Sioux Falls, SD

My mom and I took a trip a few weeks ago to visit one of my oldest and best friends in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  She’s now lived in her college town for six years, and we finally made the trek. Everett came with–it was his first time crossing the state line.

The charismatic town made me nostalgic for my Winona State days. When we arrived after five hours of driving, there were college students everywhere, so obviously elated with their freedom. Artsy coffee shops and boutiques made up the downtown. Walking under the street lights, I had a strange sense of consciousness that at just 25, I’m a mom now. When the night air grew cool, and the streets busy with people just making their way out onto the town, we were heading back to our hotel. Oh how different life is with an infant.

I used to thrive on going out at night. Making new friends. Laughing so hard my stomach hurt the next day.  I still consider myself fairly social, but my priorities have unquestionably changed. When we were back to our hotel room I took Everett out of his carseat and swooped him up. Kissing his cheeks and holding him tightly, there was something I recognized that happens to my heart every time he is in my arms: I make a new friend in him every day, as his personality develops more.  I laugh so hard my stomach hurts with each coo, each wide-eyed look he gives me.  I wasn’t sad about being back at our hotel room so early, because I was in incomparable company with my mom, my baby and my best friend since first grade.

That’s right, first grade…

We met at recess, on blue monkey bars by the pine trees at Cannon Falls Elementary School. Our mutual friend Katherine walked Kyle, the new girl, over to me on the second day of the school year, and said, “I think you guys would be good friends.”

As Katherine walked away, Kyle Linn Blakeslee climbed up next to me where I was (literally) hanging out, doing acrobatic tricks of a sort. She was wearing black windbreaker pants. After we exchanged awkward six-year-old hellos, she said, “Feel my pants. They’re swooshy and cool.” I did as she told me to, and agreed that they were probably the coolest “swooshy” pants I’d ever felt. The rest was pretty much history.

My blond, freckled friend had already moved a lot in her young life, because of her dad’s job. I talked about Kyle to my mom all the time. We soon became family friends, but at home, my mom would warn me that it was possible Kyle’s family might move away again someday. Thankfully, that never happened.

Since the day we met, Kyle came to every themed birthday party I had. We went to the same church as kids, and spent a lot of time together in elementary school. We grew up into awkward middle schoolers, then teenagers with boyfriends and sort of had our own friend groups, but still managed to be pals. Kyle was this amazing runner, always breaking records and stuff. I did a lot of ballet and dance team. We were always happy for each other, though sometimes more distantly because of our busy schedules. For six years during and after high school, I looked forward to our super close summers when we worked at the local pool together every day. #LifeguardsForLyfe

Kyle was there for me through all of the important stuff growing up. She’s thoughtful like her mother. She knew my struggles and my strengths, more deeply than most people did. She’s never really done anything but be completely honest and supportive, and I can’t thank her enough for that.

To many people, we are polar opposites. Just ask any of our family members. But I think that’s why we work as best friends. I love her brutal honesty. I love how she keeps to herself in a lot of ways–I still learn new things about her after all this time. I love how in her, I have one of my biggest confidants. She barely knew Cory when I told her I was getting married, and of course my engagement totally freaked her out at first…but the more she got to know him, the more she loved his heart of gold. They are kind of besties now.

And what’s most important to me, she loves Everett so very much. There isn’t a day we don’t talk about him. She’s loved him since before he was born. In my last weeks of pregnancy, she watched my emotions roller coaster from laughing hysterically one minute to bawling and sometimes a little of both. When I was in labor, I was texting her updates right up until the drugs had me feeling goofy.

When we were little, Kyle wanted to be a firefighter, even though my mom said she should be an artist. She has a very artistic side–it shows when she does crafts, in her clothing style, and in her spunky personality. She’s left-handed, which in my mind makes her wonderfully unique right off the bat.

One of my favorite things about Kyle is her longing to help people. She is an American Sign Language interpreter. It’s probably one of the coolest careers out there. Daily, she gives those without the ability to hear the opportunity to understand.

It says a lot about the kind of friend she is. She always helps me to understand things in a different way. That’s what friends should do. We know one another so well and obviously have each others’ best interests at heart. Even when we don’t necessarily agree, we have this unspoken way of supporting and respecting each other’s differences and decisions.

Living five hours away from each other obviously has its downfalls. But we’ve done it for so long, I think we’re just kind of used to texts, phone calls, and visits.  When my mom, Everett and I finally made our way to Sioux Falls, Kyle had an amazing itinerary for us…

Our first night, we ate at the restaurant where Kyle works as a hostess, Minerva’s. They have an amazing salad bar and beautiful entrees.  After one Stella Cidré each, we both got the giggles. We walked around town that night, as I mentioned. We stopped in the best local shops and I fell in love with the stores she always tells me about.

The next morning, we ate at her favorite breakfast spot, Josiah’s, visited the falls, the Farmer’s Market, numerous parks, and finished the day by eating at The Diner. It was a short 24-hour getaway, but it was full. I can’t believe how much we were able to do with a baby. My mom was a huge help, and it was so fun for her to get to see that part of Kyle’s life, too.

It’s always been great to hear about adventures in Sioux Falls from Kyle, but experiencing it firsthand was so much better. A place can truly shape a person, as it has Kyle. Sioux Falls is mesmerizing, charmed, and unique–just like she is.


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Kelly Jo Johnson | Forever Golden Living

wife & mama. blog author. photographer. style obsessed. for booking & collaborations 📧:

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