Sometimes, I feel like a see a side of Lawrence, KS that none of my peers really know exist. I was born in Lawrence. I was raised in Lawrence. And in all of that, I barely made contact with most college students except as a young child at daycare or in passing. I never thought it was anything special to have a large public university in my backyard, that was a given and it didn’t surprise me. My home town is so weird to begin with; what reminds me most of home is the smell of patchouli and which reminds me of the hippies at the Farmer’s Market. Or the street performers we have downtown that are regularly terrible. It’s a weird, drug induced blend of pure cacao and crazy and if you’re paying attention, we’ll even cold press it and put some agave on top. That is Lawrence, Kansas, and you can do your damndest to explain that a)Lawrence isn’t really “Kansas”, b)Dorothy is not my cousin, if anything she’d be a love child running around in a tutu and red doc martens, and c) Just because Lawrence is REALLY FREAKING LIBERAL does not make it the home of Satan or not Kansas.
It’s like conflict soup, and that is okay here. Bleeding Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, a lot of traces of social justice history, and basically bits and pieces of real prairie clinging to life make my home super great, if not continuously bizarre. There is literally a group of people that spray “Keep Lawrence Weird” all over town. They are awesome, because they are right, and I bet you $5 they smell like lemongrass and patchouli. We have a wildly successful Coop, the Merc. We have a family owned donut shop (Munchers) with the only Cream Cheese Donut I’ve ever had and hands down the best when they come out at 2am. We have a lot of bands and live music (it’s a patchouli thing). We have a lot of fabulous hole-in-the-wall restaurants; you tell me what you like and I can find you some sort of Asian (because duh, I’m coming).
Scattered all across town and in between the stupid students are monuments of my childhood. The tiny 50 cent merry go round with purple and pink unicorns by the Hardware Store and the Downtown Barbershop? One of few things Lauren and I would wait for and then promptly never get off. The corners of Hillcrest Elementary School, that have since been bulldozed to put in trailer after stupid trailer because there isn’t enough money to do a decent renovation to the school? That’s where I found my first four leaf clovers, and ran to my gym teacher who helped me press them immediately; it was that big of a deal. What about Bucky’s Park? They don’t call it that anymore, but we did. $1 for an icecream cone of either chocolate, vanilla, or split, and well within walking distance of my mom’s house on Iowa Street and my father’s 3 blocks away, the same block as Hillcrest itself. Watertower Park, which students weave in and out of as a shortcut from Greek houses and other parts of town? My mother used to push us there in a demented twin stroller that trapped me in the backseat. That is the best swing set almost on campus, and I have run around that area of town so long I can’t remember. My classmates don’t even pay attention to it. They don’t even know what Stouffer Place is, for the most part, or where to find the best nap on campus, or why it is important to exit and load our public transit properly, let alone not walk in front of cars without looking. I have taken to walking across the street diagonally because at least I’m looking for cars, even if I’m not using either crosswalk. I wish they could stupidly say the same.
I love Lawrence, it is mine in a way that I can’t begin to explain when little baby freshman tell me about the wonders of Lawrence. Their upperclassmen homies will tell them where to get wasted quickest, where they can find and use fake IDs, and generally which are the “best places in town”. I’m sorry older idiots, you have no idea. I’ve tried to tell you, but you didn’t listen. So I will go to the many different Asian restaurants alone.
I was raised here, and I was raised without understanding what most of the things that are important to many of my peers even meant. I was raised to raid the Dillons clearance ranks, I was raised dancing up and down Goodwill, I was raised going to secondhand stores and garage sales and learning to love a bargain. My family wasn’t living in poverty, but we did live paycheck to paycheck more often than not, and it’s not like that is uncommon. My Dad loved to take us on bike rides near Clinton Lake, and drink warm Diet coke out of the can as we ate little Dillons clearance cookies and sat out on a hill over the water. Lookout Point was so much cooler than the movies, even if it was a manmade lake. It would be years before I knew there was any difference.
I have been home for most of my entire life, and it has been so beautiful. It isn’t perfect and it certainly wasn’t enough to keep me occupied as a teenager, but screw it, at least I didn’t dabble in the patchouli like a lot of my classmates. I’m not sure why, but I have always had a strong internal compass and honestly, that makes me pretty bored sometimes. So I’ve had to find my own entertainment more often than not, and most of it doesn’t include addiction or whole foods, or even both (we’ve got that too).
It is nice to be home. It is nice to be old enough to appreciate it. It is nice to finally want to share it. It is nice to see my teachers at the grocery store. It is nice to know that some things never change, and Lawrence will still be just as weird if not similarly weird when I come home. And although most of the things that other students take for granted still exist, it is nice to not have to let that be the only memory of the beauty of this fabulous place I call home.