In my quest to find out what is “quintessentially Midwestern,” I gathered a few quotes over the weekend about the impact of this region on folks who grew up here.
Former student Annette Bridges says: “Being from Saint Louis makes me from the middle of the Midwest. It is a distinction which inspires mixed emotion. As a youth, I rebelled against the blandness, the sameness of Midwestern culture. By the time anything hip, or happening reached the center from the coasts, it was already passe. Though compared to Peoria, St. Louis, is a major metropolis; it retains a small time, small town mediocrity. As an adult, I have been able to relieve the plainness of the plains by traveling to other elevations.”
Author Jenny Pritchett
up in the Midwest makes me appreciate California, my chosen home. I
didn’t like Illinois. But I will say that oftentimes, against my will, a
sense of nostalgia rises for cozy tract homes, the musty smell and
crackle of dead leaves, strappingly cold air, and the kind of anxious
churning that only happens in quiet. It’s the kind of churning that
sprung me, so I’m grateful for that.”
Ceramicist Lisa Gluckin
grew up in Peoria, IL. I asked her to send me a list of specific images and places that stand out in her memory: “My dad’s studio in the basement and another in the garage, where he experimented with art and filled shot gun shells. My mom in the family room smoking a cigarette, full of love. Antiques and art objects everywhere. Drawers stuffed full of miscellany. Chan’s–the only Chinese restaurant in Peoria on Main Street. (The owner, Pearl, let us come into the kitchen. I always ordered shrimp and lobster sauce.) Being Jewish in Peoria was an oddity; I felt different but somehow cool. When returning to Peoria from a car trip on Highway 74 there was a dramatic moment when downtown Peoria came into view–I loved that view. We were home!”
Have your own impressions? Please share! I’m determined to undo the elusiveness of the Midwest while I’m here and, other than exploring the land and city, the best way to do that is through primary sources. Leave a comment or shoot me an email.