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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: November 1, 2017

You Can Go Home Again



By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



**********

Slowly but surely we are making progress in our process of moving from Oklahoma back to Wisconsin. Step one was getting a barn built on our land, and while I was in the motherland for the start of construction, I had to be back in Oklahoma before the barn was finished. So Mike and I drove back to Wisconsin with a trailer full of possessions to store in the finished barn, without having seen it in finished condition. We arrived in Halder after a tiring 14 hour trip, well after dark, and stayed the night with my accommodating brother-in-law and his wife. We arose full of anticipation early the next morning to drive the l/2 mile north to see the finished barn together for the first time.

The initial thing I saw on approaching our driveway was not the beautiful new barn. Instead, it was a sight that just screamed "you are home" to me. What caught my attention was a very large dead deer, freshly hit, right at the end of our driveway. She was surrounded by shards of a vehicle, and I was comforted knowing she did not suffer but probably died almost immediately. The unknown driver, I am certain, faces a lengthy period of insurance claims and repairs.

Seeing a deer hit by a vehicle where we live in Oklahoma is so rare it would be a topic of dinner conversation. When my husband and I are home in Wisconsin, we are constantly on alert for deer and reminding one another to slow down. It is so totally a part of life in the north woods, especially at this time of year, that my sorrow and empathy for the deer was a bit offset with a grounded, "you are home" feeling. The deer are a driving hazard of life in rural Wisconsin, just like earthquakes and tornadoes are a part of life in Oklahoma.

After settling into our camper parked inside our new barn, I made a grocery store run to the closest store. I only needed a few "survival supplies," (like cheese and beer, as the true Wisconsinites we are,) but as I checked out, the cashier asked me if I had a store card. Rather than launch into an explanation of the fact that I lived in Oklahoma, I just said no. The man in line behind me, who had been chatting up everyone around us and obviously was a regular, quickly told the cashier to use his for my order. This was a very sweet gesture. He was open to doing a simple act of kindness, saw an opportunity, and acted.

"I am home." There are deer on the roads, there are friendly people in the store. Off to the local corner bar for a fish fry that night. There was a big crowd, but somehow room for us at a table. The waitress was friendly and accommodating, the company exceptional. It's Friday night, the locals are out for a fish fry, and I am here among them. "I am where I belong." This is what my life will look like soon, all the time. Fish fries (except for catfish,) are not a part of life in Oklahoma, that space being filled by Friday night BBQ.

We went to church on Saturday evening. Due to scheduling concerns we passed on the tiny local church in Halder, full of our future neighbors, which would be my preference. Instead, we went into the city of Mosinee. While there, we ran into my husband's niece, her husband and their three children. After church, we chatted and I asked what their evening plans were " none. So they came out to the barn, our current home in Wisconsin, along with my brother-in-law and his wife for brats, chips, cookies and a bottle of champagne to toast our first foothold back home. No water yet at the barn, and only a generator for power " but that's all part of the fun of a barn warming. The two great-nephews rode to our land with us in our truck, and we got a chance to be filled in on their school activities and current interests. These boys were born and have been growing up while we have been away; it is fun to get to know them better. Running into family and friends around town; being able to be present for good times and for bad for both my family and his; it is so good to be home.

Before we departed for Oklahoma I gathered some corn stalks from a neighboring field and built a corn shock with a pumpkin at the door to our barn. I won't be there to see it for a while, all the same, I love knowing it is there. The barn is beautiful to me, but the presence of the fall decorations is the presence of a heart " mine.

Yes, you can "go home again." I am clicking my heels three times like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, "there is no place like home" and I will soon be transported back to Wisconsin where I belong.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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