I was born in Madison Wisconsin. My very first home was in graduate student housing. My father was pursuing his PhD at the school. My parents were transplants from New York, they had relocated for the UW education. Our first house was on Bordner Drive. If I am to be kind, it was a modest home. It was red. The room we called our dining room had wallpaper printed with gigantic yellow flowers. My sister and I shared the upstairs as our bedroom. Our furniture was utilitarian and sparse. Money was tight. We had a park with tennis courts behind our backyard. In the summers all of the neighborhood kids would gather and play in the greenways until dusk. Ghost In the Graveyard, Kick The Can, and a whole host of other made-up games. I attended Crestwood Elementary School, and was a proud "Crestwood Cricket." I could walk to school each day, swinging my Scooby Doo lunch box in one hand, while the other held the hand of my best friend Renee. We would walk together each day, singing cheery songs about flowers and rainbows. Admittedly, it was corny.
My parents divorced before I entered the fifth grade. By the time eighth grade rolled around, they had both remarried and I moved with my mother and new Stepfather, David to a new house not far from campus. In my new home I had my very own room. We had cable television for the first time which meant...MTV. I attended Madison West High School. Again, I was able to walk to school rain or shine, and Monroe street provided Orange Tree Imports, and The Oven's of Brittany for my shopping and eating pleasure. I smoked my first (and practically last) cigarette down by the train tracks only blocks from my house. It didn't last long, since upon lighting my smoke, I ignited my well-hair sprayed bangs and singed off much of my eyebrows. I had my first drink at my friend Allison's house. We drank vodka and orange juice until the room started spinning and we fell asleep giggling. My friend Angie lived down the block and we would head there after school to watch recorded episodes of Days Of Our Lives while eating loads of raw cookie dough.
Throughout the high school years we would spend time hanging out on State Street, looking for tapes, and browsing the poster shops for a mix of Ansel Adams, Monet and Led Zepplin posters. It didn't need to make sense. In the winter months when it was too cold to be outside we would head to West Town mall to buy cheap earrings and try on clothes our parents would not approve of. I never attended any of the high school parties, I wasn't cool enough, so on the weekends I went to the movies, and would often end up late night at Perkins, drinking coffee and eating "mammoth muffins" with my girlfriends.
I didn't go far after graduation. I attended the UW and lived in the dorms on campus. It was there of course that I met my future husband, David. During college I got to know another side of Madison. I bar hopped along State Street, hitting my favorites; State Street Brats, The Flamingo, Monday's, The Angelic, and the KK. I studied at the union, drank coffee at Espresso Royal, met girlfriends at Yogurt Express and had dinner with David at Paisan's Ginos and Kostas. I ran along the lake shore path, and hiked up Bascom Hill regularly, keeping me in mini-skirt wearing shape.
I left Madison for good in the fall of 1997. I moved to Minneapolis to live with David. I didn't know at the time that I would never call Madison "home" again. We spent four years in the twin cities before heading west to Denver. And now, here we are in Oakland. I have not returned to Madison for six years. Six years. I know that the Madison I knew is no longer there. The Rocky Rococco's where I held my first job is gone. Josie's where I was a waitress through college burned down. The Flamingo has long been something else and the dorm where I spent my sophmore year has been destroyed, as was the Paisan's restaurant where David and I celebrated our very first Valentine's Day.
And yet, I am anxious to return, to see how Madison has evolved. To gaze once again on Lake Mendota and show the boys my childhood zoo. I'm looking forward to feeling the moist, humid air on my skin and hopefully witnessing the thrill of a summertime thunderstorm.
Madison has changed, no doubt, as have I. I'm no longer a child and things will surly look different. But this is the city where I was a little girl, where I made my first friends, experienced my first heartbreaks, fell in love and grew up. Madison may no longer be my home, but it is my hometown and it will always have a place in my heart.
Madison, I can't wait to see you once again.