Something about being home in Kansas makes me feel simultaneously as if time is speeding up and standing still. There are moments when I barely recognize parts of the city that I once could so skillfully navigate. In part, it’s a result of how much Kansas City changes each time I return. From a new performing arts center to the frozen yogurt joints on every corner (with trendy names like Yogurtini and Peachwave that sound more like cocktails than purveyors of icy desserts), the city is evolving. At the same time, so many things about the city are so very familiar. I can close my eyes at home at night and the familiar sound of sprinklers on green lawns and cool nighttime breeze blowing in through open windows have me convinced that I am back in high school, whispering into the phone long past the time I should have been asleep.
It has been chilly and damp in Kansas most days I’ve been home, giving me an excuse to turn on the gas fireplaces in our house with questionable frequency. I welcomed the cool weather and the relief it gave me from Bangkok heat. (Note to self: I must resolve to cut down on griping about the heat. I got a little perspective through the old “grass is always greener” lesson, what with everyone in KC complaining about the unseasonably chilly weather.) I could cozy up at the kitchen table every morning, staring out at the gray sky, sipping coffee and eating my mom’s effortlessly perfect poached eggs.
Being in the US, and particularly in my hometown, brought with it all of the random sort of simple pleasures that anyone who has ever lived abroad would recognize. I took the long way home any time I was in a car, driving with the windows open and country music turned up on the radio. I soaked up all the talk of new reality TV shows. (How are they still managing to find new ways to combine singing/dancing/weight loss/makeover/cooking challenges and new B-list stars to judge them?) Things like giant spinach salads for lunch and quick runs to the grocery store had me smiling to myself like a crazy person. I had inconsequential conversations with everyone who crossed my path, relishing the opportunity to understand and be understood without effort. (Fortunately for me, no one welcomes cheerful small-talk with strangers like those who reside in Kansas.)
Without a doubt, the elements of being home most precious are those with family and friends. Watching my sister’s sixth-grade musical, in which a “review” of rock over the years made my favorite 90s tunes look positively ancient. Running errands at familiar spots while my three teenage sisters giggle hysterically in the backseat of the car.
But as with most families, many of the best memories form when food is the backdrop. Attending my cousin’s high school graduation party, my extended family chattering loudly while devouring my uncle’s divine homemade pulled pork and barbecue sauce. Gossiping with my grandma over a luxurious lunchtime glass of white wine. Being amazed at my brother’s perfect recollection of childhood memories that I’ve long forgotten. Surprising my cousin on her lunch break to sit and catch up with her and my grandparents. Cooking in the kitchen with the buzz of family life and the comings and goings of the people I love in the background. Even catching up with high school friends where the meal is only an excuse to spend hours picking up as if not a minute had passed since we last saw each other. I even made multiple kale salads while my sisters huddled around the kitchen table. (To my great surprise, they even liked the kale.)
And, even though being 30 and being home for a week means that your mother insists you finally audit the boxes of things you’ve been storing in her basement (enter the horrifically ugly T-shirt I saved from a 10th grade service trip and an excessive number of purple and gold mardi gras beads stashed away from college), every moment is more precious than the next. As with all of the very best vacations, it flies by far too fast.