Missing Midwesterners

I watched dozens of shows about tiny houses before I finally decided to close my law practice, sell my 100-year-old Brookside bungalow, build a tiny house on wheels, and move to California.

I anticipated being cheerfully shed of snowy winters, icy streets, manic worry about clients who did not pay their bills, and the fear of running into my ex-husband on the Plaza with his newest wife in tow before I had come to grips with divorce.  I knew that I could live without the specter of what even now I perceive as a failed experiment in adult accomplishment.  I cheerfully embraced the concept of a leased lot within grounds that someone else maintained and a ready-made community of folks who agreed about the concept of alternative dwellings as a viable solution to a sagging economy and challenging housing market.  

I understood that the high cost of living would keep me in a rural setting, which I foreswore when I moved back to Kansas City from Arkansas in 1992.  But within sixty miles of the City seemed reasonable.  I accepted that I could no longer meet friends — and strangers — at a different coffee shop each Saturday.  Museums, art galleries, and music venues make scarce appearances in the outskirts of urban life.  I begrudgingly accepted that reality.  

I thought I had considered all the angles when I crammed the last shards of my Missouri life into the back of my 2012 RAV4 and followed my mobile dwelling to the California Delta.  Five years later, I do occasionally pine for the social and cultural opportunities in my home town.  I compensate by inventing substitutes here, with moderate success.  It works, after a fashion; and truth told, the liberal political climate and temperate weather go a long way towards assuaging my craving for the nightlife that I left.  

But I could not and did not anticipate my unquenchable longing for Midwesterners.

My friend Anastacia Drake recently stopped the night at my tiny house.  Prior to last weekend, she and I knew each other only as part of the art world.  She showed in the public art space that my then-husband and I started in our office suite.  We ran into each other at First Fridays in the Crossroads, Kansas City’s premier art district.  But we did not socialize.  I’m older than her mother.  We matriculated in different social sets which occasionally intersected like a happy Ven diagram.  All the people you know and all the people I know; the five people we both know.  The five places we both go.  Oh yes, hello!

When I saw her Facebook posts about traveling out west with her fifteen-year-old son Parker, I messaged.  Will you be in the Delta, I asked.  Happened she planned to drive from Lassen National Park to Yosemite, and her route could jog down HIghway 5 and over to my little neck of the woods.

I took them for pizza and ice cream, two quintessential Midwestern activities.  We sat on my porch chatting as the evening waned.  They slept in the little tent atop their car.  In the morning, I fixed breakfast which we enjoyed around the cherry drop-down table made by my friend Sheldon whom, we later discovered, all of us know.  At 8:30  on Monday morning, they stowed their gear, hugged me, and started south for the next leg of their adventure.

Until their visit, I did not realize that I desperately missed Midwesterners — the cadence of our accent; the deceptive, sometimes hidden warmth of our personalities; the unbridled optimism; the lack of pretension often mistaken for rudeness.  I stood watching them drive away until their Kansas license plates blurred in the dust, and then turned back to collect my things for work.  I wouldn’t move back to Missouri, especially with the ruin its Republican administration has made of the legal landscape.  I couldn’t handle winters alone in the ice storms.  But Oh, Auntie Em.  There’s no place like home.  There’ s no place like home.

It’s the twelfth day of the one-hundred and sixteenth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.



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