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Before moving to Rhode Island, I lived half my life in Minnesota and half in North Dakota– exactly, but I know nothing about either state beyond the day-to-day and the Minnesota fun facts that were on my single-serving milk carton in the Hallock Elementary cafeteria.  The problem is, that I first moved from MN to ND three days before the first day of 7th grade (also on my birthday).  My MN school taught state history in 7th grade, my ND school in 6th grade.  I completely missed out.

Naturally, I didn’t care because I was in 7th grade and had more important things on my mind.  Interestingly enough, two of my best friends won the North Dakota Know Your State contest, and I’m not 100% sure what the state bird is (flickertail?).  None of this ever really mattered because I lived in ND or MN and no one was asking me about the states because they were from one or both of them as well.

Now I live 1,800 miles away and people are fascinated, albeit in kind of a freakshow kind of way, with where I’m from, and I have nothing to really say about it except that it is flat and cold, I have heard of the movie, and no we don’t all talk like that.  Once I tried (foolishly) to bring up Lewis and Clark, about whom I know shockingly little, and the person was like “Really? Lewis and Clark are significant in ND, why?”

I then had to admit that I wasn’t quite sure, but I was basing the statement on the fact that Lewis and Clark were names of schools and were on license plates so there must be some reason.  I now know that they built Fort Mandan, and picked up Sacagawea there– thanks wikipedia.

I had a hunch that if I moved away I would start to care more about where I came from, and now I do for reasons other than hating having nothing to say when people ask about North Dakota.  So now I’m going to turn into that asshole student from “somewhere else” who only does assignments related to where he or she came from.  I may want to kick my own ass, but if I have to do the research anyway…

A long time ago I went to stay with a friend in Middle River, Minnesota (mil rir, to natives). I ended up coming the weekend of the Middle River GooseFest, which I was completely unaware of, but the mere mention of sent my friend Amber into a flurry if excitement. The GooseFest was the event of the summer.

I was about 11 years old or so; living in Hallock, MN at the time. The first night there, I arrived kind of late, so we watched a movie with her older sister and ate Combos in a variety of flavors. Amber lived way out in the country in a giant old house, down a dark and winding road. They were one of those families who always had a stash all of the worst kinds of junk food, and a fridge crammed with soda. I was completely amazed that I was allowed to leave my family for a weekend and go to a place so decadent, cool, and remote, with an older sister who could teach me what big kids care about. Amber and her sister shared a huge room covered in New Kids on the Block posters, and we stayed up late looking at magazines, and giving the two of them time to educate me as to who New Kids on the Block were.

The following day, Amber’s mom dropped us off on Main Street, which at the time seemed to me like an infinite stretch of wonders and new places to explore, but in actuality was a two to three block stretch of pavement with a couple stores. The street was barricaded on both ends and teeming with people, food vendors, booths selling tacky crap—everything I loved the most. We went onto one store, the general store which was a cavernous, dark treasure trove with uneven cement floors, and penny candy, and rows and rows of trinkets I convinced myself could not be gotten anywhere else. While I was inwardly exclaiming about all of this new, exciting stuff, Amber grabbed something and held it up.

“Safety pins!”

“Yes they are.”

“Oh my god this is so great, these are perfect, they’re the little ones. My sister is going to be so excited.”

I felt like I was missing something really vital, and actually started feeling a little sorry for her. I had seen tiny safety pins many times before and exclaimed over their smallness, but never gotten this excited. “What do you need the safety pins for?’

“For my jeans, of course.”

Then I felt really bad, clearly Amber’s family was poor because they spent all of their money on Combos and Coca-Cola, so she had to somehow alter her jeans with safety pins. I’d read about this phenomenon in books loads of times, and was fully prepared to be supportive, and let her know that her poverty would not stand in the way of our friendship. “Oh, because they’re hand-me-downs?”

She looked at me like I was an imbecile, “No, for tight-rolling– so they don’t slip.”

The tight-rolling phenomenon had come to Middle River, and I had no clue what that meant. Amber explained to me, and showed me what tight-rolling meant by grabbing the cuff of my jeans and doing some kind of voodoo that made it roll tightly and stay that way. The following year, in school, I had one friend who must have spent her summer vacation in the same eye-opening manner as me, but no one else seemed aware of this at all. I didn’t understand it. Amber and her sister’s teachings about the NKOTB stuck, but not the tight-rolling. So I abstained.

The following year, I moved to Cavalier, ND, and noticed that no one was tight-rolling their jeans. I actually asked someone once if they had head of the practice and whoever it was said, “Yeah, we did that years ago. No one does that anymore.” I went back to Hallock to stay with a friend one weekend and found that the tight-rolling was all the rage, apparently, Hallock was just a little behind the times.

So I completely missed the tight-rolling revolution. I still don’t get it, and I feel a little cheated out of those memories, and the chance to look back at pictures of myself and say “man, how lame was I?” So fashion trends are fascinating, especially in the way they jump around small Midwestern towns. I thought it was just a Middle River thing, but it was really a THING. I had the shirt clips, the banana clips, the slouchy socks, the purple boom box, the slap bracelets—but the tight-rolling passed me by.