As I sit here, a passenger in my own car, getting closer and closer to the border that takes me away from you, I am flooded with thoughts on how wonderful you really are. After an amazing week with family on my old stomping grounds, I can’t help but grieve a bit having to leave.
The first time I left you was at 18 to go to college, and although I missed you desperately, I’m so thankful I went because I may never have known what I had. Immediately after college, I came back and got to experience a whole new piece of you that I had no idea was so wonderful; Madison. Anyone who has been there understands, and you get the common response, “Oh, I love Madison.” For 10 unforgettable years, Madison, the heart of you, welcomed me with open arms. I fell so in love with life that I started my family there, wanting more than anything to give them the roots that I have such a profound love for. For them to feel as connected and apart of you as I always have.
But then, once again, the dream of something bigger took me away from you. So far away that I almost couldn’t tell you were still there. You, and all of the beautiful people you hold, that are ingrained in who I am, suddenly felt like they were in a different world. I yearned for cheese curds from one of you dive bars; a Friday night fish fry; cowboy boots and country music; and a Sunday Packer game surrounded by friends and family.
What’s crazy is that as a teenager, I wanted to get out of here so bad. I thought, why Wisconsin? I’ll go somewhere warmer; more exotic and exciting. And I did. And it was really really great. But, it wasn’t you. It wasn’t rolling hills and farm fields. There wasn’t the faint smell of cow manure, the 4 distinct seasons, and most importantly …the feeling of home. And right now I can’t come back to you just yet. I get just these small glimpses of your beauty every few months when I come home to visit. But, I want more. I want to drive to your capital and watch the ironman. I want to ride my bicycle on your back country roads. I want the simple pleasure of just sitting with friends or family and enjoying one of your summer days. Because, we both know, there is nothing, anywhere, quite like one of your summer days.
Right now my head is spinning with memories of the things that have happened on your soil. Eric Church is playing on the radio and all I can think about is the time that we went to see him at a county fair with our great friends. Friends that we no longer get to see very often. We parked in a muddy corn field, hopped out and rolled up our jeans …you see, growing up with you by my side I knew a little mud wasn’t going to hurt me. What was more important was the company and the good times we were about to have. Times that I didn’t realize I remembered so clearly until this second … but will, obviously, never forget. We stood there that night drinking (a few too many) cheap beers from a plastic cup, laughing at things that didn’t make any sense, and listening to the music that would end up defining that decade of my life. Some may argue that this memory doesn’t sound overly profound. But what is profound about it, is how intensely I can remember the perfect state of contentment I was in that night … similar to so many other nights I had while living under your sky.
The fact that you keep getting taken away from me is what makes me fall more in love. You’ve brought so much happiness and beauty to my life and I want my babies to experience that. I want them to ride their bikes on your streets. I want them to feel safe and secure. I want them to grow up surrounded by sincere, warm, humble, and fun people. People that understand what life is all about just like you and I do.
So, Wisco, this isn’t goodbye again. It’s just a see you later. Someday I will be back. And when I get that chance, this time I won’t leave. Because even though I’ve left and followed many dreams before, it’s now your turn. Now, you’re the dream.