July 20, 2013

Day 1: Milwaukee

Today, Sam and I packed up the kids and embarked on a road trip. Our destination is Washington, D.C., but the journey is half the adventure.

The drive through Wisconsin was lovely: purple and yellow wildflowers filled the median, and billowy clouds drifted across the blue sky. We were surprised by the abundance of adult bookstores, highway patrol cars, and roadside cheese emporia. We avoided the first two but couldn't resist the pull of the third.

The worst part of the day came courtesy of a trucker with a self-satisfied obscenity painted on his cab. I was in the left lane when he abruptly merged left, forcing me off the road. Hurtling along the dirt and grass at 75 mph, I felt the panic of losing control, the fear as I merged back onto the road in a cloud of dust, and the relief when I realized we were safely back on the freeway.

My heart pounding, I wanted to set things right. I followed the truck as he weaved between lanes and asked Sam to snap a photo, thinking we could tell the driver's supervisor. No "How am I driving?" message. An Internet search revealed that the trucking company was a one-man operation, hence the tagline on his truck: "Living the f**ing dream." 

Sometimes there is no place to send your righteous indignation. Sometimes you have to hang on to it, carry it around, maybe flip it over and look for the positive side. We made it. We are safe. My family and I got another day in this world.

And it was a good one.

We arrived in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, home of the Glores, one of my "Fargo families." My parents befriended Jim and Barbara more than 30 years ago, when their daughter Courtney was my preschool classmate. Along with two other families, a friendship formed.

Some people spend holidays with aunts, uncles and cousins. We spent them with Glores, Harnisches, and Pedersens. With our biological relatives in Poland or on the East Coast, we forged our own traditions: Doug's bacon wrapped Thanksgiving turkey, Robbie's mac and cheese. July 4 meant bottle rockets over the Peterson farm and Christmas meant a rum-soaked Polish walnut cake. The kids played together, the adults laughed and discussed current events, the wine flowed freely, and everyone stayed up til the point of exhaustion.

Life scattered us, away from Fargo, away from one another, but the bond held. We could go years without seeing each other and pick up without missing a beat. There comes a point when you have known people long enough that you are part of each other's story, permanently. 

Tonight, several of us converged for a mini-reunion. I felt exactly what a generation feels like. It is introducing my preschooler to my preschool classmate's preschooler. It is hearing my husband jump into a wine-enhanced political discussion like my dad would have. It is realizing that my parents, who seemed so worldly and wise, may well have been winging it, just as I am today. 

Courtney and I were their age when we met. Now, we're their moms. 

When Brooke's son met Courtney's daughter, it was magic.

Sam and Brian didn't grow up in Fargo, but they fit in the family well.

Good night, Wisconsin, and thank you for reminding me what a gift it is to be here, surrounded by people who have known me my whole life, drinking wine and sharing memories and writing the next chapter of the family story.


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