Madison was famously described by a candidate for governor in 1978 as “30 square miles surrounded by reality.” He meant it as a dig, but many Madisonians embraced it, then and now. And for the record, it’s now 77 sq. miles.
Being born in Madison, WI and having lived there for the first ten years of my life, it holds a place in my heart that I will never let go. I think back fondly on that first house my parents built in DeForest, a suburb just outside of Madison. My brother and I making our first friends, running down to the lake behind us to throw bread at the ducks who always seemed to hang out on our yard and my mom letting me run up to my friend’s house for the very first time on my own. I can still picture the house, it was dark brown and split level, a pretty cool house that my parents designed. We drove by it when we passed through Madison last week, it’s now a beige color and I remembered it being a bit different but still put a smile on my face to see it again.
After DeForest we moved into a duplex in Madison. We drove by this too and I have even fonder memories of this house, but maybe not the scary basement – I still have nightmares sometimes of this basement. Fonder memories possibly because I was older and could remember more but maybe just because those first years of your life are quite meaningful.
I’m still in contact with a few of my friends from then – Jackie was my bestie in those years, Kathy lived the next block over and Joyce would visit from New York during the summer and sometimes at Christmas to her grandparents house behind ours. I would walk to John Muir School with my brother, slowly picking up our gang of friends along the way. After school we would walk over to the small store run by the chinese man where I would buy grape Hubba Bubba gum or those huge, chewy SweeTarts. I can still smell that gum when I think of it.
My gang of girlfriends ruled the neighborhood. We had our secret hideouts in the forest close to my house where I had my first kiss with Jason Cook. Oh those sweet innocent years in the 1970s. No cell phones, no Instagram, no need to make a duck face. In the summers we ran around from after breakfast til before dinner, we never wore bike helmets, we made gross concoctions of mustard, mayo, bugs and more to dare each other to eat and we still made it out alive.
The duplex is where my love of musicals began. I remember my parents taking me to my very first movie – Grease and I was in love. Not necessarily with Mr. Travolta but just the beauty of movies with singing and dancing. And the joy of music evolved from there – Billy Joel was my first record, then Xanadu, J. Geils Band, The Muppet Movie soundtrack – it wasn’t until my later years that I got into the big hits from the 70s – Joni Mitchell, Blondie, Fleetwood Mac.
My parents both graduated from UW – Madison so we drove around the huge campus while my parents told stories about their days. The campus has changed a lot since they were there and I loved all the stories. There was a terrible snowstorm and the streets were too icy and full of snow for any vehicles; Mom had to walk all the way from campus to our duplex – it took maaaaany hours and by the time she got home she was practically frozen. Another story – There is a statue of Abraham Lincoln that has watched over campus atop Bascom Hill for over a hundred years. Dad said the story goes that Abe would stand up whenever a virgin would walk by, and he hasn’t stood since 1953. Haha Dad.
We parked the car and walked down State Street. A pedestrian street lined with shops and bars. And sadly this time we walked down it there were a lot of beggars. It was a bit depressing to see. It was really warm that day and I stupidly wore jeans for some reason so we rushed through it a bit but I can see where it would be a lot of fun during the night. Definitely go get a brat at State Street Brats!
At the end of State Street is the Wisconsin State Capitol which houses both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature along with the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Office of the Governor. It is a beautiful building both inside and out. And it was air conditioned! ahhhhhhh
The UW – Madison campus is so beautiful and next time I would like to explore it even more. Both my mom and I were craving a Garibaldi sandwich and a brandy old-fashioned sweet from Paisan’s so we headed there, enjoyed our food and drink and looked out over the serene view of Lake Monona. If you want a cool spot for dinner which also serves the Garibaldi go to Porta Bella just off State St. It’s funky, cool, old vibe, the small rooms and wooden booths make it perfect.
Madison, Wisconsin thank you and I love you.