When you live in a town for long enough, everywhere you go conjures up a memory, and when enough of those are good memories, then you just fall in love with a place over and over again. It’s kind of like a marriage – the good kind – except you don’t have to pretend you like your mother-in-law or say what time you’re coming home or… never mind – I don’t know where I’m going with this.
I had the chance to show a bunch of visiting friends around a couple of weeks ago, and I have to tell you: Looking at this community through their eyes for a few days was really kind of cool. It made me feel nostalgic about how much Winona really has become my place, and it made me feel thankful to live in a city that I like an awful lot. And when I started feeling thankful, it made me think about Thanksgiving and how this is the perfect time to reminisce about what we’re thankful for. It also made me think about turkey and why mine fell apart last year, and it made me wonder if I could buy a pie and smoosh it into a pie plate so it looks like I made it, which led me to think that I should probably drink less coffee so I could maybe focus on something for more than a minute.
But really, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s talk about what gives us our memories and makes people thankful they live here, especially some of those little blessings that we’re tempted to overlook. I’ll start with my not-so-short and incredibly random list:
It took me a whole minute to get out of my driveway on Broadway this morning because there was so much traffic. At first I was irritated, and then I realized how extremely stupid I am to not remember that when I lived in the Twin Cities that would have felt like I won the lottery. In the span of 8 minutes from one end of Winona to the other I can find 95% of everything I need, from entertainment to food to the doctor – and that’s some high-quality compactness.
It took me an extra 30 minutes to get out of the grocery store the last time I was there because I ran into so many people I knew. It was unfortunate that I’d skipped things like makeup and socks that matched because I thought I could just run in quick, and so most conversations started with me having to respond, “No, I’m not sick, just lazy,” but it felt good to realize that I am a thread woven into the colorful tapestry of Winona – I’m part of this place.
I’m thankful that I never, ever have to leave Winona to feel like I’ve soaked up some great culture. My friends who came to visit could not BELIEVE that we have a place like the Minnesota Marine Art Museum here. It gives us some serious street cred from people who live in places they imagine are much more cosmopolitan than Winona. During my friends’ visit we heard some fantastic music at Ed’s No Name Bar, contemplated world-class art at the museum, and ate an entirely delicious meal out at The Grill at Signatures (chicken alfredo pizza – to die for), and I was so, so proud of this town by the time my friends were saying their goodbyes. Want to feel some swagger about where you live? Invite some friends to take a weekend road-trip here and give them the tour. You’ll be the coolest kid on the block.
I am so grateful to have so many home-grown businesses here. I generally loathe chain stores and restaurants, so I really like getting a cup of coffee in the cool vibe of Blooming Grounds, some fresh vegetables from Bluff Country Co-op, and a burger at Jefferson’s Pub. From Pootzas at Poot’s Sports Palace to the charming gifts at Pieces of the Past, I am not kidding when I say that I feel really lucky to live in a place where originality rules. And all you Starbucks/Target/Pizza Hut lovers, do not send me hate mail. Businesses like that will always have a place in a community this size – I get that. But it’s really nice to know that there is a thick slice of Winona that you just won’t find anywhere else, and it’s part of the reason people will get in the car and come here from a long way away.
I have rambled on for long enough about why I love Winona. It is your turn. What makes you thankful about this place? What fueled your best memories? Why do you love Winona?