Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to make you appreciate what you see every day.
A good friend of mine from high school is visiting family and friends here in Peoria this weekend. It's been about four years since he's graced us with his presence, and about 25 years since he ran screaming from the city, vowing never to come back again.
For the past year or so, he and I have exchanged barbs back and forth about our cities. He's now settled in Tucson, which I picture as a vast wasteland of brown, dead things. He remembers Peoria as a bitterly cold, frozen tundra. Last winter, when we were experiencing below-zero wind chills, he sent me photos of him on the golf course, mowing the lawn (which I didn't even realize they had in Tucson), and sporting shorts in the middle of January. During our mild summer, I made it known that you could sit out in the sun in the middle of the day and not even break a sweat.
As his visit drew closer, I sensed he was looking forward to coming back to, as he put it, "where it all began". He mentioned the familiarity of the "Midwest smell", and started listing off the eateries he wanted to experience again: Avanti's...Schooner's...Agatucci's...
When I woke up this morning and looked outside, a low, dense fog covered the field near my house, blanketing the flocks of geese that had settled there. I wondered what my friend must have thought when he arose to the cool, fall air and the rolling mist. Turns out, he went for a run in Detweiller Park and I'm sure was as transfixed by the sight as I was.
There are many reasons to appreciate Peoria, and the Midwest. Sometimes I think we need to be reminded of them. I hope my friend enjoys his visit here, and that he takes fond memories with him back West. Because sometimes... you can go home again.