Shaggy 70’s carpet and apple dumplings

I suppose Chicago is breezy from time to time, sure. But if Chicago is really the “windy city,” South Dakota is hands down “the hurricane state.” Or something. As I write this, corn stalks and apples and leaves–and heck, probably soon trees and buildings and combines–are whirling about in the gusty South Dakota air out the patio window.

Oh yes, the seasons change in South Dakota–more clearly, perhaps, than in the city, where the skyline is obscured by cement and smog–but not without a tantrum first. Maybe this is where I get my flare for the dramatics.

Incidentally, it is kind of fitting–the windstorm outside. The weather is corresponding well with my whirlwind-of-a-week. Hence the fact that I’m writing this from SoDak to begin with!

In 24-hours I made the decision to return home to be with my mom as she recovers from a rather unsettling and semi-mysterious lung infection. In 24-hours I was graciously released from work, I packed my gym bag, and I flew from the heart of Chicago to the heart-of-nowhere South Dakota.

And while it took me a solid 6-hours to make the journey, even via plane, it felt like in no time at all life went from 100+ mph to crawling speed.

Sure, there is plenty, plenty to do to help out here at home. It’s a busy time of the year and my mom does so much! But even so, I remain convinced that the clock in South Dakota simply does not tick in the same way it does when I’m working downtown in the Loop.

I’m not sure quite how else to articulate that.

The first 24 hours were the worst. I felt stir-crazy. And I think it showed.

“Could you sleep last night without the sirens?” Mom asked me Thursday morning. I slept just fine, thank you. But she had a point.

Today, though, I think I’ve settled a bit (I’m even sitting long enough to blog!), and–rather unexpectedly–I have been greeted by a new feeling: a very keen sense of gratitude.

How fortunate I am–unfairly, even–to have a place like this that I can return to. Even under difficult circumstances such as family illness, there is something kind of refreshing and even semi-emotional about returning home, to this home, my home. The quiet. The change of pace. The community. My parents. The fall colors that remind me of a shaggy 70’s carpet. The buzz of harvest.

No, I’m not saying it’s all perfect, or all permanent, for that matter. (Example: Dad’s field caught on fire this afternoon. Case and point.) But right now, it’s home. And I feel like I’ve rediscovered that, even just bopping back to visit for a couple of days.

I am reminded, as I pause from my casting internship and my constant efforts to adjust to the (sorta-kinda) Windy City, that although I have really no idea what’s up next in my life, I do have this. I have this little nook in eastern South Dakota, made home by my family and 18 years of memories. I have that, and that’s really more than I could ask for.

You know, all this open-ended future stuff and eating apple dumplings and being back in my bedroom, I feel a little bit like a kid again. Which is funny. Because a week ago, at Christmas Carol callbacks, I felt like the oldest person. Ever. I didn’t know any of the cool books. Or the cool music. Or the cool gadgets or computer games. Pretty much anything the kids tried to visit with me about resulted in me saying, “ooh! Tell me more!” And them saying, “You don’t know. What. It’s the next Harry Potter.” Deadpan like that, too.

What? There’s a ‘next’ Harry Potter?

I’m skeptical.

But enough kid talk. It’s time to go check on Mom.

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