Tears at the Border

7 07 2010

I am not a super emotional person.  I never have been.  Every now and then, however, some memory, some sight, some smell, some thing, will sneak up on me, grab my heart and bring me to tears.  I usually hate it when this happens.  Well, hate may be too strong a word, but I do get really embarrassed.

Crossing state borders usually does not bring me to tears, but twice in my life I have cried crossing the Wisconsin state border.

At about 4:00 a.m. on July 21, 1996, with my car packed to the brim with all my worldly belongings it could hold, I followed my parents in their car holding more of my worldly belongings pulling a trailer overflowing with even more of my stuff as we cruised south down I94.  Since my folks live in southeastern Wisconsin, it didn’t take too long for us to reach the Wisconsin-Illinois border.  As I crossed the border into Illinois, I laughed.  Actually, it was more of a giggle.  The kind of giggle you let loose when you know you’re about to receive that one special Christmas present you’ve been wishing for all year.  Then I cried.

To say I was emotional was an understatement.  I had made the decision in January of that year to leave my home state and move to San Antonio.  I was in a low paying, fairly dead-end job that I didn’t enjoy, and I was absolutely sick of winter and being cold.  I wanted to move as far south as I could and still remain in the US.  I had a close college friend who had moved to San Antonio the year before, so without ever having been to the city, or the state of Texas for that matter, I decided that San Antonio would be my new home. 

I left everything I knew, everything I was comfortable with that July day in 1996, and cried tears of joy and excitement, and probably some tears of anxiety as well, as I crossed the Wisconsin border into Illinois.  I had no job waiting for me.  I had only gotten an apartment two weeks before.  I had no idea what God had in store for me, but I knew this is what I was supposed to be doing.  Little did I know that I would meet and marry my love in SATX as well as find my calling to be a teacher.

The second time I cried crossing the Wisconsin state border was just a few days ago on July 3, 2010.  This time I was not heading away, but heading toward.  This time, though, I was in a van with my husband, two boys, and a dog.  I was so suddenly overcome with emotion as I crossed the Mississippi River from Wabasha, MN into Nelson, WI, I was really embarrassed.  I turned my head to the window and said a quick thank you to God that I had my sunglasses on so my husband wouldn’t see the tears.  I wasn’t even sure why I was crying.  Was I happy?  Sad?  Tired?  Regretful?  I finally settled on nostalgic.

Countless childhood memories overwhelmed my mind:  one week each summer spent at my Grandma Sobota’s house in Independence with my cousins as we played dentist, teacher, and Mass.  (Growing up Catholic, we played Mass.  I’ll explain that one in another post someday.)  Adulthood memories also flooded me:  riding my bike 15 miles every day after work on the amazing bike trail along the Chippewa River.  I almost laughed out loud when I remembered the summer after college where I was the team captain for a bar league sand volleyball team comprised of people I worked with, despite the fact that I stink at volleyball and I don’t drink.

So while I pondered my tears this time, at first thinking I was simply remembering the “good ole days,” I now think maybe there might have been some tears of regret mixed in; regret at having wasted the time and opportunities my youth offered in this beautiful place.  I want my children to experience all the amazing things I did as a child.  I want them to see the beauty of the state I couldn’t wait to leave 14 years ago but now return to with longing.  I took Wisconsin for granted each of the 23 years I lived there before venturing south in 1996.  I vow not to make that mistake again.

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