...I boarded a plane to Nebraska last Thursday for a weekend visit. Trips to my homeland are few and far between, so I beg family members to cram the entire weekend with as many celebratory gatherings as possible. I returned home late last night reeking of airport plush and heavy muscles from all the lugging.
Friday, it all began with a family day-cation to Yankton, SD. This border town boasts a large dam, the resulting Lewis and Clark Lake, and per capita the largest number of pickups and boats that take glee in blocking traffic. Though I spent most of my childhood summers here, driving over the dam never fails to scare the living heck out of me. (When playing at the beaches, I often had day-mares that I would fall asleep on a water noodle and wake up finding myself being sucked down to the turbine vents. Worst. Possible. Death. Imaginable. Ensues. And surprised fishermen watch as a shredded noodle pops out on the other side.)
The highlight of the trip though, was spending time with the newest addition to our family: Lola, my fresh-faced and surprisingly smiley-happy niece. She’s my new fave. And of course, I’m hers.
We finished the day defining the word gluttony at Jo-Dean’s, “a South Dakota tradition” famous for OD’ing on (most certainly NOT safe-caught) seafood. For $20, you can belly up to a buffet of shark, eel, frog legs, and other aquatic fare. It’s utterly weird to witness but tastes great when washed down with a Bud Light.
Saturday found my father and I doing our best to make sure my mom’s 50th surprise birthday party stayed a surprise. It did, she was thrilled, and we saw many old friends and extended family.
Sunday was Lola’s baptism. I made friends with a Catholic deacon who couldn’t stop hugging me, became a godparent for the first time, and swore -- in front of a statue of Jesus, no less -- that I’d lead her to a fulfilling life of servitude to the church. Afterwards, we celebrated Lola’s escape from Limbo by dining at Valentino’s – a favorite childhood restaurant of mine only because their spaghetti sauces contain so much sugar that you need an insulin chaser.
Then comes the return flight to Chicago. I would never classify myself as a sentimental person – conversations regarding weddings, funerals, etc. make me so uncomfortable I tend to eject a Hallmark-template response and walk away from the situation as fast as socially acceptable. I also RAN at my first opportunity to move away after high school.
It must be a sign of aging, then, that for the first time I felt nostalgic about leaving the people and place that represented my upbringing. Even more odd was that I was more at home in the airplane 25,000 feet above both the place I used to call home and the city I do now. I fittingly happened across an article about Restless Life Syndrome which described a person who needed to rewrite their life every 6-12 months. I’m not sure that at age 27 I can identify with the solution they propose, but I can certainly relate to the idea that after leaving a bit of myself in so many places, I feel a bit disconnected from the person I’ve actually become.
Thankfully, I don’t have much time to dwell on it. If you need me, I’ll be at the gym for the rest of the month.
View from breakfast at Mahoney Park.