Michael Bukur is 16 and has lived in Da Region all his life. Born and raised in Crown Point, he's currently a junior in high school. One day, he hopes to become a psychologist and writer (he's currently completing his first book on being a gay suburban teen at a Catholic high school).
Dear Da Region,
You're my first love. I grew up with you. Until at least third grade my world consisted of only you. You have raised generations of my family and my friends' families. Over in St. John so and so's grandpa owned a farm, up in Gary is where her dad grew up, over in Merrillville is where his mom went to middle school. My whole life's memories are centered on you. Who can forget late night runs to Dairy Queen, first dates at the movies, and shopping up at Southlake Mall?
Sure you might be nothing more than a suburban girl, but I will never forget the summer nights at the state fair, the car shows on Thursday nights, ice skating at Deep River, hot days at the Gary air show, steamy fourth of July parades, and the weird buzz of traffic from I-65 heard drifting over the corn as we relaxed in backyard next to the pool, playing bags, like most "region rats" do.
I couldn't have wished for a better childhood lover. You are a Mecca for that sweet suburban Chicago and Midwestern culture. Of course all of the baby boomers who saturate the region know that you are "Just as good as Chicago." You have just as much to offer, compared to your brother Chicago. You host the annual Popcorn Fest in Valpo, the Hub Run in Crown Point, and don't you forget John Dillinger was imprisoned in the historic Lake County Jail, which was also the backdrop for part of a film featuring Johnny Depp as Dillinger.
Anyway, people always say that they would never want to move away from you to be with your brother, Chicago. They always wonder who would want to raise a family in the dangerous, dirty, and crowded city, when they could just be with you, their best friend from before birth. You were always growing, improving, and catering to growing families; and there always seems to be a new place being built on every corner. What once was farmland is now a shopping center, but nobody cares.
Even though, you try not to identify as the stereotypical hick-like Hoosier from Indiana, everyone can't help but know that the corn is always knee high by the Fourth of July, we are top providers of limestone, our state bird is a cardinal, and we are above all else "the crossroads of America." Sure, we might root for the Bears instead of the Colts, but everyone still knows that Hoosier basketball is the best in the country and Notre Dame Football is a must. And anyway, who can resist a quick getaway to Chicago, for a few hours to see the museums and eat in Chinatown.
But even if people run out of exciting things to do with you, they can sit around the table and talk about the three essential conversation starters to life with you: the weather, the past, and their past problems with the weather. If people aren't talking about your sky high gas prices, they are complaining about your gosh-darn, unpredictable weather. Like who can forget the blizzard of '93 when the concrete telephone poles snapped or the heat wave of 2012 when all the corn up and down I-65 turned brown?
Growing up I always heard the common phrase, "I heard it's supposed to be in the 60s for the rest of this week, and then drop back down below zero by Monday." Sometimes I would hear this in December, other times March. People never really knew if you were going to give them a hot summer or a really bad winter. I can't help but wonder if being located on the cusp of both Tornado Alley and the Snowbelt has anything to do with our bipolar weather, but then again I'm no meteorologist. In other news, I hear the storm of the century is coming next year, but then again they said that last year, too.
But no matter how much people complain about the extreme cold or the unpredictable weather, few will move away to somewhere warmer. Everyone always replies, "Well I like having all four seasons. I don't know what I would do without a winter." Sure you give us all four seasons, but resident beware, the dates are highly tentative, and winter will not be hesitant to slip in an appointment a few months before it is scheduled (and now that I think about it, a few months after as well).
No matter what, day in day out, you're a love that sticks in the hearts of everyone you touch. Sure people can move about from one side of you to another, but there are only rumors of people who left you for another man or woman. People can woe and complain about suburban life, but we have it pretty good here and we know it. Between winter Bears parties and summer pool parties and barbecues people can't really ask for much else. Sure there will always be gossip and there will always be complaining and there will always be drama, but maybe we like it that way.