I was reminded tonight of one of my first ‘real’ jobs in high school.
I was one of, I don’t recall exactly, perhaps ten or so locals who were selected to be sandwich artists at the very first Subway to arrive to my hometown.
We were interviewed and selected amidst plywood, power tools and tarp, as the building, tacked onto the end of the town shopping center along Highway 81, was not yet finished.
On the first day of training, I cut my finger on the tomato slicer. Not wanting to embarrass myself in front of the Subway elite (they’d come up from Nebraska to train us), I tried to hide the injury. I kept my eyes glued on the presenter teaching us 101 kitchen safety and meanwhile pushed paper towels against my finger to try to stop the flow of blood.
My friend Lori, who was also in training, had a better angle on the stack of paper towels. She casually slipped me sheet after sheet, as a I discretely slipped the bloodied ones into the trashcan beside me that was holding the tomato discards.
I remember it took a long time for that cut to go away.
Homesickness is a funny thing. When I first left for school, I anticipated it. Now, going on eight years later, I don’t see it coming before it arrives.
Homesickness slips its way through the seams into those cracks of anxious anticipation, quick change or slight hesitation. It drips and it drools, and I don’t really know what to do with the mess.
Mostly, it frustrates me. It feels like an Achilles heel, for lack of a more original comparison, and I become irritable, feisty even, about this reoccurring weak spot.
I’ve learned so much about you, Pennsylvania, and now and then I want to shove it back your direction. I want to tell you a thing or two about South Dakota, because you don’t know.
In South Dakota, when you see a line of cars coming down the highway you know that a ball game just finished. And when Dad has to wait for a car to turn off our gravel road onto Highway 81, he grumbles, because waiting for traffic is not normal.
In South Dakota, you don’t call your aunt an ant, because that would be an odd reference to her size.
In South Dakota, appetizers are only for holidays and dessert, 9 times out of 10, contains flour.
In South Dakota, the beach is at the river, keeping your gold-level rating at Starbucks is impossible since the nearest is an hour away, and hugs are just for family and close friends that you haven’t seen in a long time–and Grandma, always.
In South Dakota, spring is dictated by the weather, the moistness of the ground and district basketball games.
Daylight savings changes when you eat supper, because it effects how late the farmers can stay outside working.
Geese signal the turn of the season clearer than billboards.
Sunrises remain as beautiful as ever, but the air–uninterrupted by noise or building– carries a palatable freshness your lungs have been craving.
And you step into that beauty and breathe deep, knowing soon, new life will spring in the fields that surround you. Soon, the days will grow longer, and you will fill each fuller to accommodate.
I hate that my childhood home is somewhere that is not near anyplace anyone is going.
Yet, if it were any closer, I fear it would lose its desolate charm.
Oh, how strangely amusing and absolutely enchanting it is to have unintentionally frozen this soft, sweet place in my mind as though it were a golden twilight never to be had again.
Here is a horrible comparison:
Sometimes homesickness feels like a cut from a tomato slicer.
It’s just the most ridiculous thing to miss something so imperfect, and yet, I keep holding the paper towel to it, trying to pretend it’s not there,
secretly terrified it will never stop bleeding.