It's finally fair week! For 11 days in a row, thousands of people will travel to my hometown for the Iowa State Fair, an event that highlights — for those who know what to look for — the true meaning of east-side pride.
This week, in addition to cherishing every bite of my deep-fried candy bar, I'm packing up and getting ready to leave for my second year of college in Cedar Rapids.
As much as I'm excited to get back to college life, I'm filled with the emotion that the familiar things that have been central to my life for almost 20 years will again be absent.
And as much as I love my college town, this time around I know exactly what I'll be leaving behind. Cedar Rapids is not — and never will be — home. For me, home is the east side of Des Moines.
My appreciation for the place where my family has lived for nearly 100 years stems from my great grandma's advice to recognize the rich history that comes from a side of town rooted in generations.
Although it may not have a modern feel with new housing developments, shopping centers, schools or other up-to-the-minute finishes, the east side of Des Moines bears beloved quirks all its own.
Because of my great grandma, when I go to the fair, I marvel at the architecture of the Agriculture Building, knowing that since the early 1900s, generations of people have walked through those doors and waited in line for hours to see the butter cow.
When I'm in Cedar Rapids, I don't feel a strong connection to the places I visit. I can no longer feel the comfort of knowing how to maneuver that three-way stop on Hubbell. I can't stop and get a brownie delight from Granny's. For months out of the year, I miss driving down the road to the 130 year-old Anderson Erickson Dairy where my dad has worked for almost 30 years. Even worse, not a single person I go to college with has a clue who Annie and Eric are or how tragic it was when Eric was stolen.
For the time being, when I drive down East 38th, I can still glance to my left at the little, red brick house that my great grandpa built for my great grandma in 1960. The house that holds so many memories of my childhood is now filled with a new family that will hopefully be watching the State Fair fireworks from their porch all this week.
Come Sunday the 23rd, along with the Fair-goers, I'll be on my way out of town. And when I ask a fellow classmate on campus if they just saw that squinney, I will once again be reminded that I'm not on the east side of Des Moines, because to everyone else, that's a ground squirrel.
Though I'll be in Cedar Rapids walking the streets of someone else's history, I know it won't be long until I'm home again, counting down the days to the 2016 Iowa State Fair.