Why I Love The Midwest

Originally printed in the North Central Chronicle on April 3, 2009.

A friend of mine grew up with the California itch. Her family was from San Francisco but she was stuck in Wisconsin for most of her life. She always complained about it and talk about wanting to be an actress and live the life in Hollywood, get out of the Midwest and all that.

She eventually went to college in Los Angeles. But after a few years there she became disillusioned with the West Coast life for some reason. I thought nothing but a family reunion every decade would bring her back to the Midwest, but now she says she is coming home after graduation.four_seasons

What brought her back? Maybe it was the bratwurst and quality beer. Midwesterners know how to eat and drink, that’s for sure. Maybe it was the sports teams. God knows the Packers are way cooler than the San Diego Chargers.

I don’t know exactly, but my point is we have a great thing going here in the Midwest. It’s hard to appreciate this when, if you’re like me, you have lived here your whole life. But we have seasons. Actual seasons. Californians don’t know the meaning of the word. All they get are sun and 70s. Some of you think that’s the perfect kind of weather. But when you get that all day, every day, it gets boring. You start thinking you’re entitled to perfect weather. Maybe that’s why West Coasters get that stereotype of entitlement.

Right now we are starting to enjoy the fruits of spring. There will be green grass and flowers and rebirth and sun. We get thunderstorms, baby rabbits, and puddles in which we can gleefully splash. Then summer will come with its freedom and fun and humidity and even more sun. Summer is a great season, sure, but our version doesn’t distinguish us from the rest of the world. Summer then leads us to autumn, the season that makes you think philosophically about life and death and bobbing for apples while you watch the colors fall from decaying trees.

And then, winter, the most polarizing season. The lovers love the snow, the sledding, the snowballs, and Christmas, while the haters hate the cold, the cold, and the cold. I am a self-proclaimed winter-lover. Yes, even the cold. It toughens us. It doesn’t allow us to take for granted the warmth of the summer. It makes the spring all the more beautiful after months of cold and dreariness.

You can’t go 10 minutes without hearing someone complain about the weather here. Like the weather is the only thing stopping them from enjoying their life. When did that become the case? June and July don’t have a monopoly joy. January has a share of it too. We are just exiting winter, so I suspect the complaints will subside-for now. Another year and the yelping will come back again, just as annoying as ever.

That’s why, amongst those who bemoan the trappings of winter, I exalt its virtues. I say I love it for all the reasons they hate it. It’s too cold, they say. All the better the warmth will feel. It’s too dreary, they say. All the brighter the sun will shine. In spite of all the bad things that are happening around us, I’m just trying to look for the good. We’re supposed to be living in the age of hope, after all.

So come November, as the temperatures drop and your nose hairs begin to freeze, turn that frown upside down and remember that Californians will never know how it feels to walk on ice. Or how it feels to get a snowball in the face. That, my Midwest friends, is something that is reserved for us.


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