North Carolina doesn’t really do winter. I can’t tell you excited that made me when I first moved here from Michigan, because I hate winter. You live through six months of cold that cuts straight to the bone each year, you don’t see grass from January to March, you get a little sick of the whole thing.
And last winter, my first Southern winter, was awesome. The temperatures went down, but it was nothing my well-worn peacoat couldn’t handle. We saw snow maybe three times all winter. Spring came early and warm, and although summer was, I was informed, cooler and rainier than usual, it was still better than Northern summers.
I moved away from home to go to college in a different state at age 17, and I never looked back. I never was dying to go home. I went through an avalanche of social adjustments but never once did I really face off against homesickness the way so many other new college students do.
And it’s not that I want to go back to my parents’ house. I love being independent, being an adult (for the most part. When I’m sick all I want is my mom to take care of me, of course). But I believe you simply don’t realize how much you’re a product of where you grew up until you move to an entirely different region.
I started to sense it a while ago. Moving from Michigan to Ohio wasn’t so much of a stretch, regionally speaking. The agricultural landscape was similar, and the theme of decaying industrial cities holds true between both states. I complained about how flat and cornfield-y Ohio was, but the change really wasn’t all that dramatic.
Now I’m in North Carolina, a land defined by its pine trees, by mountains and the coast, and I live in an area marked by thriving technological and medical industries. Without vast cornfields or blocks of abandoned factories, I feel just a little bit lost. I’m enjoying North Carolina, of course, and naturally on paper my current surroundings seem way better than where I came from. But I’ll never get rid of the Midwest. The rust belt is in my blood.
But my real bout of homesickness was brought on when the calendar turned over to September and the weather blazed on, hot as August. When my favorite bar started serving up pumpkin beer, which I drank wearing shorts and a tank top. And I realized just how regional certain seasonal traditions are. In Michigan, I could go to a cider mill this weekend, bundled up in flannel, and get some hot spiced cider and a donut. In Ohio, they’re going to start having corn mazes, pick-your-own-pumpkin patches. Trees all over the North are beginning to turn colors; there’s that one tree across the street from my parent’s house that will be completely red in a couple of weeks. Nothing against pine trees, but they don’t turn colors like that.
Maybe we’ll get around to those traditions down here, later when it gets colder. Maybe there will be hayrides and bonfires and hey, maybe I’ll even go to a haunted corn maze for the first time. But right now I’m wishing for the cooler air of Michigan, the frost on the ground that used to crunch beneath my feet even as early as mid-September when I’d go out to the back yard for recess. I’m wishing for all the things that whisper, “Enjoy these harvest traditions while you can. Winter is coming.”
Oh yeah. You didn’t think I could get through a post about changing seasons without a Game of Thrones reference did you?