not into pastels. She wants something bright and peppy. More modern. Whatever. You know me. I leave the decorating stuff to her.”
She knew him all right. The one thing she, Peder, and Karl all had in common was that they were all stubborn as mules.
“And this all has to be done today?” She asked wearily.
“Tara took a few days off to help combine beans. When we got rained out last night, it just made sense to do it now.”
Sense hadn’t played any part in the crackling fire blazing in front of her, at least by her definition. She looked up at Peder’s face and tried to rein in her anger. The only reason she took any of his guff was because he was her little brother and she remembered how cute he’d been when he was a baby. “I understand you and Tara wanting to make the farmhouse yours. All I’m saying is that I need some time to come up with a plan.”
“Time? Funny you should mention time when Tara and I have been working night and day to get the beans in, the sweet corn frozen, the tomatoes canned, the pumpkins picked, the apples dried, and the corn picker ready. It’s darn near more work than two people, one of whom works in town full time, can handle.”
Jensen clutched Maren’s letters and tore her eyes away from the inferno. If she left in a huff, Peder would no doubt burn the whole kit and caboodle.
Peder turned on his heels and strode across the yard. He was halfway to the house when she finally turned to follow him. The home Maren and Frederik Jensen had built so lovingly loomed in front of her, a forsaken dream in which she was supposed to have starred. The house’s narrow, white board siding was punctuated with sage green window boxes like it had been for almost a century. Maren had always filled them with bright red geraniums to match the Danish flag she’d kept hanging on the front porch.
If Tara hated pastels so much, why on earth had she switched to pink petunias?
Anders Westerlund rolled over, one arm still bunched around his pillow, the other groping the sleek wood shelves that hugged the wall behind his bed. He found the clock with his eyes still closed and pushed a button to silence the intrusive beep.
The noise droned on – a loud, obnoxious whining noise that alternately buzzed and chewed its way through his semi-sleep.
He squinted his eyes. Four slivers of sunshine gleamed around the edges of his bedroom windows and fluttered against the marine blue walls. The glossy white and lemon yellow trim pulsed with energy, beckoning him awake. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and glanced at the clock. He’d worked from two until ten and hadn’t gotten to bed until after midnight. It might be the middle of the morning to his energetic young neighbor, but to him, it felt like dawn. Much as he loved Danemark, he had to admit that dawn came much too early in Copenhagen.
Anders pushed back his quilt, stood and stretched. It looked to be another glorious fall day. Trying to focus his eyes, he walked to the window and peered between two wooden slats. No! Not the lilac bushes. He stepped into his shorts as quickly as he could shove his legs into the holes and grabbed a polo shirt on his way out the door. He was still trying to stuff his arms into his sleeves when he reached the yard.
“Jesper,” he yelled, assuming that anyone else on the street who might have been sleeping had already been awakened by Jesper’s chain saw. Anders leapt over the pile of branches between his yard and Jesper’s and got the lad’s attention seconds before he lopped off the limb of an apple tree.
“Godmorgen, Mr. Westerlund!” Jesper said, cutting the engine and beaming at Anders with a pleased look on his face.
Anders sighed. Those lilacs had been his only shield from the morning sun and the prying eyes of the whole neighborhood.
“Sorry, Mr. Westerlund. I forgot about your schedule.”
He wasn’t about to let Jesper deflate his sails just because the boy had grown up playing with his son. “Anders. If you’re old enough to be married, have kids, and own a house, you’re old enough to call me Anders.”
“Sure thing, Mr. Westerlund,” Jesper said.
“About those bushes you just hacked down,” Anders said, hoping the morning gruffness in his voice made him sound stern. “They might be slightly over your side of our property line, but they provide me with a great deal of shade and privacy. If you had consulted with me before you…”
“My wife’s gardening magazine said that getting rid of the dead wood would help keep them healthy. I didn’t think…”
“I’ve trimmed them back a foot or two early every spring for over twenty years. They’ve always been fine.”
“The article said they would surpass their original height in a few years,” Jesper said.
The look Anders gave him must have gotten his point across.
“Maybe a wooden shutter for your window,” Jesper blathered.
“I’ll be fine,” Anders said, feeling old and crabby. “But in the future…”
“Certainly,” Jesper said. “Please say hi to Bjorn. I hope to buy a computer soon so I can talk to him online.”
Anders turned and waved without looking back.
Jensen climbed behind the wheel of her car, started the engine, and watched as a gaggle of geese waddled towards the safety of the pasture. The old red barn where she’d played as a little girl still stood tall and proud in its fresh coat of paint, but the wood-slatted corncrib was listing to the left. It hadn’t been used since her father had put up a cluster of galvanized steel grain bins some twenty years ago.
She craned her neck to see over the stack of boxes piled on the seat behind her and looked out the rear view mirror to make sure it was safe to back up. A confetti of tiny, half-burned bits and pieces mixed with embers from Peder’s bonfire soared heavenward as she drove down the lane.
She turned out of the driveway and onto a gravel road, skirting potholes and washboards while she punched the dial button on her cell phone.
“Hello.” Her mother answered breathlessly.
“Thank goodness you’re finally home. I’ve been trying since first thing this morning.”
“Must be important if you were up early.” Her mother laughed. “We met Ruth and Jim for breakfast at that place out on the highway north of town – you know, the one that has that all you can eat breakfast buffet for four ninety-five.”
No, I don’t know, Jensen thought, feeling grumpier with every flick of the odometer. How would I know?
“Your dad and Jim played eighteen holes. Ruth and I worked on our cross stitch and talked,” her mom said in a rambling tone that was as slow as retired life. “Is something wrong?”
“Not unless you don’t care that your son is going to tear down Grandma’s house.”
“Over my dead body,” her mother said. “Charles, get in here and pick up the portable. Your son is making trouble again.”
Jensen heard her dad pick up the extension. “Peder? What’s he up to now?”
“See,” Jensen said. “You knew it was Peder before I even said a word.”
“Karl never makes any trouble,” her mother said.
“It’s always you and…” her father chimed in.
“Good grief,” Jensen said. “I know I can be a little stubborn, but I hope you’re not lumping me into the same category as that hard-headed little—”
“Calm down and tell us what’s the matter, dear.”
She switched ears and rounded a corner. “Peder and Tara asked me to help clean out the attic at the farm. They’re trying to make the place a little more livable until they can afford to tear it down and build something more energy efficient,” she said, knowing that would get a rise out of her mother.
“Well, I hope you reminded them that that house belongs to all three of you,” her mother said huffily.
“If I say any more than I have already, he’ll just dig his heels in and be all the more unreasonable,” Jensen said.
“He’d probably call the demolition crew just to spite you,” her father concurred. “You two always did rub each other wrong.”
“Exactly,” Jensen said. “Which is why you two really need to get back here and have a talk with him.”
“You know we’re too far away just to jump in the car and run home whenever we want to,” her mother said.
“Of course. Peder knows it, too. That’s why he’s gotten so cocky. He knows with you gone, he can do whatever he wants.”
“There’s only so much we can do when we’re this far away,” her father said.
“I know you like it in Arizona,” Jensen said, “but…”
“We’ve talked about this over and over again, dear. We’re where we want to be, at least for now.”
“And I still don’t understand. Minnesota is your home. If you don’t want to live in Blooming Prairie anymore you should move to Red Wing. There’s a great golf course and all kinds of fun things to do along the Mississippi. Most important, you’d still be close to home.” And to me.
“You don’t want us to end up like the Swensons, do you?”
“Of course not,” she said without hesitating. Mr. Swenson had died of a heart attack while shoveling snow on the farm he’d lived on for over eighty years. “You could be like the Larsons.”
“The Larsons came home from Florida because their daughter had twins and they didn’t want to miss out on being grandparents,” her mother said pointedly.
“There you have it,” her dad said. “Grandchildren.”
“Just one more reason you should talk to Peder,” Jensen said, trying to swallow her bitterness. “If he and Tara had a baby, maybe they’d start to appreciate our family history.”
“I’m sure they will when the time is right,” her mom said.
“Well, I hope their kids like sleeping in an exercise room, a first floor laundry facility, or a state of the art computer room, because their bedrooms are disappearing fast.”
“You’re a fine one to talk.” Her mother laughed. “Your house is so tiny you barely have room for you.”
“I told you you needed more closets, a good furnace, and storm windows when you bought the place,” her father butted in. “But you were too busy swooning over the stained glass windows and claw-footed bathtub to worry about practical things.”
“My house may have faults, but I love it,” Jensen said.
“Maybe I should have a talk with Ed,” her dad said. “His house would be plenty big enough for the two of you and a baby.”
Jensen clamped her jaw shut and made a hard left turn.
“You’d have to look long and hard to find a man that would make a better provider than Ed,” her dad continued.
She was still driving, so she couldn’t close her eyes and cry, or even curl up in a ball like she wanted to. “I’m sorry to disappoint you. Again. Ed’s made it perfectly clear that he doesn’t want any more children. He hasn’t seen the ones he has in twenty years. Besides, Ed’s convinced that he’s not going to live beyond sixty,” she said, trying to make light of words that were so not funny.
“What on earth?” Her mother said.
“He thinks it would be cruel to have children when he wouldn’t even be here to see them through high school.”
“Tell him to take out a large insurance policy. You and the children will be fine,” her mother said. “Besides, I plan to live to be a hundred, so I’ll be there to cheer for them on graduation day even if he’s not. The old fuddy dud.”
“Damn fool doesn’t know what a gem he has in you,” her dad said.
She couldn’t handle this. She just couldn’t.
“I know I’ve given you a bad time about staying at Ed’s when you two hadn’t set a date.” Her dad’s voice revved up. “I know all kinds of people get pregnant out of wedlock these days, but we certainly didn’t want that for you if we could help it.”
“I didn’t want that either,” she said. But part of her had, so badly that she hadn’t cared if it happened in or out.
“It is frustrating being so far away at moments like this,” her mother said. “I’d give you a big hug if I could.”
“That’s what I was trying to say earlier.” Jensen struggled to maintain her composure. “Peder has the home place and Tara and half of the Italians in Philadelphia. Karl has Melody and her whole family. They’ll both have kids. Grandkids after that.”
Her hands shook as she pulled the car to the shoulder. “You guys, Peder and Karl, and that old house are all I have.”
“And you always will.” Her mother’s voice was stronger now, the matriarch once more.
“Not if Peder keeps having bonfires,” Jensen said.
She could hear her mother’s sharp intake of breath. “I rescued as much as I could. But who knows about next time?” She looked at the soot-stained letters on the seat beside her. “I found some old letters from Grandma that are written in Danish.”
“He was going to throw out Maren’s letters?” Her father said angrily. “Aren’t they the ones Boyda mailed from Denmark?”
“Maren wrote them to her cousin, Sophie, in Den-mark after Grandpa Frederik brought the family to Minne-sota,” her mother said. “Sophie’s daughter sent them to me after her mother died.”
“Does anyone know what they say?” Jensen asked.
“Boyda knows a little English. All we know is that your great-grandmother was a very beautiful woman, and that there was another man in love with her,” her mother said. “Your great-grandfather Frederik moved the whole family to the United States to get her away from this man.”
“Wow,” Jensen said. “I wonder what happened.”
“I’m sure there’s more to the story, but that’s all I’ve ever been able to find out,” her mother said.
When they’d said all there was to say, Jensen turned back onto the road and slowly crested a hill, her mind whirling so fast the car could barely keep up.
She was too tired to even think about unpacking her car by the time she reached home – besides, she had no place to put the things she’d saved. Her garage was full of antiques she’d picked up at this garage sale or that back in the days when she’d assumed that she would be the one living in Maren’s big house. That she would need a big oak dresser for her son, a walnut wardrobe for her daughter, and a basinet for her baby.
Yeah, well, a car full of “junk” and a stack of sooty letters was all that was left of those dreams.
Anders turned to reassess the damage to his hedge when he reached the shadow of the patio. The line of lilacs along the east side of his property joined up with a brick wall at the rear and met a fence that attached to the west side of his home to form a nice, tidy square. The yard was very private. He only closed the blinds at all because the sun came up at four A.M. and he didn’t like being awakened so soon after he’d dozed off.
He squinted at the rainbow of colors that hugged the fence. A wave of brilliant, periwinkle blue hydrangeas bobbed in the breeze along the far edge of the yard. His climbing roses clung to the mortar between the bricks in a lacey design he’d orchestrated himself.
He did love his plants. The day before, he’d spent an hour photographing an elusive shadow shifting around the fronds of the maidenhair fern in his bay window, then watched the sunshine slice through the kitchen curtain like a carefully placed spotlight illuminating the African violets on his windowsill.
Sad commentary, having to resort to taking pictures of his foliage. Sadder still that he had no one to show the pictures to. He could imagine his co-workers reactions if he added his garden shots to the family photos they passed around at work.
He had scanned a few and sent them to Bjorn. It served the kid right if he had to look at flower photos – if Bjorn had stayed in Danemark, gotten married, and started a family instead of running off to America, Anders might have had grandchildren to take pictures of.
His day had already gotten off to a bad start. The last thing in the world he needed to be thinking about was the many evils good old America had wreaked upon his life. He went back in the house, slipped his arms from his shirt and tried to refocus his thoughts on something more pleasant.
His plants might not provide the companionship he’d craved since Bjorn had moved to Seattle, but tending to their needs made him feel necessary. They responded to his touch and appreciated his endeavors. He gave them the gift of life. They added some color and a little bit of wonder to his life. It wasn’t much, but it was something.
Jensen woke with a start. The room was wrapped in shadows, broken only by the slivers of moonlight wafting through the Venetian blinds. The lack of lace took a second to register – Ed’s house.
She could feel Ed’s chest rising and falling, the weight of his knee pinning her to the bed. Until now, she’d always thought the way he wrapped himself around her while she slept was sweet.
“Ed?” She wove her fingers through his hair.
He didn’t open his eyes, but she felt his fingers stroking her thigh and knew he was awake.
“Mmmm. Twice in one night? Baby…”
“No. Not that. I just wanted to ask you something.”
Ed exhaled slowly. “The alarm goes off at five.”
“It doesn’t have to. You don’t have to go in until eight.”
He rolled away from her. “We can talk tomorrow.”
“I can’t forget about Peder’s bonfire.”
“How could you when those stupid letters are stinking up the whole house?”
Twice in one day, she’d rescued the letters. First from the fire. Then from the trash.
“I got the soot off the counter and put them in a baggie.”
“The edges are all singed. What good are they that way?”
She ignored him. “The thought of Peder tearing down Grandma’s house really bothers me,” she said, rubbing Ed’s back to keep him awake.
Ed sighed. Well, really, it was more of a huff, but she could ignore a sigh.
“It breaks my heart that he and Tara don’t appreciate the treasure they have in Gram’s house, say nothing about all the memories wrapped up in those thick, plaster walls.”
Ed rolled over. “You can stay up until midnight and sleep until noon if you want to. I can’t.”
The part of her body that wasn’t near Ed’s shivered. She reached for the corner of Ed’s bedspread and tried to ignore the scratchy pills that dotted the surface. She’d made Ed a “Trip Around the World” quilt when they first started dating. She hadn’t intended it to be a disparaging comment on his lackluster bedroom or colorless surroundings.
She’d stitched it with the same passion she’d felt for him. She’d dreamed of evenings tucked under it, whispering, cuddling. Ed had put it in the cedar chest so it wouldn’t wear out.
She lay without moving while minutes stretched into an hour. It was almost eleven. She couldn’t bear to stay another second, yet she couldn’t seem to move. She needed to think, to let her mind sort through her feelings without the distraction of Ed’s body to muddle her thoughts.
Ed didn’t understand what it felt like to have an inborn, night-loving, second wind that kicked in whether you wanted it to or not. Ed saw nothing strange about starting his day in the middle of the night or needing four cups of coffee to wake up, but thought she was odd because she was wide awake at midnight.
When her Great-Grandmother, Maren Jensen, had still been alive, she’d claimed it was Jensen’s Danish blood – a theory that made perfect sense. After all, daylight dawned in Denmark about the same time the clock struck twelve in Minnesota.
She crept out of the bed, being careful not to jiggle the mattress, tiptoed towards the living room, and found a spot on Ed’s box-like couch. Thank goodness Ed’s floors didn’t creak like hers did.
She scanned the naked white walls of Ed’s living room. At least he wouldn’t have to spackle if he moved. She wiggled her toes against the stiff Berber that carpeted the floors. It was the same flat shade as the walls, flecked with brown to camouflage any specks of dirt that might accumulate between the frequent vacuumings Ed was careful to give his house. Her quilt would have looked lovely mounted on the west wall. Ed had been afraid it would fade.
Okay. That was it. She had to get out. She was an artist. She needed spontaneity, color, a little disarray in her life.
She left the chilly patch of sofa, found her clothes, bundled up the quilt top she’d been working on, and took the plastic bag with the letters in it from the hook by the back door where Ed had hung it earlier.
She was able to ease out the back door without so much as a squeak. Ed faithfully oiled the hinges in his house once a month. Her car was in the driveway, still piled high with boxes, her bike on the rack. She certainly hadn’t brought her Schwinn cruiser along so she could ride home in the middle of the night, but it seemed like the best choice for a quiet get-away. The moon was bright, almost full, and she had a headlight. Her battery pack was freshly charged and ready to go, thanks to Ed. Silently, she lifted the bike from the rack and tucked her quilt top and the letters in the big, wicker basket Ed had mounted on the front. Using her shirttail to wipe the dew off the seat, she swung one leg over the crossbar and pushed off with the other.
Fresh air penetrated her lungs. She felt a tug of relief as she finally faced the truth. Ed had made her feel beautiful, secure, and cared-about at a time when she’d been very lonely. She’d loved him for that, at the beginning. But sexual camaraderie just wasn’t enough anymore. She needed someone who cherished her, heart and soul, someone who understood the way her mind worked, someone who shared her hopes and passions. Someone who shared her dream of having a family of her own.
She pedaled away from the tract homes in Ed’s subdivision as fast as she could, relaxing only when she heard the familiar click of her bicycle tires on the slightly warped ribbon of boardwalk that sliced through the swampland running along the Mississippi just north of Red Wing.
A loud splash interrupted the chorus of frogs singing to her right. Jensen braked and resisted the urge to peer into the darkness. It was probably only an otter, or maybe a muskrat. If she didn’t keep her eyes on the narrow ribbon of dimly-lit boards splitting the swamp, she’d be the one taking a dip.
Sherrie Hansen is a 1975 graduate of Austin High School, and the daughter of Everett and Mary Ann Hansen of rural Austin. Sherrie was co-editor of the Austinian, sang in High School Choir, and was active in Enterprise 4-H Club and Grace Baptist Church. She attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL, and University of Maryland, European Division, while living in Augsburg, Germany. She moved back to the Midwest to be nearer to her family and opened the Blue Belle Inn Bed and Breakfast and Tea House after living in Colorado Springs, CO for 11 years. She is married to the Rev. Mark Decker, Bethany Lutheran Church, Thompson, IA, who formerly served at St. Olaf Church, Austin, MN.