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state of mine

May 26, 2012

seeing as i’ve been here and there recently, i’ve given a lot of thought to the idea of place.  after nine years on my own, i’m struggling with the idea of where i “belong.”

growing up in the midwest i never felt midwestern.  i never went cow tipping or ordered a beer at a local watering hole while i watched the packers play.  i didn’t eat more cheese than your average bear.  and i only went ice fishing once.

but, over the past nine years, i’ve become more midwestern than i ever could have imagined.  i brag about school mornings spent waiting for the bus, bundled in snow garb, in negative 20 degree temperatures.  i long for lazy summer nights when my family and i would bike on over to r.j. & ethel may’s, the local ice cream store.  we’d walk a loop around the grocery store, the post office, and local bread shop before making our way back to our driveway on morningside lane.  i grew up a self-made 20-dollar-ionaire slinging lemonade on the street corner- and the bank manager always sent over an employee to buy out our entire stash.  i went to public school and rode the bus every morning until i had a driver’s license of my own.  i had braces and headgear and white christmases.  i skinned my knees learning to ride my bike on a gravel driveway.  it wasn’t extravagant.  it wasn’t fancy or frilly.  it was very midwestern.  i never embraced it.  but now i just want to give it a big old bear hug.

last weekend i sat with some new friends at my roommate’s wedding.  one dinner partner asked where i grew up.  as she hailed from shreveport herself she must have picked up on my foreign accent.  “i grew up outside of milwaukee, wisconsin,” i explained.  she looked startled.  i could see the wheels turning as she tried to churn up some polite response.  “i don’t think i’d want to grow up in wisconsin,” she spurted.  ok, so maybe she didn’t try so hard to come up with a polite response.  the remarkable thing about this exchange is that her words didn’t sting.  i smiled.  “i understand,” i shot back.

fact is, i do understand.  she probably is glad she didn’t grow up in wisconsin.  she didn’t exactly seem like the snow suit, street corner entrepreneur, skinned knees type.  so maybe i’m not struggling with the idea of place after all.  i know mine.  i’m a midwesterner at heart.  and i know that girl across the table just wouldn’t belong.

but here’s someone else who understands…

some may call them “fly over states,” but i call them home.  jason aldean, “fly over states”

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