Driving up through Chicago to Milwaukee I am surprised at how close Chicago is to Wisconsin. I forget every time I visit. I expect the long drive from Portland to Seattle but I end up with an hour or so drive. Dennis drove, following the directions of the GPS, which has the intense desire to show us sights we never would have seen. I cannot figure why it took us down Countyline Road to get to Racine when two exits up there is a direct shot with only one turn to my Aunt’s.
Of course, somewhere on Countyline Road it also got confused, but I saw a sign for 30 and recalled driving on that north of my aunts. I am sure that if we go North we’ll run into something that either I recognize or the GPS will return.
Racine is the home of my mom’s family. My father’s family lives farther out in the county. Their mailing address is Franksville, which we used to pass through quickly with a nod to the Sauerkraut factory, where my grandmother worked until they forced her to retire when she was 70 or 75. I can’t remember which. Driving by there and out farther you end up in Raymond Center.
The farm is still there and still stands, though we don’t know for how much longer. It is strange to me to be at the farm with no one there. There were always people around. Someone always answered when you said, “Anybody home?” which was how you greeted people on the farm, opening the door, walking in and yelling that.
One of my aunts laughed remembering my Aunt Jenny doing that, as she saw everyone sitting around the table. What did she expect they said? We were all dead and these were our ghosts?!
Still, there was a habit of that and I found myself doing it in past years. But these days no one lives there and for the first time in it’s hundred or more years of life there is no one home at the farm. Sandi’s son has been mowing and it looks nice. I half expect a neighbor to come by and ask me what I’m doing skulking around the house and barn but no one comes. My cousin knows we’ve been there so no doubt there were phone calls being made where I couldn’t see them.
There’s 100 acres there that are all ours. I feel at home here in a way that nothing else is home. I don’t understand the draw but it is home. My husband thinks he could live easily in Wisconsin. Part of me hopes that this can be a place of retirement for us. There is even a ski hill down at Wilmot Mt. I can ski those runs and travel when I need something more substantial. Still Wisconsin is flat. How can I leave my hills in Seattle?
I am a child of two lands. I am my child of the land where I live here in Seattle. I am still drawn at my core to the land of my father and his father and his mother’s father. That land has my name on it. I have never lived there. Though I was born in Milwaukee, a fact I point out to my husband on our “tour” of the sights I must show him, I have never lived on the farm. Still that land calls me like no other. I know it is a place where my family has lived and it pains me that they might be moving on. If the money is right perhaps one of my cousins children will buy part of the land and live there. They feel the call too.
The people in Milwaukee and Racine are inevitably nice. I find people here much friendlier than in the Northwest, though I would be hard pressed to explain how. They are just a little more open. One friend described the people of the Northwest as passive aggressive. We all took that with a grain of salt as he is from New Jersey and they are all just aggressive. But I get a sense of what he means every time I visit the Midwest.
There are lovely people on our tour of the Pabst Mansion. I have been by it. My father has pointed it out. I have never been inside. I didn’t know you could go inside. I didn’t know there were tourist things to do in Milwaukee. After all, in my time here I have been chauffered often my father who showed me the sights of his childhood-the farm, Aunt Jenny’s, the Sauerkraut factory, Lee’s Hardware store, the corner where Jenny’s Hats used to be, the cemetery, the cemetery his mother is buried, the hospital I was born in, the apartments he and my mother lived in… so many places. And of course Leon’s.
It is a surprise to me that I can’t find the West Lawn Cemetery in the GPS. I know vaguely where it is so we find it. However, in Milwaukee as we look for Leon’s, I input Leon’s and there it is. A Milwaukee landmark. They have frozen custard to die for. Apparently Bill Clinton made a habit of visiting it when he was in Milwaukee. I am sure my father would not be pleased. He didn’t much care for Clinton. I don’t know why. Clinton was for everything my father believed in–it’s just that Clinton was a Dem and my father was an old style Republican.
The frozen custard tastes as good no matter what your particular political views.
And we head back to my Aunt’s. We’ll be visiting the cat bloggers at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. I am looking forward to this as I haven’t been there either and wonder that I’ve missed it. Chicago, after all, is not all that far.