my old path

The pressure’s off, as I just found out I haven’t won the MKE Blog of the Week contest, which is a let-down, but certainly not the end of the world. It’s basically a random popularity contest, although, I admit, it would have been cool to win. But when I checked out the other winners, I didn’t even feel they were exceptional company, so I feel okay about it.


In my quest to remain the eternal “cool” sister, I took my sister shopping for Christmas today. I can remember more than a few gifted articles of clothing I received from well-meaning relatives over the years that collected significant dust before heading to the neighborhood thrift shop, so this year I offered to shop with my sister and let her pick out some things rather than just take random stabs at what she might like.

There was already an inch of fresh snow on the ground as I made my way to my parents’ house to pick up Kayla. It had been falling lightly since after noon and had not yet created slippery roads and traffic jams, still remaining an element of that picturesque winter beauty. As I drove into my old neighborhood, I took note of “the path,” as I used to frankly call it, something I have not only seen, but biked, walked, skipped and probably skinned my knee on since I was a small child.

Watertown Plank Road runs through Elm Grove, my “hometown” or home suburb, which butts up against the western edge of Milwaukee county. Because of its location, large lots and small-town feel, it’s now a considerably wealthy and desirable suburb. There’s still a little (albeit struggling) main street with a post office, ice cream parlor, one pub, boutique shopping and a few nice restaurants. Up until about five years ago there was an old pharmacy complete with an old-fashioned fountain where we used drink root beer floats or munch on french fries when we were kids. This place had been around many decades before I can remember, and when it closed, although many of its old patrons had long passed away, it still inspired a pang of nostalgia for my comparatively recent youth.

Elm Grove was my playground as a kid. I used to go to a neighborhood day care and the other kids and I would ride our bikes to the nearby Stop & Go (to buy candy bars) or to the Elm Grove Park to go swimming or explore the park. When we were a little older, we’d bike to “the Grove,” meaning the little downtown, to get an ice cream or wander around Sentry foods or just ride around for the sake of riding around. Once we rode behind the Sentry and discovered there was a gravel path that meandered through a little woods behind the local theater and office buildings all the way to the PDQ out on Bluemound Road, the main highway that runs through Brookfield, our larger, more commercialized and typical suburban neighbor to the west.

I know most of Elm Grove like the back of my hand. When someone tears down one of the 1950’s ranches or one of the older cape cods, I notice, and say things like “how can they build that monstrosity on that lot?” I sound, no offense to any of my elders, like an old person, lamenting my bygone youth and how much things have changed so quickly. A new trend in Elm Grove is the practice of the wealthy buying an older, usually unique and quaint home on one of the many large lots lush with big old trees, then tearing down the house and some of the trees to build a mega-house typical of the newer cookie-cutter subdivision houses that litter Brookfield and many neighboring suburbs. I would hate to come home to Elm Grove in 20 years to see that a majority of those older homes that fit into the landscape without seeming intrusive and extravagant would have turned into more big tan two-and-a-half story monstrosities that look remarkably like they came out of a catalog.

I digress, back to my path. As I mentioned before, I was driving in the snow today, and as I turned off Watertown Plank road onto Blue Ridge Boulevard, my old street, I noticed that my path had about an inch of snow on it, and it was yet untouched. It was 3:30 pm, kids were getting out of school. Had this been 15 years ago they would have been walking the path home, heading to their houses or to their friends houses, making snowballs along the way or just kicking their way along the little strip of blacktop that lies between the road and the yards. Elm Grove is actually the kind of place where kids could still reasonably walk to school, to the park, to go get an ice cream in summer. But what I increasingly observe, is that the path seems untouched, until 4 or 5 pm, when a dogwalking middle-aged couple might go out, but the kids, they get rides or take the bus and then, sit down for some snacks and tv, or snacks and computer games, or snacks and Playstation. Whatever it is, I certainly remember my childhood a lot differently.


3 Responses to my old path

  1. Mary says:

    i hear you. i feel like i want to look forward to the rest of my life, to getting old, but i feel increasing obstacles in that path, the desire to look back and say, man, didn’t it seem easier then?

    i wouldn’t want to be a child now. not with all these video games and all this pre-teen commercial marketing. but i suppose it’s true that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

    seriously, let’s make a pact to REALLY REALLY enjoy getting older. someone’s gotta be in this with me.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Fermin does

  3. Anonymous says:

    Oops, I meant “Fermin is,” meaning, I am with you.

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