I’m from a small town in west central Iowa. My husband and I both grew up there. We were born in the same hospital where our four children were also born. For 50 years, Carroll was our home. We grew a business there. We established friendships in grade school that have lasted through the decades. Some of our family still lives in Carroll, and it is the “home base” where we gather together with our grown children and extended family for special occasions. So, it shouldn’t be unusual for us to travel to the Midwest for Christmas, except that it is.
We haven’t been “home” for Christmas in several years. Enough years in fact, that new traditions have been established. Our kids spend Christmas in their own homes or traveling to their in-laws. Our big, holiday celebration unfolds in January when the kids come down and we all live together for a week here on Marco. We celebrate Christmas in the sunshine, and no one has anywhere else to go.
But this year, my husband and I decided it was important to go to Carroll for Christmas, so away we flew on the wings of Allegiant, landing in sunshine and 37 balmy degrees. I should have appreciated that afternoon of sunshine more than I did, because the next day it snowed. Just in time for a “White Christmas.” Big flakes of heavy snow filled the streets and covered the sidewalks. It clogged the wheels of my grocery cart and stuck to the underside of my car. You might call it beautiful…if you’re sitting inside by a warm fire, sipping hot coffee heavily-laced with Baileys. But for me, four inches of fluffy white powder settling on tree branches and rooftops just before Christmas was, well, only briefly beautiful.
On day two of our hometown visit we woke to fog. I realize that it gets foggy in Florida. Tropical, wet fog that smells like salt water and palm fronds. But Iowa fog is different. With snowon the ground there is nothing to differentiate the earth from the sky. We drove that day to visit our daughter and the snow and the fog made the trip feel like a slow-motion ride through marshmallow cream. Without the sweetness. Iowa fog smells like wet dirt and cattle, and in December, it’s accompanied by cold.
Day three was Christmas and it started with rain. It also ended with rain. And it rained a whole lot in between. The rain washed away our White Christmas and left behind puddles of water and muddy lawns that froze overnight into treacherous patches of ice and lumpy hills of dormant earth.
I woke before sunrise on our last day in Iowa. I could see stars shining outside the window and took this as a sign that maybe sunshine and warmer temperatures were on the way. I stayed inside and admired the cracks that had started to form on my hands and fingers; a sure sign that the air was dry and the temperature was low. The sun was indeed shining outside the window and when I was sure the temperature had warmed to a tolerable level, I ventured out to take the dog for a walk. Obviously, I have been away from Iowa winters long enough to forget the force of the wind. For miles around our hometown, wind turbines have sprouted on the landscape. They effectively use wind energy to generate electricity. On the last day of my visit, as Mocha and I headed outside, I believe the wind turbines were working at full capacity. The first block we walked the air was brisk but tolerable. I’m an Iowa girl, I can handle the cold. Then I turned a corner and felt the full impact of sustained winds of 22 mph combined with air temperatures of 22 degrees. I started talking to Mocha, as I walked with my head down and my face buried beneath a scarf. The words I spoke were not directed at my dog, I onlyused her as a sounding board. The words I spoke came in shivering gasps between gusts of frigid air. The words I spoke out loud to my puppy were colored with R-rated adjectives, but basically translated to, “Never again will I be in Iowa in the winter.”
I travel back to my hometown for the people. For the opportunity to see family and friends and share the genuine affection that flows freely in a place packed with personal memories and history. But from now on I think I’ll condense those visits to spring and summer. Maybe autumn. Times of the year when sunshine brings warmth, and rain does not freeze. Any season that does not include snow, fog, rain, ice and sub-zero wind chills in the span of five days.
Arriving back in the Sunshine State, I shed a few layers of clothes and feel my skin absorb the humidity. My lungs fill with air warmed by the atmosphere and my senses take in the color of the landscape. My shoulders soften away from my ears as my body relaxes, and I know I am home. My first 50 years were full and content. My next 50 will be full, content and warm.
I have never truly “left” my hometown. I carry it with me every day of my life. I learned the value of hard work, the importance of family, and the power of compassion in a small town in west central Iowa. Maybe I felt the need to return this winter in order to learn a lesson. To appreciate that the warmth I extend outward, is sparked by a fire that burns in the town where I grew up. Maybe spending five days in the frigid cold and darkness is the best way to kindle the fire within.
Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 291 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.