You Are Moving Where?
By Robin Edgar
When my fiancé announced that he was interviewing for a job in a small town in the Midwest, I calmly dropped to my knees and begged, "Please don't send me back there!" (Picture the character in a grade B prison movie pleading with the warden not to be sent back to solitary confinement).
You might see that as overreacting, but as far as I was concerned, I had already done my time in rural America. A big-city person from birth, I was transplanted to farm country in my early twenties and tried to assimilate into a town of 2,000 where they ran out of vanilla ice cream before 8:00pm and "going to a show" meant taking in a movie at the local drive-in. I'll admit it was enchanting at first not to have to lock my doors or clutch my purse in a death grip when walking down the street, but after several years of my neighbors knowing what I had for breakfast and engaging in one too many conversations about the cost of soybeans, I began to show signs of cultural deprivation. Deciding to move back to big-city lights and more culturally diverse restaurant fares than chicken-fried steaks, I headed south.
After another 15 years of living in perpetual sunshine, I confess that I became something of a tropical princess. (My version of a winter wardrobe was to wear socks with my sneakers). Perhaps that explains why my reaction was a bit "anti-climatic," when the love of my life actually landed the job in the Midwest.
"Who in their right mind would voluntarily leave the warm, orchid-growing temperature of the South for the gray skies and snow-laden streets of the Midwest?" I asked, keeping my tone slightly under a shriek in an effort to make it sound somewhat congratulatory.
In all honesty though, what could I say to him? It was an opportunity of a lifetime-the job he always wanted. So, out of my devotion (or perhaps desperation to figure a way out of this mess) I accompanied my beloved on a reconnaissance trip to find a place for him to live until I could join him. I had to admit that it was wonderful to smell the fresh country air instead of the stench of bus fumes and dumpsters. I even got to see an old friend who came from the other side of the state to visit me while I was there. Unfortunately, history repeats itself, and when I took her out to lunch at the only restaurant in town that served spinach salad, they had already run out of the main ingredient by half past noon. (This is the part in the movie when the foreshadow music plays in the background).
On another shopping adventure, I found a local store near the motel that had all the appearances of a hardware store from outside. In search of masking tape, I skirted the riding mowers and power tools and proceeded toward the other end of the store to make my purchase. Along the way, I sifted through items on the clearance tables-everything from household appliances to baby clothes to garter belts, all sporting labels from the 1960s. When I spotted a rounder of evening dresses by the cash register, I knew I was in for major merchandise withdrawal.
The eternal optimist, however, I determined to find the positives to this situation and proceeded to mentally squeeze at least half a glass of lemonade out of the lemons. I told myself it would be refreshing to trade the phony glitz of city life for the natural grits of a small country town. I might even find it relaxing to spend time in the Rust Belt after living on the edge of the Cocaine Capital. Though I dreaded getting cabin fever during the snowbound months, there was something to be said for the tranquility of not having to use deadbolt locks and alarm systems. And the change of scenery would be refreshing. There would be silos rising in the distance instead of condos blocking the view. Traffic would be different, too. There would be Guernsey cows to honk at rather than SUVs and, instead of being stuck behind a Lexus with an eternally flashing left-hand turn signal, I might enjoy slowing down behind the tractors that rambled along the road.
By the time we loaded the van with the last of what my fiancé would need to camp out in his furnished condo for the year, my attitude had really turned around. I actually looked forward to joining him in his new small town home once my obligations were completed and I was free to leave. Besides, although I could not bring a year's supply of vanilla ice cream or spinach with me, I could certainly use this selfless sacrifice as ammunition for future negotiations for a vacation in some faraway tropical paradise. I think a short parole in Costa Rica or Hawaii sounds about right.
Robin Edgar is a freelance writer who now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, which she finds to be a climatic happy medium for all the places she has lived. She facilitates reminiscence workshops that celebrate life based on her book, In My Mother's Kitchen.