Friday, June 8, 2012

4th car on my train

I feel like I am traveling through life on a train.  It has several cars on it and I can walk from one to another.  The first one is a car for my childhood, say up to the beginning of high school. Second, a car for high school and college.  The third one for early married life, teaching the 5th grade, and graduate school.  Car #4 for moving to Wisconsin and teaching in college.  The 5th car for later teaching and distant education and a final 6th one for life in retirement.  Today is the 44th anniversary of car #4 being added to the train.  Even though the greater part of my life has gone by since that addition, it feels now like the mid-point, the pivot of my life.

Life in that car represented a big change. I moved from an urban Washington D.C-Baltimore environment to a small city located in a highly agricultural part of a highly agricultural state.  The climate changed from more humid and hot, with spring clearly evident in some Januaries and some Februaries to a drier, colder climate where spring was only a rumor in late April and summer gone by mid-September.  

The social atmosphere was more openly friendly.  I had lived in 7 different locations in Baltimore City before moving to college and my family had never experienced neighbors greeting us in our new place nor cakes being left on our doorstep as welcomes.  It was a novelty to meet a neighbor or colleague from work at another location in town since that virtually never happened in a city of 1 million.

Our first winter in Wisconsin was one of the coldest in all our years here but we found it was actually a drier cold and no more uncomfortable that we were used to, especially if we remembered to use gloves, winter hats and scarves. The spring weather, while later to arrive, seemed more glorious and uplifting.  We saw bluebirds, orioles and eagles.  We saw deer and occasional porcupines and a bear once in a while.

Most of the time, we are in a quieter place and have shorter daily distances to travel.  True, museums and special amusement parks are further but we didn't use them all that much in either location.  The schools have been good for our kids.  The local public library is a good one and the university library, plays and lectures have played a big part in enriching our lives.  The internet keeps us in close contact with people and books all the time.  In 1978, Lynn wrote a multi-media history of our town.  In the 34 years since then, a great deal has changed.  New lives begun and many important to us have ended.  But it is surprising how much has not changed.

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