Anyone who grows up in Missouri or Kansas knows that a rivalry runs deep between these two states. Some speculation attributes this rift to the fact that, during the Civil War, Kansas was a free state while Missouri was a slave state. Others translate this deep-lying chasm in terms of collegiate sports that pit the Jayhawks of Kansas against the Missouri Tigers.
Whatever the case, we on the Missouri side mutter comments about "Kansas drivers" under our breath, while Kansans, I'm sure, have the same or worse to say about those of us who dare to crawl behind the steering wheel of a vehicle and venture westward across the state line. Likewise, we Missourians are quite sure that the only reason anyone would drive through Kansas is because that is the only direct route to the ski slopes of Colorado.
Since four of my grandchildren live in a little Kansas town three hours away from my Missouri home, I find myself crossing frequently into "enemy" territory. But I was never so aware of how far these differences reached until recently when Pooh came to spend a week with me here in Missouri.
He came during a week our local community college was hosting a "Kids' College" course for preschoolers called "Adventures in Science." Thus, he spent a great week learning about dinosaurs, volcanoes, plants, planets, and the like every morning from 9 until noon. For this occasion, his mama packed his travel bag with five clean, nicely matched sets of shirts and shorts.
On the first morning of Kids' College, Pooh and I both woke up excited. We basked in the anticipation of the activities ahead amid a flurry of cereal and fruit and yogurt. We were going along great with our preparations for school when, suddenly, Pooh balked. "But I am in Missouri, Googie," he lamented. "I can't wear Kansas clothes."
Just like that, the boy took on a problem that I thought belonged solely to the teenage girl. He had nothing to wear. The clock was ticking, and I had to think fast.
Luckily, all the grandkids have a little size- and season-appropriate "stash" of extra clothes, mostly from yard sales, that I keep on hand for just such emergencies. Usually, we can scrounge up the likes of underwear, a swimsuit, a pair of jammies, or an extra shirt.
However, there has been a lot going on lately, and I haven't had a chance to restock the stashes. Although there are ample hand-me-downs for the younger kids, my on-hand supplies for the biggest boy and girl are a little slim. To make a long story a little bit shorter, I had plenty of Missouri shirts, but was sadly lacking in the pants/shorts department.
With the situation escalating to crisis proportions (meaning we were about to be late for the first day of school), I had to do some fast talking in my most convincing tone. "Nobody notices your shorts," I told Pooh with my fingers crossed. "They just look at your shirt."
I don't think Pooh bought into this explanation completely, but I didn't really give him a chance. We zipped up his Kansas shorts, threw his Missouri shirt over his head, stepped into his clogs on the run, and ended up in the van, where he was easily distracted by a SpongeBob movie.
It was our version of The Missouri Compromise. It would work, I figured, as long as I remembered to do a laundry load of Missouri shirts about mid-week.
Here, you see Pooh, on the right, instructing his cousin Beenie on the logistics of a shape sorter. Obviously, his Missouri shirt shows up quite well, while the Kansas shorts are barely noticeable. A crisis was averted, and I am now, more than ever, a believer in the value of compromise.