The other day, I made the mistake of saying the word “anywho” to a friend who is a lifelong New Yorker. If you’ve never heard this word, it means you’re not a midwesterner, and I can’t explain it. Anyway, my friend suggested that I should probably avoid such provincialisms in the future or else people might find out I’m from Kansas.
This is not the first time I’ve surprised an Easterner by showing my roots, so to speak, but it always surprises me that they’re surprised, because it’s not like I ever left Kansas. No. Still here. So why are they surprised when I occasionally sound like it? I admit that I don’t fit the stereotype: my religious and political beliefs aren’t mainstream; I have a Ph.D in medieval literature, I’ve eaten kimchi in Seoul and drunk ouzo in Athens. And yet I always come back home. I don’t really fit here, but I don’t fit any better anywhere else, and here they know my name and look out for my daughter.
I sometimes threaten to move, but I’ve been threatening that for years. I never will leave, I know that in my heart: I get short of breath, figuratively and literally, in cities and mountains; I can only be who I am under these wide unbroken skies. Some days I love it, and some I despise it, but it is always home.
Where is yours?