Morning light pried my tired eyes open. Teeth unbrushed. Hair uncombed. Attitude unsuperb. I got up and went inside to see Grandma. She was in the kitchen dressed for church and ready to feed me. She whipped up some muffins, baked a batch of frosting-lathered cinnamon rolls, and set out the cereal and bread. What a great turn around from yesterday.
(Quick note: I asked Grandma about the key to the front door. She said it was in the birdhouse, attached by magnet to the back, the one place I didn’t look on that infernal piece of decor.)
After getting cleaned up, we met up with my Aunt Connie and drove to church. It was great to see the church again since I half knew half of the congregation. My family (brothers Ben and Bruce, and sister Jen) had all been there at some point and people knew my mom who grew up in that area.
One guy comes up to me and says, “Bruce right?”
“Close,” I say, “JD. You’re a Kment, right?” He nods and smiles.
Not a couple minutes later another guy comes up, “We’ve been praying for you.”
I respond kindly, “You probably mean my brother Ben. I’m JD. You’re a Kment, right?”
Then some random kid walks past and says, “That’s not fair. Seventy-five percent of the people here are Kments.”
I was just waiting for someone to come up and ask, “So Jen, how have you been?”
After church, our trio had a decompression session. Sentiments were shared. Frustrations were freed. Emotion were expressed. Opinions were, well, you get the idea. Another building block for Go West Young Men.
The rest of the day we spent at my grandma’s house. Two things happen there: you eat and play cards. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. You’re either munching on some piece of good old fashion country cooking or dealing out the deck for another round of Pitch. Most commonly you’re doing both of these.
The culture of Nebraska revolves around food.
You eat to celebrate. You eat to mourn.
You eat when you’re hungry. You eat when your friends are hungry.
You eat three meals a day, have twice as many snacks, and fill in the time between with nibbling.
You eat to live and live to eat. It’s as natural and breathing and talking and happens almost as often.
Food, suck-on-your-thumb-to-get-the-morsel-under-your-fingernail-it’s-so-good food, is the common denominator that joins this culture together and brings in friends and neighbors. Everyone bakes. Everyone eats. Cinnamon streusel coffeecake, homemade potato salad, sausage chili, monkey rolls, canned corn, hot coffee, and cold watermelon. The food just keeps coming. That’s one reason why Nebraska is one of my favorite places on earth.
But this isn’t a state of people who just sit around all day stuffing their faces with the nearest handful of food. It’s a buzzing community that thrives on group activities, which translates into playing cards at my grandma’s house. We socialize around the table, perhaps working our way to the bottom of a bowl of popcorn, jawing about the current topic (maybe the lack of rain and how it’s hit the farmers hardest) while Aunt Lonna is plotting to drop the dreaded queen of spades onto the pile during a game of Hearts. Or maybe we’re passing the cookie plate around for the umpteenth waiting for Uncle John to take a card or not while watching him sort through a quarter of the deck that he’s (barely) holding in his hand.
It’s something that I’ll always love about going back there. Great people. Loads of fun. Endless food. I mean, that sums up my life’s ambitions right there.
This place, though, was only another stop on the trip and we were leaving that very night. After we received some food, we hugged goodbye and headed out the door for the 8-hour ride home which would put us home around 5:30am.
8 hours? What is that at this point but mere child’s play, a trip to the grocery store for diapers and a bottle, c’mon we’re road warriors now and nothing short of (if even) fiery meteors or Megatron himself will be an impediment for this drive. That being said, Faro drove.
Can’t say I remember too much about the ride from NE to IL except that the back was cool, comfortable, and I had lots of pillows to muffle noise and snuggle into like a baby bird in a nest.
Tomorrow I reach my last stop of the trip. I have a sense of fulfillment and completeness going into the end of the journey. It’s been the experience of a lifetime.
Stay tuned for my last post coming soon where I’ll share some lessons from the road, divulge final counts for road kill and pullovers, reveal if we spied or not all 50 states in our license plate roundup, review some trip moments, and wax poetic at times (as all good English majors should).
Life is a highway….i’ve seriously been riding it all night long for almost a month now.
- JD and the boys