Making the Move Moving to northern Wisconsin as a young girl was a scary and confusing time. Having been born in Chicago, all I knew was a big city, the crowds of people, the nonstop traffic and all the noises. My home, it was the only place I knew. How could my parents make a decision like this? How could they make me move to a place I had only visited once before — but barely remembered? The sadness I felt was so overwhelming during that transition that I told myself that if I ever had a family, I would never make them move.
As an adult, many years later, look back and almost chuckle. My family and I have moved many times, for work or family and even adventure. Now as an adult, I push my children to find adventure in every move we make. After loading up our yellow Ryder moving truck, I remember walking through my empty house one last time. My grandma was not in the kitchen cooking me a snack. I did not see my sister in the bedroom playing with our dolls. I had never seen such and empty, lonely-looking house. I walked down the back stairway to the yard.
It was not that big, but it was my yard and it was all I knew. My big wheel was not by the garage, where I always kept it, and the gate was unlocked to the back alley. The yard was empty, not howl had remembered it when my sister and I used to play with the neighbor kids, with toys strewn everywhere, baby carriages for our dolls tipped over and our jump ropes laying across the walkway. Every once in a while, our big bouncy ball would hop the fence into our neighbor’s flower bed and we would run into our porch yelling for grandma because the neighbor lady would not yell at her!
As I strolled through the walkway, looking back at my yard, I reached my hand out, almost able to touch the house right next to ours. My mom yelled for me, I felt an overwhelming urge to cry, I turned to face the side of my house, extended my arms and kissed the building as if it were a relative I knew I would never see again. My mom and dad were divorcing and my sister, brother and I were leaving our south-side home in Chicago and moving with my mom six hours away to a small town somewhere in northern Wisconsin. We settled in Merrillan, Wisconsin in late July, 1986.
The population at the time was eight hundred seventy-six. We moved into what felt like a large house close to the middle of our town, right near the major highway and only intersection. It was quiet, it was small and I did not like it. We would have to commute a ways to the closest grocery store. There were no restaurants or stores around to walk to. My mom had to buy a car, something I only remembered my dad ever having. When we lived in the city, we rode the bus all of the time. It was fun for a kid. My dad would be at work and my mom and sister and I would jump on a bus and go visit my cousins.
If we went downtown, we would take the train, those were fun too. There were no trains or buses in Wisconsin, at least not where we moved to. Right before my mom brought home her first car, I remember sitting on the couch in our living room feeling trapped and angry! Our house came with a large yard and something called a driveway with a garage. We actually had trees in our backyard. Our house in the city had a really small yard; we had a fence around the perimeter that separated our yard from our neighbors. It also separated our yard from the alley that split our block through the middle.
I suppose an alley is kind of like a driveway except everyone on our block had access to drive through it. Having a tree in my backyard was new to my family. We had trees on our old city block, but they were small; at my new house we had tall trees called pine trees. My sister, brother and I learned how to make forts under those large pine trees. Our new friends liked playing outside under our pine trees. They also liked riding their bikes. A bike was something we never had in the city, my mom only let us play in our small, fenced-in yard. To be safe, we could not leave the fence.
At our new house, we were allowed to play in our neighbor’s yard and the following summer, when we got our own bikes, we were allowed to ride them around the block and sometimes even to the park – without an adult! School started for us shortly after we settled into our new home and utine. That is where the next challenge of moving started. My old school was in a really large building. My grandma used to wake my sister and I up in the morning, get us dressed, feed us breakfast and walk us four blocks to our school. Sometimes, when it was really cold, we would ride on the city bus.
Our playground had a few monkey bars and some swings on a cement lot with a fence. My old school also segregated the playground, girls played on one side and the boys played on another. When my grandma reached the gate for the girl’s side of the playground, she would always give us a big hug and a kiss. Even though it was embarrassing for a young girl to be kissed in public by her grandma, I always felt safe knowing she made sure I got to school and home with her by my side. My new school was the same school my mom and her brother and sister went to, when they were kids.
As a matter of fact, some of the teachers at the school were still there that had taught my mom. The school was very small and there were not many students in my class. I had to ride a yellow school bus because there was a rule that said if we lived on the other side of the only intersection in town, we had to ride the bus. My grandma did not move with us, she stayed with my dad in Chicago. It made me sad that she did not walk me to school anymore, it made me miss my old school and my old house. The kids on the bus were not very nice to my sister and I.
We looked different than most of the kids at my new school. We had long black hair and our skin was a little darker, as well. My sister and I also spoke a different langue than most kids because that is what my grandma spoke and that is what we were used to. The kids were mean at my new school because they did not understand where Chicago was and that people could speak different languages outside of this new town I now had to live in. When school was out for the summer, my sister and I got to leave my mom’s house and visit my father and grandma.
We were so happy for our trip we did not stop to think that we had changed in the last year. We were used to riding our bikes to the park and playing in our forts in our backyard. When we got back into the city, we could not do that. We were back to my dad’s small yard with a fence and very small trees that we could not make forts under. Half way into the summer, we started to miss our new house at our mom’s. We missed riding our bikes to the park and playing house under our tree forts. By the end of the summer we were happy to go home.
That is right, the home that we dreaded but now missed. Throughout the rest of my childhood, I would spend my school years in northern Wisconsin and my summers in the Southside of Chicago. As I got older, I learned how lucky I was to have been able to experience both worlds. My cousins in the city were jealous we got to ride horses, milk cows, and ski in the winter. My friends in the country thought I was so lucky that I got to visit the Sears Tower every summer and knew of all the cool, trendy songs before the roller rink played them.
Now, as adult, I look forward to my next move in life. Each new town or city I live in has its own special place. I do not get sad anymore leaving one house to move into another. I look forward to the change of environment and look forward to the new opportunities to learn about the area, including the people, culture and new foods. As a mom, I make each new move an adventure for our girls. I remember that feeling of losing something. In actuality, I was gaining. I want to make sure they see it that way, too. Life is an adventure, it should not be sad.