It’s been ten years now since we moved from the east coast to The Middle. All but the last four and a half years were in the South Kansas City area and the current in a quaint town about an hour outside of KC.
I finally feel at home. The USA is vast, miles wise and cultural wise. I grew up on the east coast – The Jersey Shore – Bruce Springsteen Country – New York City influence. Then I found myself in Southern California, Dude! Then back to the east coast and beach living.
Now let me tell you about The Middle from a Jersey State of Mind. The people are amazing. They are so kind and friendly. They love home cooking and that suits me fine, well, except for the red barbecue sauce, no thank you. I can handle a little but I think they go too far. Being from New Jersey, when you are invited to a barbecue that is exactly what it is. The grills come out and the food goes on. Here…..well, it’s a bit different. Smokers are in and lots of red sauce. I do like smoked meats, I have to say that, and now I will move along.
Sarcasm is different, well it is just plain scarce. If you are born and raised in New Jersey then sarcasm is part of your DNA. I have learned to hold the tongue and move on, well most of the time. I recently watched a certain series on NETFLIX that made me melt and feel all warm and cozy. No, it wasn’t Heartland, it was one that I will not recommend. It was one that made me feel as if I went back to my childhood and the sarcasm was tossed around like piles of fall leaves in the hands of children. It was harsh and rough and I laughed out loud a lot!
Moving along. My husband gets speaking engagements at churches from time to time. They vary in their denominational ties. Yesterday we went to a small mid-western town a fairly short distance from our town. It was a gorgeous spring morning, the hills spotted with cattle and their new offspring. We are in beef country. We have been to this church before but this time it was different for me.
The service began with an elderly gentleman and his electric guitar. They had trouble working the overhead projector and microphone but chuckled their way through it. I was taken back in time. The old-time religion/pentecostal tunes came forth easily for him and the people. Not easy for me but I sat and joined in anyway. I thought of simpler times and Johnny Cash. It was beautiful.
The feeling of a child not knowing much but wanting to learn came over me. I realized that at my ripe age I really knew so little about life. I wanted to sit at the feet of these men and women and hear their stories. The stories of days gone by, of farming hardships and joys and losses and great successes. Of perspectives that are so different and holier than mine.
I just felt these people have watched many sunrises and sunsets on countless disappointments and countless times they rose again wearing garments radiant with hope. What a special place, The Heartland of America. A place where pioneers of yesteryear passed through or settled here perhaps because they just couldn’t go any further. A strong and steadfast people.
I like to think that I am made of some of this grit. After all, it’s been said of New Jersey that “only the strong survive” – I should know, I actually have the T-shirt.
If you haven’t traveled various parts of this country get out and do it. The various cultures in the USA are amazing and all have wonderful stories of their past and new beginnings. And food! Various kinds of food!