I can hardly believe it. I’ve gotten settled in my new apartment and am anticipating taking a weekend vacation. To some people that may not sound like a lot of time off, but for me it represents a major break in my routine.
Since I’m going to visit family in Minnesota, and it takes several hundred miles of travel to get there and back, I will actually be at large for four whole days. The biggest trauma, of course, will be leaving Harry Houdini behind. I have no doubt in my mind that he will take every opportunity to create as much havoc as he can while I’m away.
Although I have been visiting relatives in Minnesota during the summer since I was a teenager, it feels strange when I hear myself telling people that these days nearly everyone in my family lives there. When asked why I don't join them in Minnesota, I explain that I’m one of those die-hard Missourians who would rather fight than switch. But I actually have an excellent reason.
Everyone who has read my columns knows that I hate winter with a passion. As far as I’m concerned, winter is six months long in Minnesota. Amazingly, no one in my family has had any problem adjusting to that reality, but so far, I’m unwilling to give the question any consideration.
My roots are buried deep in Missouri soil and have been for many generations. I doubt that I have what it takes to make myself at home in another state. I have to know the history of the places where I live. It would probably take me the rest of my life just to explore the history of Minnesota's native tribes. And then, I’d have to know about all the geography.
Furthermore, I’m attached to Missouri's people, places and things. I like Kansas City barbecue, and I like telling people from St. Louis that they don’t know how to do barbecue.
I like the way some of us call soft drinks "sodas" and the rest of us call them "pop."
I like that I remember the Ozarks before the region became a resort.
I like searching for mushrooms and "wild greens" on foot during spring.
I also like Missouri stories about people such as Jesse James and happenings such as the Pony Express.
It is true that in recent years I have come to resent the influx of corporate farmers and methamphetamine dealers. They are giving Missouri a bad name. But it’s up to the rest of us to sing the praises of the state. We need to make sure that people remember men such as Harry Truman, Langston Hughes, Walt Disney and other great talents that have helped make the country a great place to live, work and play.
Missouri has a long and glorious history, and we need to celebrate it all year through. One of the reasons I like traveling to other states is the fact that it gives me the opportunity along the way to visit areas and regions of Missouri that I seldom get to see.
So, while I’m open and willing to appreciate the wonders of the other 49 states, I’m probably not going to join their permanent populations. I’m glad, for example, that Minnesota has provided my family with wonderful amenities. I’m pleased, however, that they still like the taste of Missouri water and that when they are here, they never fail to load up on Missouri-made products such as Guy’s potato chips to take back home.
In this world of trials and tribulations, where people seem to get greedier every day and the numbers of the unemployed and homeless continue to climb, it’s good to have something to feel good about. I’m grateful to have family and friends and to be surrounded by the rolling plains and gently running waters of my habitat of choice. Home is truly where the heart is, and mine is in Missouri.
And actually, I can’t think of a better place to be.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.