I have spent the past 7 years of my life living in South Florida, and let me tell you, I absolutely love it. I love the culture, the diversity, the food, the sun, the beach, the tourists, everything. Even during the rainy season, the weather outshines that of the majority of the US.
I have learned to fit in here, because believe me, I did not always. It took a while to get used to kissing every single person you meet. It took a while to get used to all of the types of people. It took a while to get used to having Spanish music playing on the radio…and in church…and in school. It just took a lot of getting used to after my drastic 1200-mile move from Western Pennsylvania.
I was born and raised (until I was 12) in an itty bitty town tucked in the foothills of Allegheny Mountains about 40 miles north of Pittsburgh. My dad owned pizza shops and we lived in a modest house across the street from a cow farm. I had around 40 cousins that were relatively close in age to my siblings and I. Basically, my life in Pennsylvania consisted of eating tons of pizza and running across many acres of land with lots of kids.
I am very fond of my childhood and all of the memories I have been left with. I was a very happy kid. As it goes for most children, things were easy and, of course, at times I miss it.
Recently the “missing it” has been really intense, and I have grown to realize that it is not being a child that I miss, but my true home. My family has recently gone on a trip to Pennsylvania without me, and in that time, I felt the homesick the most.
I do not miss the Western Pennsylvania culture or general mentality. I do not miss the awful winter weather. I do not miss the lack of diversity.
What I miss is the comfort and familiarity of specific smells, tastes, and sensations, such as the smell of dusk (don’t laugh…this is a thing.) I miss going to the little ice cream shop up the hill from my elementary school, which I still go to with my best friend from kindergarten everytime I visit. I miss the home fries and cinnamon rolls at “The Calico” that I used to eat every sunday after church. I miss the smell of cow poop on a hot day (this is definitely something only I would like.)
I miss the smell of my grandma’s house. I miss my cousins who I used to adventure with. I miss holidays that were more than our average family dinner. I miss being able to meet my new cousins when they are born.
I have never felt more homesick in my own house as I do now with tears burning my eyes. I have grown so much as a person since moving to Florida (puberty and high school and college do that to you) that I can never really see myself going back to a small town. Even though they are so cozy and comfortable, I would be doing no service to myself to stay hidden in my comfort zone for the rest of my days. It hurts my heart to know that my future children will most likely not grow up with the same “small town” childhood experiences that I had, but it is a reality I will face.
One day, I will take my kids to meet their great-grandparents and cousins. I will take them to get ice cream where my mom took me. I will take them to their grandpa’s pizza shop and down to the trails where my family used to bike. We will play in the “crick” and walk in the cemetery (another strange childhood pastime of mine). They will get to see where their mother began her journey to becoming who she will be on that day.
Although over a third of my life (and the majority of my growth) has taken place in the Sunshine State, my roots run deep in the Keystone State. I will forever be grateful for my humble beginning…even though this period of my life is quite humble, too.