Amy Roberts: There’s no place like Nebraska – or home
It’s not often one travels to Nebraska for the weather. You might as well visit for the sea breeze. But given that we seem to be in our 18th straight month of winter, I decided to hop on a last-minute flight back home to spend the holiday weekend with my family. Potential tornadoes were more appealing than potential snow.
It’s odd to hear myself say (or write) that I’m going “back home.” I’ve now lived away from the Cornhusker State longer than I ever lived there. I left for college at 18, and with the exception of a brief stint afterward graduating, I’ve never been back long enough to claim residency. Maybe it’s because that’s where I was born and raised, or maybe it’s because my immediate family — my parents, sister, and niece — are all still there, but for some reason, I still refer to Nebraska as “home,” albeit begrudgingly.
When you ask the people who live there (and even when you don’t) why they live there, they often will say things like, “it’s a great place to raise a family” or “housing is very affordable.” I’m sure there are other redeeming qualities, though I have yet to be introduced to them. In general, I find most of the state to be filled with people whose ancestors probably said things like, “I know there are mountains and a bunch of gold and endless promise for our future another thousand miles West of here, but you know, this seems good enough.”
The state’s motto might as well be, “A decent place to settle.” And now, it appears, my family has settled there twice.
In what I can only assume is a very late-blooming midlife crisis of some sort, my parents recently purchased a lake house about 30 minutes from their normal house. Their “cabin” is in a small gated community; the kind where people drive golf carts to the restaurant and take out the trash in their perfectly pressed pajamas. It’s like the Midwest’s version of Boca Raton. Their purchase of a lake house was accompanied by the purchase of a boat, something I have never heard either of my parents express the slightest interest in owning.
None of this is typical of them by any stretch. They aren’t the least bit frivolous with money and have always lived well below their means. Having known my parents all my life, I found their recent spending spree both shocking and exciting. On one hand, I was thrilled to see them enjoying life a bit, rather than rationing every dollar. “You deserve to treat yourselves,” I confirmed as they gave me a tour of their new home. And on the other hand, I couldn’t help but be a little worried about such a drastic shift in character. Over the weekend I asked them both independently, “Is there something you’re not telling me? Are you dying?”
I was assured of their health, and of the fact they have no intentions of recklessly blowing through their savings, though I was still curious how all of this came to be. When I pressed, my dad shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s cheaper than retiring in Florida.” My mom summed it up by saying, “It’s a great place for us to create memories with our grandchild.”
And while I have always considered the drawbacks of life in the Midwest too great for any real appeal — the mosquitoes are large enough to assault a chicken, it’s so flat you can watch your dog run away for three days, my hair enters a room three minutes before I do given the humidity — this trip ‘back home’ shifted my perspective a bit. Perhaps an affordable place to live and a safe place to make happy childhood memories really are what matter most.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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