One of my favorite TV comedies is The Middle. It’s about family life in the fictional Midwestern town of Orson, Indiana. The opening credits feature a vast cornfield and the caw of a crow, the stereotypical image people on the Edges might have about middle America.
But life here in the Middle can be amazingly sweet. Recently I have been enjoying a bit of solitude in my home town with my husband and daughter away and my teenage son preoccupied with teenage things. So I have had some time to enjoy and reflect upon the good things about life in a Midwestern town.
One of those things is quiet. Unless you live in a big city such as Chicago, there is ample space to find peace and quiet. On a twilight walk this week, I reveled in the peace. There were no other people out walking and very few cars cruising the suburban streets. I could hear birds and cicadas singing in the trees. I could smell the flowering jasmine and inhale the serenity of a mild summer evening.
Another wonderful thing we usually have in abundance in the Midwest is rain. Whether a steady nurturing rain on an overcast day or the wind-tossed torrent of a summer storm, the sound and smell of rain is something I really enjoy. And the benefits are everywhere to see. On the vast plains the corn grows higher than my head. Here in the suburbs, the trees, bushes, grass, and flowers all flourish. Not long ago I was in California listening to residents bemoan the terrible drought. Drought is a fairly common condition out West, but not here in the Middle.
Aside from these natural phenomena, there are social benefits of living in the Middle. Midwesterners are unaffectedly friendly and helpful. Neighbors watch out for each other, and even strangers are happy to help with directions or lend a hand. When we first moved back to the Midwest, I felt a sense of warmth and delight in quickly getting to know dozens of people living in my town. Everywhere I went, it seemed, there was a friendly face or two.
There is just something down to earth about Middle America. The trappings of wealth don’t seem quite as important here. Midwesterners pride themselves on hard work and a certain bravery in the face of the sometimes harsh climate. A road trip in the Midwest might take you past covered bridges, farm stands, grazing cattle, and even quirky attractions such as a miniature version of Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
Middle America may not be the chicest or most fashion forward part of the country. But we enjoy the change of seasons, the taste of freshly picked sweet corn, cottages on the lake, catching fireflies, and Big 10 football.
People from other parts of the country like to make fun of our flat Midwestern twang. But chances are if you hear it, it’s going to be some humble soul saying, “Welcome. We’re happy to have you.”