My in-laws moved from Milwaukee to Southern California for fifteen years and when they would return for a visit to see family and friends my mother-in-law fondly referred to Wisconsin as "the old country". They moved back to Wisconsin in 2004, and now, when we come for a visit [from Texas], it seems fitting to use the same phrase.
Our family has been living in the Dallas area for six years now, and we always find an excuse to make an annual visit to our home state to see family and friends. As much as we miss family gatherings during the holidays, we have not felt compelled to brave the sixteen hour drive north during the dead of winter. Summer has always been the perfect time to make the trek.
This year feels different though. And I keep trying to figure out why. I have even discussed it with Tom several times over the past few days, yet I just cannot put my finger on why this visit feels less than the usual awesome.
I thought maybe if I spent some time writing about it I may come up with the answer.
Bare with me...
We are in Wisconsin to celebrate my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary which is an absolutely wonderful reason to be in town. Everyone wants to make a big deal and congratulate newlyweds, but the reality is a man and a woman who can weather the big and little stresses of daily life together (including, but not limited to raising children, moves, career changes, aging parents) really deserve so much more praise. It was a truly great privilege to be a part of their celebration.
Since our arrival in Milwaukee we have been able to catch up with some good friends, have all of our favorite Milwaukee foods (and then some...), enjoy perfect summer weather...
SO WHAT IS MY PROBLEM?!?!?!?!?!?!
The problem, is that I feel like a visitor.
I don't feel like this [Milwaukee] is "home" anymore. Life has moved on...we can't quite remember the route to our friends cottage on Eagle Springs Lake any longer (thank God for G.P.S.), there are several friends we aren't going to see because their lives [like ours] have moved on, and we have nice/polite/fairly surface conversations with family members we see for an evening, but nothing truly deep and meaningful...
What I am sharing here is no one's fault, it's just the way life is. When you move away, some things stay the same (like the taste of a Kopps peanut butter log), but with the passage of time, people's lives change and grow further and further apart.
What we gained in moving to Texas was a mild winter (which, don't get me wrong, IS A BIG DEAL to this girl who HATES cold and snow).
What we lost though was equally as important.
What we lost was the ability to converse on a regular basis over Sunday dinner with our extended family, the long standing ties we had with the communities we grew up in, and the belly laughs with friends who know the love of a stuffed rooster...(long story).
So while our lives will continue to take shape in Texas, (we have indeed found a sprinkling of people who have grown close to our hearts there), I want those I enjoy in Wisconsin to know you are a rare and special breed of people.
Life "in the old country" can be challenging, from the weather to the economics, but the values upheld and taught and the down to earth nature of the people who live here just isn't seen or felt where we are living now. And while I would never want to move back (yes, that's how much I abhor winter six months of the year) I will always enjoy our visits with nostalgia.