Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Random Places

Perhaps you’ve wondered how Steve and I ended up in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, of all places. The short answer is that around our thirty-fifth anniversary, we thought a place in the country might be fun. A family retreat for our children and grandchildren appealed to our sense of adventure. But, like a lot of things, it’s more complicated.

In 1974, we moved to an expansive home next to Lake Michigan in Evanston, Illinois. Some years later, we renovated the nearby University Club, converting it to a celebrated public museum only to have it destroyed by an electrical fire before its third birthday. Once the details of that disaster settled, and the last of our children left for college, I felt the urge, the necessity, to move away. It didn’t matter where. Just someplace new and different. Long Grove was both of those things and it was there we experienced both anonymity and life as incorrigible misfits. After two years, we returned to downtown Chicago, a place we’d enjoyed living as a young couple. Our four story townhouse suited us perfectly and we’d probably have stayed, except that our landlord, Lee Miglin, was murdered by Andrew Cunanen in a garage that bordered our back yard.

Then we saw “Random Hearts”, a forgettable film except for one relevant scene where Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas rendezvoused at an ancient log cabin. When the river appeared in the background, rushing behind an autumn blaze of trees, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. Out of the city and into the woods. A few months later, we toured Wisconsin as far west as the Mississippi, north to Sauk County, south to the Illinois border and came up with a hundred acres of trees, meadows, valleys and ridges, a solid house, a stream, herds of turkey, deer, a few foxes and tons of wildflowers. Dodgeville was six miles away. Madison the closest city.

We added a studio, a barn, bought an air-conditioned tractor with a CD player designed for city folk and left Chicago congestion behind. I found a job as Director of the Family Resource Center and for a time, life was comfortable. We drove to Madison once a week for a film and dinner, took a few classes, made some new friends, and traveled to Chicago and St. Louis to visit our children. Then Ben was diagnosed with ALS.

We live in Madison now. Our condominium incorporates everything I’ve loved about our past homes– lake views, new construction, high style, family nearby, great friends, wonderful restaurants, theaters and entertainment.

Dodgeville is for sale.


mary jo said...

I love to arise early in the morning
to find a blog written by you late in
the evening. I so enjoy hearing about
your life before we met.

bam said...

the story of how we all get to where we are is filled with wrinkles, and detours, and roads we still wonder if we might have taken.....i too love hearing your story, getting to know you bits by bits. too much heartache all along the way. and still you remain strong and beautiful, and, i am thinking, most days believing......i only wish you were closer so i could wander over and meet you over coffee....

Carol said...

Barbara, to think we met during your "incorrigible misfit" days! What would you give for another chicken salad plate, iced tea and key lime pie at The Covered Bridge Cafe in Long Grove and some of our delicious conversations? (I shouldn't write when I'm hungry.) Most of all, thank you for sharing your personal journey in each of your posts, Barbara. I agree with Mary Jo and Bam. I enjoy reading your "short stories" and re-visiting those places you've lived. I admire you and Stephen for following your dreams, for creating homes that are art museums in their own right, and for being true to yourselves. You're a brilliant writer, Barbara! Love, Carol