My mother always felt we were never really safe in the city. Long before I was born, my parents wrestled with the decision about where they would live. My mother, a true midwestern farm girl, desperately hoped that my dad could find a surgical residency in a rural area. Unfortunately, the only rotation in his specialty was in Los Angeles, where my mom reluctantly moved. Rumors persist that her kicking and screaming could be heard for miles.
While I enjoyed the benefits of growing up in the land of beaches, Hollywood and perpetual sunshine, my mom always wanted more for me. She worried that my cultural background was limited and she wanted me to appreciate my rural heritage. She decided when I was 13 that I should spend the summer with my grandparents in rural Iowa. I would have preferred a root canal without anaesthetic.
Don't get me wrong: it's not that I didn't love Grandmo and PaPa.
They called and wrote often and always sent great Christmas gifts. But the thought of actually living in the country for the summer was as appealing as swimming in a sweater. But I had little leverage at age 13, and my mom's desire for my cultural development won out. Off I went to Ottumwa, kicking and screaming as hard as my mom could imagine.
I didn't realize at the time what a memorable experience the trip would be. I had been raised in a large, splashy metropolitan area where the pace was fast and frenetic. My parents were both busy, successful professionals, and we enjoyed every luxury that money could buy. I was accustomed to 24-hour supermarkets, cable TV, cell phones and fast cars. Snap your fingers in LA and you have a choice of 50 movies to watch, 300...