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Commentary: Home

Georgeanna Greene

The rurality of the mid-Midwest tastes like wet cotton balls and lemon drops. Perfect opposites seem as different here as the depthless rows of corn and the seas of soy. We are solid here, if occasionally monotonous. Mountains of grain and kernels, the only break in the straight-lined horizons that litter our home. And as I get ready to leave and venture to lands far, far away, I look back at my home and can't help but admire its simple beauty. 

I have been weary of the sturdiness of the Midwest; found the stability boring, the corn boring, the hourly temperature fluctuations commonplace. I have craved change and adventure in the form of some Carmen Sandiego-esque lifestyle, dashing around the world in nothing but a blaze of glory and a red coat. To know the Midwest is to know boredom, and the low pitch of cicadas, and the unruly anger of waiting for a freight train to pass during your only-30-minute lunch period. For me, it is to know separation and cold Sunday afternoons decomposing in a bed that I just realized has bad feng shui (the window that rests above my head is often tormented by the whip of the old tree that resides next to it). It is to endure, with gritted teeth, the transition from no-school snow days to online learning days and to hear the same recollections of American history every 2 years and to see the same 100 people in my senior class grow older and occasionally wearier too.   

Bitterness has always been easier for me than appreciation. But as I’ve grown here, spent days crouched on soft pine needles, peering at evergreen filled skies, the dusty Midwest has cemented its stake in my heart. Hourly temperature fluctuations have instilled, in me, a sense of urgency (I can rarely be bothered to wrap myself in the down-filled coat my mother always insists I bring to early PE in December). The fields of corn and soybeans that block my view of the right turn I need to take to get home, the Mattress Sale sign that blocks my view of oncoming traffic on Jackson, are daily tests of Midwestern faith. The rush to get out of the school parking lot at lunchtime, my friends in tow because it’s too cold to eat outside anymore, is accompanied by the unspoken prayer that the drive-thru line won’t be too long. 

The silent, unwavering regularity of life here has to be some kind of divinity. There is, of course, a certain pain that comes with living in a town where people don’t look like you and evening plans often consist of alternating visits to Goodwill, Walmart, and windy state parks. Evenings spent frantically trying to consolidate plans of no real consequence. Mornings spent driving to early PE in the pitch-black darkness of December. Afternoons spent fretting over college applications in Sullivan Taylor with my friends. But our unification lies in the simplicity of our universe.  

   The simplicity of a universe that I know must expand. Spending hours writing about my regular life in the hopes that some mystical, far away college will accept me and let me be Carmen Sandiego has forced me to confront the reality of our home. It’s ugly sometimes. When the snow piles up and turns to brown slush as it melts, when the haze of pesticides makes it a little tough to breathe, when a freight train passes through during my only-30-minute lunch period. But it’s regular. It’s safe. It tastes like lemon drops.

I’m scared to leave it, honestly. I used to think that the Midwest was stagnant water. The kind you have to splash around in unceasingly to make sure you don’t get leeches. Maybe it is. But these stagnant waters force movement. The simplicity is beauty and safety. The trivialities are what make it home.  

Georgeanna Greene is a senior at Macomb High School.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio.

Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.