We left after work on a Thursday, and traveled across to Madison, down through Dubuque/Cedar Rapids, and then across I-80. As we started getting closer to Des Moines, I became giddy with excitement. Every other word out of my mouth was, "Ooh, Casey's gas stations!" followed by "Ooh, Hy-Vee - the best grocery store ever!" and "Ooh, Adventureland!" Never mind that it was approaching midnight and Chris was trying to sleep in the car. With each new thing, I could barely contain myself. And then the following conversation happened.
"I love Iowa. It's my favorite place." I said.
"I thought Milwaukee was your favorite place," Chris said, looking a little hurt/concerned.
"I mean, I love Milwaukee, but Iowa is my place. It's where I grew up. It's where all of those important years happened."
"I am not moving to Iowa." A firm response from Chris.
"Iowa can be my favorite place without me living here. I'm not asking you to move here." Silently I was thinking but did not say, "But I do hope that you love it as much as I do because I'm at least going to need to come back for some visits."
Iowa. It is my place. We moved to Urbandale, Iowa when I was 8 years old and stayed through the end of my sophomore year of high school before my dad's job took us back to Milwaukee again. I returned for a summer in college to work at Living History Farms day camp, went back the following summer for a week as a counselor at Catholic Youth Camp and then again for two years of graduate school at Iowa State. Sure, Milwaukee is where my family is, but I consider myself equally from Wisconsin/Iowa, and I don't know if that will change as I accumulate more years here in Milwaukee.
It's hard to put into words just why I love Iowa so much. But I suppose I will give it a shot....
It is my home where I remember playing hide and seek, building Barbie villages in the basement, and swinging on our swing set in the backyard. It's the home where we planted a tree that I grew from a seed in a margarine container. It is where I learned to drive, had my first kiss, had braces put on and taken off, and babysat almost ever kid in the neighborhood.
It is the people. Seriously the nicest you will ever meet. I am not saying folks in other places aren't nice too, or that it's a competition. But I don't know if people are born nicer than the ones that live in Iowa.
It is Hy-vee grocery store. Hands down the best there is. Chris seems to think I'm crazy for liking a grocery store so much, but I think others who have experienced it too and now live somewhere else would probably agree.
It's the corn fields. Not right where I live, but never far away.
Earlier last week, a friend shared this TED Talk from Pico Iyer about "Where is Home?" It made me think. It made me feel things. It was very moving for me, because I consider many different places home. When you ask me where my hometown is, how do I answer? Is it the place where I was born? I only lived in Wauwatosa, WI until I was 8, so the years I remember there are fairly limited. Is it where my mom lives now? Waukesha is great, but I really only lived there for two years of high school, one summer during college, and the seven months before Chris and I found our current place. It feels strange to leave out Madison, WI, the best college town ever. And of course, Iowa.
Iowa is deeply imbedded in me. It's a part that will never go away. And I like that.