Today I went to a meeting to discuss our university's study abroad programs. We were getting excited about the opportunities that are being offered and throwing around all kinds of jargon like "cross-cultural experience" and "global impact" etc. One of the Professors mentioned how he recently met a visiting family from the midwest who kept commenting on our warm weather and how shocked they were to meet such nice people in California.
"Oh, I'm not surprised," I said. "I first came here from the middle of Kansas and had the same reaction upon my first visit."
"Where in Kansas?" he asked.
Now, I don't know how many zillion times I've been asked this in my life. It always plays out the same way...
I say, "Um, south of Salina?" and they shake their head and mention how they once knew someone who knew someone from Kansas City or Wichita maybe. Then they ask "What town?" and I say "Yeah, no town...like, really no town. Maybe Lyons?" and they still shake their head and shrug. Oh well.
He says, "Sure, Salina...where exactly?"
"Yeah...you've probably never heard of Lorraine though, have you?"
"Um...yes. You are kidding? I grew up 5 miles from Lorraine! It was my bus stop!"
Now, this might not mean a lot to you people from Suburbia, America or Metropolis, USA...but, this has never happened to me, ever. Just to give you perspective - here is an aerial google image of the farm I grew up on.
As you can see...there ain't nothin around it.
Several people claim to "be from Kansas" when they really mean "I spent part of 7th grade in Kansas City" (which is ironically mostly in Missouri). But, this guy not only knew the area - he knew the people! Turns out his dad was the pastor of a local church back in the sixties and seventies and he spent a better part of his childhood hanging out with many of the future parents of my friends.
**Cue Twilight Zone Music Now**
He started rattling off names of local farmers and listing the locations of homesteads even I hadn't heard of in years. We bewildered my co-workers as we referred to the area in "sections of land", "east and west" and according to "county lines".
He mentioned that his elementary class consisted of 2 people and I ensured him that the population boom of the eighties and nineties bolstered my graduating high school class to a whopping total of 16.
And yet, here we are. Both working at the same university thousands of miles from a spot on a map seemingly untouched by time in our memories. What's more...we're talking about student's opportunities to get out and see the world and explore other cultures.
**Cue It's a Small World Music Now**
I've always been a proud Kansan, a proud farmer's daughter, a proud mid-western all-American kid...but, I've always told the stories of Kansas to people who just nod and picture a smaller version of their own childhood town. I don't get to go back home as often as I would like to. I'm looking forward to bringing Matilda to the farm someday soon and introducing her to terms such as "combine" and "oil well quarter". I didn't always appreciate the details of my childhood while I was living them (Lord knows there was a time I would've sold my left arm to have a neighbor) but I'm so glad to have had that experience.
I certainly love living in California and taking advantage of all it has to offer. But, sometimes it is fun to reminisce and remember...there's no place like home.