I just love meeting up with old classmates and people from my home-state of Nebraska. It really is true that it matters where you grew up.
People in Nebraska are the most real, honest, caring, and truly GOOD people in the world. I remember when I first moved to California and noticed that garages were in the front of the houses. Back home, most garages are in the back, or set back on the side of the house. I watch people in California drive into their driveways, open their electric garage door, drive in and close it. You never see these people because their car windows are tinted, there are no big ‘picture windows’ in the front of the house, and they never come out of the front door!
Back home, in the middle of the cornfields of Nebraska, in a town I fondly call ‘Mayberry’ (the real name is Geneva), you see people outside on their porches, kids playing with the neighbors, and everyone seems so happy! Early in the morning, you find the farmers and local businessmen having coffee at the local cafe. It feels like ‘Cheers’, because everyone truly does know your name…
In most of the tiny towns in the Midwest, you’ll find one post office, a grocery store, a butcher shop, a drug store, a cafe, and a bar (sometimes the cafe just turns into a bar at night!) People walk down the street and talk to each other, and as you’re driving through the town, everyone you pass by waves the ‘one finger raise’ from the steering wheel! I’ve tried it in California, but unless you’re lucky enough to pass by a former ‘mid-westerner’, the other drivers really look at you funny!
I recently met up with some old classmates and had a serendipitous discovery of a former college professor from the early 1980s. When you have been away from your hometown for so many years, the feeling you get from going ‘back in time’ is truly priceless. It’s interesting to talk with someone who has never lived anywhere else, and who sees the world through different eyes (read my blogpost; Rockstar, part 2) . Most of the families there are farmers, or work on a farm. Most of the people in small towns like this don’t stray far from their home, so a trip that takes longer than an hour is a huge ordeal, and many have, sadly, never seen an ocean. The closest airport is often a 2+ hour trip in itself, so there are equally as many people who have never been on an airplane.
I don’t know about other states, but Nebraska has things that no other state has. I love meeting fellow ‘Huskers’ because the conversation always leads to Nebraska football, of course, but also to missing the taste of’Dorothy Lynch Salad Dressing’, Runzas, and Valentino’s Pizza! When the conversations go late in the evening, it’s then time for ‘Supper’! I just have to smile because it brings back so many memories of my grandmother ringing the big, giant bell out on the farm to call us all to the ‘Supper Table’.
If you have never spent time in a small town in the Midwest, I encourage you to make that your next vacation. Talk to people, spend time with them, stay in a local motel (you’ll probably meet people who will invite you to stay in their home!) and pay attention to how it feels to be welcomed into the small-town culture. I guarantee you’ll feel no stress, you’ll make some life-long friends who will send you actual ‘letters’ in the mail, and you’ll definitely eat some really incredible food. Just know that you’ll be eating a lot of red meat, but the mouth-watering steaks you’ll have for supper will be the best you’ll ever have!