This past weekend, I hopped on a plane and hung out with my family in St. Louis for my Granny’s birthday. It is always so wonderful to back home, enveloped in the love and nostalgia of the place I grew up in. Whenever I come to St. Louis, I feel like Dorothy again. I spend my life inhabiting different characters in my mind, maybe because I am an actor/writer, maybe as a defense mechanism. In New York I imagined myself as Blair Waldorf and Audrey Hepburn and pretty girls on tumblr with perfect twist-outs and bright lipsticks. I wanted to be A Cool Girl and sometimes on a Saturday night in the East Village I really felt like one. I imagined myself as an intellectual and an activist but also as a Theatre Girl, a Theatre Socialite who is in the shows and at the shows and generally in-the-know about who’s who in the industry and who wears great shoes to off-Broadway openings in Soho. I imagined myself as a quintessential New York Krista, all perfect hair and intelligent conversation and just the right mix of passion and nonchalance. I was never that girl. I dreamed her up, and do dream of her still, but I was not her, and in all honesty probably never will be. That’s alright.
When I go home, not to my home in the Bay Area, but all the way home to St. Louis and its West County suburbs, I feel like a little girl but in a good way. Not in the way of “mama help me my tire burst on the way to work” but in the “I feel like the world is filled with magic and that I am eternally loved” kind of way. We left St. Louis when I was just 10, but my inner Mid-Westerner has stayed with me through moves to Boston and the Bay Area and college in New York. Not to candy coat all that is wrong with St. Louis. I cannot deny the socioeconomic stratification, the deeply troubling racism, the crime rates, the poverty. Even so, when the green (so green!) flatlands of Missouri appeared beneath the plane, I felt a little thrill of recognition. This land is my land. I felt the Dorothy in me sigh; the girl who ran away for adventure and travel and big city life still needs a little Kansas in her life, so to speak
St. Louis is a place where I don’t feel like I need to be pretty or clever or thin because my Granny will always tell me I am beautiful and smart and ask earnestly “have you lost weight?” (I haven’t, but yes, I will take another slice of pie). My Papa will always tell me how proud he is of me (in the quiet way of his), and will go to the store to buy extra mini Snickers, just for me and my little sister. The aunts and cousins and uncles and old friends will always be happy to see my family, the Prodigal Son/Daughter-in-law/Granddaughters home for a few days. After losing my beloved maternal grandmother this June, I cherish the love and the time with my extended family more than I ever could have known. Every moment is a blessing.
As I write this, I realize tenfold how much I love my family, and how much I am loved. (Literally just now I received the daily text my parents send “hope you have a good day!”) I know I never want to live in St. Louis again (sorry, y’all) but I’ll be back to visit as often as I can. It will always be the place I think of when I click my heels together.
Back in Oz, this is Dorothy, signing off.
Love and theatre,