It's 20 degrees outside right now in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a sweetheart of a town that I have embraced with an enthusiasm that baffles many, including my other half, Rich, who grew up in nearby Brookfield. Both of these suburbs are considered "metro Milwaukee" for their proximity to one of America's most underappreciated cities. Indeed, our little midcentury prairie-style house, the ugly duckling in a charming neighborhood of stately stone Tudors, lies but a few blocks from the Milwaukee city line.
What many do not realize is that Hartford, Connecticut, the town in which I grew up in, is quite similar to Milwaukee. Furthermore, West Hartford, the leafy New England suburb where we actually lived, is a doppelganger for Wauwatosa. There are so many aspects to life here that I find familiar and comforting... the grocery store where the manager and the cashiers recognize you, the old school hardware store that still smells like a hardware store and has pretty much everything you could ever need. And if they don't have it, you probably don't need it anyway. I write often about how much I appreciate the wholesome, Midwestern vibe that has become a part of my life, and right now, with the hangover of the recent election still hovering over me like a big black cloud, I've never been more grateful to be a bit removed from the madness of the New York-Palm Beach scene, where so much of what, and who is disturbing me, is unavoidable.
It's not easy not really living here, or anyplace else for that matter, full time. And while lots of people think our peripatetic life is glamorous- the three residences (all albeit small) and the insane amount of work-related travel that has us perpetually on airplanes, the reality is that there is a significant downside. It's hard to maintain friendships when you're always leaving town, and clothes get dislocated. My favorite brown leather gloves are on the shelf in the closet in New York instead of here where I could use them, and incredulously, there are only 2 white button down shirts instead of the 6 that I could have sworn would be waiting for me. Thank God for today's no iron technology, as I will be washing shirts often this trip.
But the real kicker is that the car won't start. AAA has already been here to evaluate the situation- an attempted jump from their truck was futile- so now a tow truck is on the way to take my "old faithful" of a station wagon, which has never seen snow, to a mechanic who will try to look at it next week. It's times like this that I wish we were in fewer places for longer periods of time, where cars get started daily and you end up with too many shirts- more than you could ever possibly wear. We now call that future moment "Dog Day," as that will be the time when we can finally welcome a dog back into our lives, as that's something that we both miss dearly.
But honestly, not enough shirts? Too much travel? A car that won't start- but certainly will with a little fix? It's way too easy to forget that there are way too many people who don't have enough clothes to stay warm or a decent roof over their heads- or enough to eat or firm ground under their feet. And a large part of my current malaise is the fear that the man whom this country has chosen to lead it, one who lives in a golden tower and a Palm Beach palazzo, isn't thinking enough about those issues either, if at all.
I guess what that means is that we all have to do whatever we can, on our own, to improve the lives of our most vulnerable fellow citizens. It means caring and sharing as much as we possible- and never allowing the dark forces of greed, mockery, ego and indifference to overshadow humility, generosity, compassion and love- values that I fear are in dangerously short supply. Let's all make those our gifts to each other... it beats anything you could ever order on Amazon.
Wishing you all Happy Holidays!