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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: May 3, 2018

The Journey Home

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,




My husband and I have been planning and looking forward to our return to Wisconsin for a decade. It's almost upon us now " just 45 more days. And I'm feeling like I am riding along in one of those whirlpools that goes down a bathtub drain " circling and circling, faster and faster, until we are gone. Because besides the move, in the next 45 days my husband retires after 37 years and 335 days of work for the same company; finishes his radiation treatment; we celebrate 33 years of marriage AND our daughter gets married, in Seattle.

I am experiencing the same conflicting emotions I had when we moved here with our two small kids 18 years ago. So many details, decision and arrangements to make " finding a house, new doctor, dentist, vet, church, changes of addresses. The move here was complicated with kids and school choices " the trip back is complicated with the building of a home. In both moves there are hard goodbyes to be made; and things to look forward to.

I call the innumerable trips we've made by highway and skies back and forth between Oklahoma and Wisconsin the "Trail of Tears," after the reprehensible forced relocation of the Native Americans from eastern tribes here to Oklahoma. My situation in no way as grim and tragic as that, but it is still painful to reflect that in our time here my husband and I have lost three of our four parents back "home;" missed numerous funerals including those of aunts and uncles; births; weddings and other celebrations; serious illnesses of loved ones we were unable to help support; and other milestone events, both joyful and sad.

When we left, we left behind our parents, siblings, beloved uncles, aunts and cousins, and dear friends. We look forward to rejoining them. When we leave this time, it will be our son, our daughter-in-law and her kind extended family who welcomed us to family gatherings like we were their own, plus the utterly charming granddaughter left in our wake. That makes this move every bit as painful as the last one. Since our daughter and her fiancé are in Seattle; it matters not if we fly from Oklahoma or Wisconsin to see them.

It certainly does not mean leaving behind our animal friends, like last time, we will be relocating dogs and cats, plus this time, two geriatric horses. I can tell you that most cats do not enjoy long vehicle rides. On our trip here, my son's cat yowled non-stop the entire 16 hour overnight trip. On arrival, she was so exhausted all she could get out was a barely audible croak, none the less, she persisted. Also left behind here is our pet cemetery with all four of the pets we relocated here from Wisconsin; Scooter the dog and Glassie, Belle and Boots the cats. Since then we've also buried Magic, the horse; Zoey the dog; and Oklahoma cats: Osama Bin Kitten; Halder; Shadow; and Clyde. Each has a carefully painted grave marker; those markers have been pulled up to come with us, to be used to establish a rock garden of memories on our land.

Things that were painful to leave behind in Wisconsin beyond people, included our beloved Menominee River home. I was happy I was not there the day our pontoon boat, "Looney Tunes" went to her new home. So many happy times on that beautiful river swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking with our kids; and probably the reason I still miss that house.

I do not feel the same emotional attachment to our home here. The new owners are delightful people with two boys who have the same love of animals and "country life" that we do. When I first met them I was amazed to see two baby goats in a dog crate in their kitchen. They were being bottle-fed; and went out for walks with their four dogs like just funny-looking parts of their dog pack. My daughter said to me, "Mom, does it bother you to know there will be goats in the kitchen (that you keep so clean?)" But it doesn't bother me a bit. They are the right kind of people to enjoy this place, and I like thinking of it as "theirs." I already am starting to feel like a "renter" here now.

But I look forward to experiencing the stunning autumns on our land; establishing a garden that won't need to be on life-support of watering every day to survive the heat; and neighborhood fish fries. Most of all; I will be achieving my life-long dream: a highly practical mud room, a feature I have longed for in my homes my entire married life. When people ask me about all the myriad choices to be made when building a new home, the only thing I do is rave about my mud room. I never wanted to build a house; and would not be building one now if there was already one on our land. But there isn't; despite the travails and decisions involved in building, at least I'm getting my dream mud room.

And I take comfort in knowing that with my husband's pending retirement, we will be free to travel " back down the trail of tears south, to visit the Oklahoma family we leave behind.



Happy birthday to my Mom on May 8. I always tell people I never could have worked the hours I did and been on call so much when my kids were small if my Mom had not always been there for them, and for Mike and I. Looking forward to taking you out for dinner in person, Mom.

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


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