Wednesday, January 4, 2012

the midwest


F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of my favorite authors and another member of the infamous group of American expats living in Paris in the 1920's, ends his classic The Great Gatsby with a little reflection (that I love) on his own memories of the Midwest and coming home for Christmas.

When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour before we melted indistinguishably into it again.

That's my middle-west--not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns but the thrilling, returning trains of my youth and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow. I am part of that, a little solemn with the feeling of those long winters...

I am spending the year far from what I have known my whole life. A foreign country, a foreign language, and a foreign culture all surround me and, even though I am relishing it all, there is still nothing like traveling home for Christmas. In college, the two and a half hour trip north meant an end to exams and papers for the peace of Christmas with family and rest from school. This year, the 16+ hour journey meant even more to me. I came back to something that I am part of, and that is part of me--much more deeply than what France is to me. I felt that same nostalgia Fitzgerald describes in coming home. Like him, I came home west, and I also got to experience the unique wonder that is winter in the midwest. What a wonderful feeling.

pax christi.

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