Friday, November 14, 2014

Thomas Wolfe was Wrong

I was fed up with Wisconsin.  Sick of the weather, the provincialism of it all, so when I was twenty-six years old, I threw what little I owned in my car and high-tailed it down Route 66.  Let ‘em eat cheese, I thought. Do the polka. Life in the City of Angels, bright lights, big city— that’s for me. 

And for many years it was. I worked steadily as an actress in Hollywood, fell in love with a man from Milwaukee in Malibu, of all places. We were married and had kids. I should’ve been happier than I was. I was living the dream. Why then couldn’t I shake the feeling that I was missing something? What could I possibly be yearning for in the land of milk and honey?    

Potato rolls. Mama Mia’s pizza and butter-drenched garlic bread. Cream-filled coffee cakes from Meurer’s Bakery, the one with the streusel on top.  Bratwurst. My dreams were a buffet. But it was more than food that I was craving.  Mountains, shmountains.  I missed the predictable flatness of Wisconsin.  The fierce thunderstorms.  The flaming reds and oranges of October. And the people. I missed them, too. The kind of folks who lived in the same neighborhoods they grew up in and took pride in lending a helping hand. 

It didn’t happen overnight. It took awhile for me to figure out that I wanted to run back home. Not just for me, but my kids. I became obsessed with them growing up the way I’d grown up. I wanted to gift them with the same kind of childhood I held so dear.  Eating schnitzel. Drinking out of bubblers. Fourth of July parades. Bradford Beach. First snows.    

I casually dropped the idea of moving back to Milwaukee at a fancy-schmancy cocktail party a friend was throwing in the Hollywood Hills. She looked at me aghast. “Are you kidding?" she said. "Do they even have fruit there?”

My husband, thank goodness, could at least envision the idea. While not missing home the way I was, he understood my desperate need to give the kids what we’d had growing up.  To ground them in the solidness of it all. 

So back we came. 

And ya know, Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You actually can go home again. Everything was right where I'd left it. Supper that night was Mama Mama’s pizza and garlic bread beneath a tree in our new backyard that was on fire with Fall. We fell asleep to a thunderstorm of epic proportions. And early the next morning, after I'd picked up a Meurer’s cream-filled coffee cake, I drove home down the streets I had driven down so many time times before, brushed the streusel topping off my lips, and realized that for the first time in a long time that gnawing feeling in my soul had disappeared.   


Anonymous said...

I love this! So succinct, but full of honest emotion.

Lesley Kagen said...

Thank you, McGuffy:)