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Thanks for the Memories...

TricycleI highly recommend reaching out to the people who are—or were—important to you. It goes a long way toward making growing old a bit more bearable. (Photo: 123rf)

Since this blog is called Weighty Issues, you generally read suggestions about restraint, mindfulness, good habits, seasonal survival techniques, occasional recipes as well as a few hints about one of my least favorite activities, exercise. So today, I’m going to treat you to one of my most hearty recommendations to date – a long stroll…right down Memory Lane.

My husband George and I recently returned from a whirlwind weekend in (wait for it…) Milwaukee, Wisconsin, my hometown.  I figured that since he got to show me where he was raised, it was my turn, even though he didn’t exactly have to twist my arm to spend time exploring his old digs in Hawaii!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Home of cheese and beer and bratwurst. And Green Bay Packer fans. (Yes, I’m still a Packer fan!) Milwaukee is a very old city, divided into many neighborhoods. Some are very charming, others not so much.  I was lucky.  I grew up in the village of Shorewood, just about one mile from Lake Michigan. The houses are old, but very well kept.  The schools are beautiful—and award-winning—and everything was so green.  (I live in drought-ridden Los Angeles, remember. I had forgotten what green actually looks like!)

We were in town for a high school reunion for Shorewood High, where I would have gone if we hadn’t moved west when I finished sixth grade. Aside from a two-hour visit a few years ago, I hadn’t seen the old neighborhood in 25 years. Actually, 30 years. OK, 35, but that’s my last offer. While I didn’t actually go to high school with everyone at the reunion, I did go all through elementary school with many of them. 

The Good Ole Days

The nostalgia started on the morning after we arrived. Walking in for breakfast at the hotel, I spotted three guys at a table, looking to be in my generation. “They’ve got to be reunion guys,” I told George.  I scanned their faces, searching for any remnants of childhood. And there it was. I walked up to the table, excused myself for intruding, and asked one guy, “Are you, Bob?”  He looked at me quizzically.  “Yes,” he said. “Bobby?” I asked.  “Yes,” he answered after a brief hesitation. Being ever so prepared, I pulled an old photo out of my purse—two kids on tricycles—Bobby and me when we were three years old!  He jumped to his feet to greet me, acknowledging that he seldom rides tricycles anymore.

On to the old neighborhood. I took my hubby to my old house and was delighted to find it in such good shape.  As we were walking around the property, the owner came outside. “Don’t worry,” I said. “We’re not casing the joint, I was BORN here!”  He invited us in and showed us how he and his wife had updated the house.  I just loved it.  He asked about the den that adjoined the kitchen since none of the other houses on the block seemed to have it. “Where did it come from?”  he asked. “My dad built it, along with the sun deck upstairs,” I answered.

That was just the first of the many memories that came flooding back as we explored. That afternoon we had lunch with my best friend in elementary school, whom I hadn’t seen or communicated with since we left town. We picked up as if we saw each other last week!  It was surreal.  

George and I proceeded to take a drive along the lake so that I could show him the beach we rode to on our bikes, the lagoon where we went to feed the ducks, the huge apartment complex I painted when I took art lessons at age 10. (They thought I had talent. They were wrong.)

Then came the reunion itself. And the memories continued to flow. “Nancy!” my old friend Terry exclaimed. “Your mother used to make me egg salad sandwiches for lunch at your house!”  Judy, who became a costume designer for television; Jerry, who has directed several movies you would recognize (he couldn’t attend, but he FaceTimed!); and Pete, so funny and cute as a kid, grew up to be Assistant Secretary for Management and Chief Financial Officer for the US Department of the Treasury! You just can’t buy that kind of history.

What did I get out of all of this?  And what do I hope you get out of this story? Take that Memory Lane stroll one of these days. Reach out to the people who were so important to you—who were an integral part of who you became—and you may find that many of them actually still are! Share stories and laughs and, yes, a few tears. It makes getting older a bit more bearable. And I promise it will take some of the excesses off of your own weighty issues!

Stay well!  See you next time!

 

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