I just returned from a five day trip to northeastern Iowa. I have relatives and friends there and I was raised there until I was ten years old. That was 1961. My dad got transferred to Houston, Texas. I had to go with them. I wasn't keen on it. I didn't want to leave my Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and friends. My Grandmother, especially, made killer cookies and "black cows" (a root beer float). Who wants to leave that? But leave I did and ended up in Houston,Texas for three years before the fates sent us to California. (Thank you, Jesus!)
So, I have made trips back to my hometown in Iowa periodically. The last tip I made was in 2009, also the first week in September. I was at my Mom's bedside for four days and then she passed away and I had to single-handedly clean out her apartment and plan a funeral in four days. It was not easy. But it had to be done. Iowans, if nothing else, definitely do what has to be done, no matter what.
So this was the first time I returned to Iowa without coming to see my parents. I have one Aunt left. She is 90 years old and lives in an assisted-care nursing home. I felt that I should go see her, even though airline flights are cheaper from L.A. to New York that they are from Ontario to Iowa. Anyway, you can't really measure your family in costs. You do what you need to do.
The trip was a bit strange. I didn't stay with family or friends. I stayed in a motel. It seemed oddly disconnected to my past. But I was able to spend times with my Aunt each day and a few close friends. Ironically, both Romney and Obama were in Iowa the same time I was but I missed them (on purpose!).
I do enjoy aspects of returning to the Midwest, even when the circumstances are less than ideal. It gives one a feeling of peace to be surrounded by farmland, even if the drought has been unforgiving this year. It's wonderful to experience the inherent "niceness" of Iowans who go out of their way to be helpful and pleasant. It's great to see tractors holding up traffic and see cattle, horses and pigs in the fields along the road. In other words, it's a bit different than what most of us who live in an urban area are used to.
I'm not sure when I'll return to Iowa. There are factors in my everyday life that will determine that. But the state and the memories of my idyllic childhood will always reside within my heart and I'll know how lucky I am to have been raised in a place where people are direct, decent and caring and where common sense is more prevalent than confrontation, stress or indifference. Every now and then a trip to that place does wonders to energize my soul.