This past weekend my husband and I and our friends from Milwaukee took a little trip down memory lane. For some time now I've wanted to get back to see a few places in Milwaukee that had many childhood memories for me and everyone was glad to go along for the ride.
I was born and raised in Milwaukee and moved away for one year ('67 - '68) while I taught second grade in Lancaster, California. After that year I moved back "home" where I lived until 1976 when our young family moved to Appleton, WI. I baulked at the idea of moving anywhere as I was "sold" on big city life and staying close to me Mom and Dad and sister Jill. But a job opportunity presented itself to my husband and, as a result, we pulled up stakes and made our way north.
I'd been back to Milwaukee a few times over the years, usually for one purpose or another but just didn't have sufficient time to visit the locations that held such vivid memories for me so we made it part of visit with my dear friend, Cindy and her husband, Tom.
Our first stop was my old high school, Milwaukee Lutheran. I wasn't surprised to much of it changed with building additions and expanded athletic fields but I was glad to see that the front of the school hadn't changed at all. I remembered the long cement sidewalk along the driveway where all the school buses would line up before and after school and I was immediately transported to this same place one cold and icy day when "it" happened. As I was walking to my bus, I slipped and fell under one of the buses that was idling as it loaded the kids, all anxious to go home. I look back on it now and laugh but at the time I was really scared. I couldn't get any traction to get myself literally "out from under" and I was panicking. Fortunately, an upper classman was able to get under the bus enough to grab me under the arms and pull me out. On the one hand I was relieved, on the other I was soooo embarrassed hoping no one saw what had happened. Well, you know how word travels. The next time the school newspaper came out it was there in black and white, names and everything. Now the whole world knew what happened. Yikes!
Our next stop was the house I remember most, the one I spent the most amount of years in, growing and growing up. It looked about the same and so did the neighborhood.
The thing that hit me was how close the houses were to one another, sometimes no more than 5-10 feet...and nobody minded! Neighbors were friendly and close, very few fences, too. I have a vivid memory of the ceiling in my room in that house, my fond memory in contrast to my mom's cover-up job. Mom, in an effort to mask a terrible cracked ceiling, wallpapered it, but not with just any wallpaper. This one had a background in deep navy blue and thousands of white stars. Every night I pretended to be sleeping under a starry umbrella. Lucky me!
From there we went a few blocks east to the house we probably didn't live in for more than a couple of years, a house I called my Mother's Goose house. It had a "pointy roof" with a strong pitch to it and I just remember the entry way, the front room and the kitchen. Most of all I had fond memories of the big window seat in the entry next to the front window. I sat there often and read my books. My mother made every place we lived so special, impeccably decorated even on a shoestring but always warm and welcoming. I remembered, too, the day the older sister of one of my friends talked me into going to the zoo a few blocks away. I never thought of what that would do to my mother, not knowing that I'd gone, so frantic thinking I was missing. How hard she hugged me when she found me there all the while admonishing me for having gone. I think that was the beginning of my empathy, understanding how someone else felt. When I became a mother myself I understood even better.
The last leg of our excursion was a drive down Vliet Street where I pointed out where the bakery had been, the corner grocery store and Koepke's drugstore where we'd stop after the bus dropped us off. There I had my first phosphate, lime was my favorite.
The last place we passed was the Times Movie theatre where they played art films. Mom had good time trying to explain that one. Remarkably it was still a theatre but there was where the similarity ended.We drove through town and I immersed myself in the days I remembered, days so long ago yet the memories were so vivid. I'm so glad we made that trip, certainly a trip to remember.