My alma mater, the University of Missouri, has been in the news a lot this week, and as a result, I have been seeing multiple pictures of the campus where I spent six years of my life.
The stories coming out of Missouri have made me both proud and disappointed, inspired and disheartened. They’ve prompted me to send concerned emails to my friends who still live there, several of whom work on campus, and to have some very surprising conversations with people I thought I knew pretty well. The stories that are emerging are complex and nuanced.
But the pictures are not, and the pictures only make me feel one thing: homesick. The city of Columbia looks gorgeous right now – the leaves in vivid colors, the sky bright-blue; you can just feel the crispness in the air, and it seems pleasant from afar, secure in the knowledge that I will not have to pay for the beauty of autumn by slogging through the bleak drudgery of winter.
There are moments – fleeting, yes, but still there – when I wonder what Ruby’s life would look like if she still lived in Missouri, where she was born and spent the first year of her life and where she returns for frequent visits with her grandparents.
If we still lived in mid-Missouri, she’d get to build snowmen and jump in piles of leaves. She’d go to a neighborhood school just blocks from our house. In the summer, we’d have our pick of amazing, well-maintained public pools, and in the spring, we could go driving through the country and marvel at the wash of pale green striping its way back up the rolling hills.
Then I remember what we’d be giving up: food, culture, music, Carnival and crawfish boils and characters. So many characters.
Ruby counts among her friends Avi, who runs a corner store near her dad’s house and on Halloween allowed her to trick-or-treat from his store’s shelves; Marcos, who hangs out near a neighborhood bar in his wheelchair with his service dog, Wilbur; and a roller derby girl whose name is also Ruby.
And then of course, there was Allen Toussaint, who died earlier this week. I wouldn’t say he and Ruby were friends by any means, but if we still lived in Missouri, her life would definitely not have included this moment.
So I come full circle. I am so glad to be raising her here. Missouri might be pretty, but New Orleans is home.