Welcome to My Midwestern Heritage

[Editor’s note: This story is the second of the regional rants that will follow this article about a sense of home. Please send me stories that introduce me to your corner of the world, as I unfortunately don’t know good writers in every region.]

Two days ago it was so cold and cloudy and gray. Today was a bit chilly, but the sun was out, so that was good. Tomorrow it’s supposed to get up to 72 degrees, and I am ecstatic! Tired of talking about the weather yet? Welcome to my Midwestern heritage.

We talk about the weather 90 percent of the time. Our conversations never get dull, because the weather isn’t dull. We go through quite the extremes here in the Midwest, and we get through it all by small-talking about it.

In the summer, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” In the winter, the snow level and coldness level is always compared to winters as far back as anyone can remember (anyone remember the blizzard of ’91?).

We experience tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flood warnings in the spring and summer, and in the winter, we have to brush off layers of snow on our car, only to reveal that we need to scrape off the layer of ice that was underneath. We have to deal with the warnings that come with both heat index and wind chill. A good portion of the year one can expect to see a severe weather warning flashing across the bottom of the TV screen. In the summer it’s too hot, and in the winter, it’s too cold.

It may seem that I have forgotten to mention autumn in my rundown of seasonal weather patterns, but worry not. In the fall, we can expect to experience just about any kind of weather already mentioned. If the weather is not extreme, we mention how mild the weather has been lately.

I spent a semester of my life “studying abroad” in Los Angeles; and much to my dismay, it was sunny and 70 nearly all the time. I had nothing to talk about. I had nothing to distinguish one day of the week from the next. I wanted my constantly-changing weather back. I wanted the seasons to change.

It was in leaving the Midwest that I discovered and embraced my Midwestern heritage. I was so glad to come back to normalcy, where I could remember what I did last Thursday because that’s the day the down pouring rain made it difficult to drive home from work.

It was wonderful to come back home to a land where people not only know what “hotdish” is, they bring it to every event that’s potluck (and who am I kidding, they’re all potluck).

In Minnesota, where I hail from, fishing opener (the start of the fishing season) is considered a holiday to quite a lot of people. In fact, for many years, I had no idea that it wasn’t. Every May, fathers and sons travel to a nearby lake (of which there are many) and celebrate fishing opener. This year, fishing opener and Mother’s Day happen to fall on the same weekend. So what does the great state of Minnesota do about this? We declare it to be “Take-a-Mom fishing weekend.” (See the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website if you don’t believe me …)

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Speaking of holidays and catching your own food, when I was younger deer hunting and my birthday went hand in hand. So much so, that I thought for sure I would have a birthday party that involved hunting once I was old enough. Luckily for me, once I was old enough, I decided that it just wasn’t that interesting to sit in a tree stand all day in the freezing cold weather waiting for a deer to come along so I could shoot it. I do, however, still quite enjoy eating venison, as well as a lot of other varieties of meat.

As part of my Midwestern roots, I am a meat and potatoes person. I love roast and mashed potatoes. I love beef stew. At most major holidays, turkey and mashed potatoes are among the main foods eaten.

In the Midwest, we are all about getting together with friends and family (Potluck, of course). And in addition to eating together and talking about the weather together, we like to be out in the weather together. You’d think that with all the extreme weather we’d rather stay inside, but as I mentioned before, we’re fishers and hunters. We also have a whole bunch of lakes to live by, swim in, and boat on (and skate on in the winter). We camp out and cook over a grill or a fire (sometimes in our own backyard). We battle not only the weather, but mosquitoes as well. But all of it is worth it just to get some fresh air and enjoy everything that the wonderful outdoors has to offer.

So, come and visit me in the Midwest. Take your coat off and stay awhile. Eat good food (and drink pop!), and if you don’t like the weather, stay a few more minutes—it’ll change. Embrace with me my Midwestern roots and when we go to say goodbye, we’ll stand and talk for another 45 minutes. It’ll be wonderful. Maybe we’ll even talk about how it’s getting warmer out, and that I think we’re done with snow for awhile.

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