Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nebraska...I Bow Down to Thy Barren Beauty in Wonderment

I was in Nebraska for a week last month visiting my grandparents. My mom's folks, Delpha and Fritz, are Republicans who spend their days hanging out with their friends at the Ogallala Senior Center. It was funny to see my grampa impulsively grab my grandmother up while she was sitting at the piano and start dancing the polka with her. They finished with a flurish and a standing ovation from the 20 elderly bystanders. They are truly in love, and my grampa said to me once at their 50th wedding anniversary, "I love her even better than the day we were married."

Nebraska is a state that no one really thinks about much. It's kind of out there in the middle, in boringland. I was born there, and spent a great number of my childhood years there in a small town in Eastern Nebraska, called Wahoo. (Yes, the home office of David Letterman's Top Ten List). I went to elementary school there, and in fifth grade we moved further south to Kansas, an even 'boringer' state. Nevertheless, driving from Wahoo to where my grandfolks have always lived in western Nebraska, was a drive I relished. (Except when my brother was touching me.) Last month when I was back, I did some serious driving between the two families and took a few photos to remember it by since I'll probably never make that drive again.

I caught this old school house and found it astoundingly beautiful. I actually got out of my nice warm rental car in the 10-degree weather to snap this photo. (A car with HEATED SEATS, might I add.) I regret not having balls of steel to go wandering inside the front door. Next time I'll plan on that.

Nebraska has a rather large population of vegetarians. They advertise their faith with signs like this one I snapped in Lewellen:

I also found this kickass schoolhouse with one of those rockin' old fire escapes that resembles a waterslide. I wish I had one of those leading outside of my apartment because I'd use it every day. Can you imagine the fun those kids have doing the fire drills?

While my mom's folks, Delpha and Fritz, are Republican socialites, my dad's folks, Tom and Donna, are tortured artists. Grampa Tom lost his sense of smell a few years ago, but still cooks like a classic gourmet. One of his creations, potato-less clam chowder:

My grandmother creates magnificent art like this without wearing gloves. My grandmother goes through bandaids like Michael Jackson did in the 80s.

During the cold weather, I don't find it exceedingly difficult to stay away from my home state, although the allure of my family history is difficult to avoid. My grandmother told me when I was home that my family decends from early Piquots, which intrigues me in that our Native American history had been somewhat lost in the jumble of Anglo-Saxon ancestry. I will enjoy researching this rumor.

The other thing I miss dearly is Nebraska skies. Clouds in Oregon don't seem to take many shapes despite that they're always there. In Nebraska, clouds rarely signify something ominous (unless accompanied by a greenish-yellow sky) and because I don't know much about clouds, I can't tell you the difference between the ones that do and the ones that don't. I have memories of lying in the grass in the summer (a big mistake because I always ended up with chiggers), staring up at the sky imagining all the different barnyard animals up there.
I wonder how I stay away...maybe it's because my family thinks of me as a communist. Doubtful because they're communists too. Maybe it's because I'm a different person who grew up knowing family that had always existed at least six hours away. I always wondered how my cousins could live in the same town as my grandparents and how much that would suck. But now, I almost wonder how I would have ended up had I grown up closer to them. I know I would be a great piano player and a wonderful cook, two influences that would be impossible to avoid.

My main concern about my family living in Nebraska is that I have cousins that look like this

living with citizens with this kind of sense of humor. What kind of corrupt justice is that for the innocent???