The Midwest is the place that time forgot.
It’s also a place where weather is more than idle conversation.
It’s a place where the saying, “Don’t like the weather? Wait 15 minutes,” was coined.
This morning when we got up (6 a.m., so we could make 6:50 a.m. mass), the temperature was 50 degrees. By noon, it was a balmy (for eastern Nebraska on Oct. 30) 65 degrees.
Now, at 3:30 p.m., the wind is howling and it’s nearer to freezing.
It’s supposed to get into the lower 20s tonight, with wind-chills in the teens.
But that doesn’t stop people from getting out, from living their lives.
It’s the middle of the afternoon, and Wal-Mart is teeming with people; the sidewalks are full of people dressed in red (the state has no pro sports teams, so the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers is how everyone rolls) taking a walk; kids ride bikes and skateboards up and down the tree-lined streets while others chuck a football around front yards that are still so green and lush.
Midwesterners get out. They ramble (and not just to Wal-Mart).
Doesn’t matter that the wind is gusting at 30 miles an hour, or the temperatures are freezing.
I took a walk last night around the old neighborhood – the only one I knew growing up – and got a real feel for how it’s changed since the days I ruled the back yards and drainage ditches.
Weird how it’s changed. My parents built our house in 1962; I was born in early 1963. The school where I went to kindergarten – and learned how to spell my last name the second day of school because Scotty Bond could – was torn down. Homes have sprouted on the site (our backyard touched the schoolyard). The fort platform – they don’t build steel structures like this anymore, sadly, because someone could get hurt – where I spent so much time is gone, replaced by a two-story home. Ditto for the sandbox. The jungle gym (sunk, of course, into asphalt) was replaced by a street.
I walked and counted the neighborhood homes I‘d actually been in. In a four-block radius, I counted 30 homes where I had seen the interiors (and not because I was a paperboy).
There’s a certain nostalgia for a town like this. People still know me, stop, talk and shake hands. They touch your shoulder; an old girlfriend sat next to me at mass on Sunday and where we offer each other a sign of peace, she hugged me – and kissed my neck (which surly sent a lot of tongues to wagging). It was innocent, since her son sat next to her, and my dad next to me.
I could like it here, the place where I was born and raised.
Since it offers a glimpse into the world I grew up in. Where old ladies would call me over to rid their gardens of garter snakes, where I stole watermelon, sweet corn, plums and strawberries from so many of the same gardens, where people wave and say hi, whether they know you or not.
Time moves pretty slow here, and it’s insanely flat, but it is home. I’ve forgotten that over the years.
Still, Redding is home now.
And home is still where my heart is.
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