A death occurred in the family on my husband’s side a few weeks past. Suddenly, the house was filled with children walking around in confused excitement, while adults were cleaning frantically and packing bags. Plans were cancelled, and a few hours later, 3 a.m. to be exact, we were in the car sleepy-eyed and nervous.
A handful of drunk drivers zipped by as we drove from the countryside down into Chicago and out again. A couple of relatively narrow misses had me thankful that my husband is very alert early in the morning.
And, thinking about our friend who was killed by a drunk driver at the age of 19. And, wishing that the drunk drivers we saw would be pulled over by the police and arrested to protect others like him. Nobody should have to bury a friend as young as he was, as young as we were.
The children looked out the window in confused excitement, clutching their teddy bears and listening to Harry Potter on CD.
We drove through Illinois and Indiana, past a “Wind Farm”, multiple casino, tobacco hut, stripper club, “Jesus Saves”, and alcohol billboards, and into Ohio. The longest stretch of the trip. The part of the drive when we went from flat, flat, flat and wide open spaces to hills and the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
When we hit the Appalachian Mountains, my husband and I locked eyes for a moment several times, my heart was fluttering, and I wished we could stop our car there and never have to leave. But, we had to keep driving.
Through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and on to our old state. Up and down hills. The heat and humidity hit us. Not like the “heat and humidity” that people in Illinois complain about. This is East Coast heat. At 92 degrees it feels like you almost can’t breathe. The kind that feels as though you haven’t showered in a week, and you are wearing a hot, wet blanket. This was June weather.
Tiger mosquitoes attacked us, unseen and painfully itchy. Litter decorated streets. No cars sputtered out black exhaust. People smiled and waved to us.
We smelled steamed Blue Crabs, Pit beef, Cheese steak subs and the semi salty waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
Women walked by dressed like me. Jeans or shorts and a t-shirt, sandals, and a ponytail because it’s hot! Sure, some wore designer purses, but a brand many can recognize and not ones as expensive as a car payment.
The golf courses are in the rich neighborhoods, not in ours — not close enough to be mocking us that if we were wealthy, we, too, could play this game. This is why I don’t know anyone who plays golf.
The woods are filled with long trails over and around rocks and hills. There are woods and trees everywhere. Shady areas that beckon.
This is where we pulled up, locked eyes with those we left behind and hugged fiercely. Where children scream and run together around a playground, and we, moms, keep an eye together on them while allowing independence.
Where my friends wear jeans and sneakers or flip-flops and not “Gucci gear” to the playground because it’s the playground, for god’s sake. Where I have friends who I can set up a play date with anytime we want to with just a few words. And, where we can talk about our lives without me worrying about “making a good impression” or watching what I say.
Where the foot I keep in my mouth is something accepted about me because my friends are not “conservative” like that. Because I am who I am, and they still love me.
This is where a “girls night out” does not mean a little black dress and martinis. It means a “cute top”, nice jeans, and a few cold beers or Red Bull and vodka.
Our trip was a blur of raspberry picking (I have not found one single raspberry bush or farm selling locally grown raspberries out on the prairie); “half and half” (lemonade and ice tea, not “Arnold Palmer”, thank you very much); jumping on trampolines; picking up real tomatoes from a farm stand that smell like tomatoes and are red completely through; collecting hugs from the local farmer I used to visit at least once a week; visiting with in-laws; holding a brand new nephew; eating fresh local ice cream on a cone; watching ducks; enjoying fresh, soft aromatic peaches that drip juice everywhere when you take a bite and require being eaten outside; sitting on private piers looking over the Bay; and eating Bill Bateman’s Damien Wings.
Not to mention, it was crammed full of Chick-Fil-A’s; traffic; noise; heat lightening over the water; excited dogs running around; my daughters playing with their beautiful god sister; “home fries” made by my best friend for my husband; injuries on a playground; fights with a busy body woman who talks nonsense; french fries with apple vinegar and Old Bay Seasoning and nobody thinks I’m odd for it; people not getting offended with my opinion because they are just as opinionated and equally uncensored (and after all, we are mature adults, right?); salty breezes from water; mountains and hills and roads that wind and bend with wonderful Revolutionary War era surprises around corner after corner; women who don’t dress up for the library storytime or the playground; a smaller difference in “class segregation”; cheese steak subs, and on and on….
Until it has to end. Because we have to go “home.” Back to Illinois. Where we moved to because there is more work, and where we can focus on our own lives.
Every area in the world has its flaws and perfections. The “gypsy blood” in me can see both sides in every area we go to or live in. I just hope that we can one day feel as at home in Illinois as we did in Maryland, and as I do in Poland.
Does visiting family bring back a missed sense of home for you? What type of geographical environment or place do you feel most “at home” in?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Kasia Price, a Polish-native in Illinois, USA. You can find Kasia writing at Polish Mama on the Prairie.
Photo credit to Cog Dog. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.