(Fun fact: all of those terms are technically correct, though I think my preference is Illinoisian, for the sheer fact that there are a ridiculous number of I's involved.)
To be fair, my citizenship transfer was mostly official a few weeks ago, when I got my new driver's license. But now it's really really official, since my car is now an Illinoisian as well.
All this after a very unfortunate incident on Tuesday involving my getting pulled over in East St Louis, discovering my Missouri plates were actually expired, getting a ticket, and the police officer then driving off while still in possession of my drivers license and insurance card.
Yeah. It was a great day.
... Not really.
So. Yesterday I left early, went to the DMV, and got new Illinois license plates (for the low low cost of $200 plus that pesky expired plates ticket). I even put them on my car myself.
I admit, it was a weird feeling. After all, it's been ten years since I had Illinois plates. The drivers license was one thing, but the license plates seem somehow more official. I don't know if it's because I had to physically remove the very old and very battered plates and replace them with ones so new they practically sparkle. The whole car looks different and unfamiliar with them on.
For years, I called myself an Illinois ex-pat. Even though I was born in Germany, Illinois had always been my home. I grew up in Collinsville (notable only for the World's Largest Catsup Bottle and a remarkable absence of anything interesting to do besides hang out at Denny's). I went to college in Chicago.
I didn't grow up with dreams of leaving home for the great unknown. I'm a solidly Midwestern girl. I like the slower pace. I like the smaller towns. I like that traffic isn't a complete nightmare (at least... not all the time?).
Even though I've been all over the country, I've never once wanted to move outside of the Midwest. I don't even want to move outside the St Louis area, which is, thus far, as far as I've wandered from home.
A lot of people seem to have a lot of disdain for St. Louis. I've never understood that. It's a great town, not too big and not too small, filled with tons of things to do. It's not quite bustling, but certainly not pokey. There are a multitude of different neighborhoods, ethnic food galore, and we even have an IKEA now (like anything else matters?). There's a free zoo, free museums, festivals, great parks, an awesome baseball team, and highways that are continually under construction (and often all at the same time!).
Okay, maybe that last one isn't exactly a plus, but it is strangely endearing all the same.
It's all so very Midwestern-y, isn't it? There's gooey butter cake and toasted ravioli (which I actually despise). There's the World's Largest Catsup Bottle. There's farmland and county fairs and random French names that no one pronounces correctly. You can have every single season all in the same week.
It is, in a word, home. For all it's quirks and annoyances (Why are there no left turns on Gravois? Why are Illinois drivers so terrible? When will Kingshighway reopen?), I've never wanted to be anywhere else for very long.
They say home is where the heart is, and if I'm being honest, mine has always been here. It is most definitely here now, as the main reason why I moved back across the river to join the other Illinoisians in our ridiculously corrupt and broke state.
And so the ex-pat has come home. It wasn't a long way to travel, even though it took me 10 years to get here.
Not surprised? Neither am I.
After all, there's no place like home.