Our condo sold four days after we listed it. The piano was the first to go, followed a week later by the furniture. In two days my husband and I will drive across country, in January, with a cat (!) to our new home in Appleton, WI.
“Why Wisconsin?” I’ve been asked by many Portland friends.
“For the weather,” I reply. And then, after the laugh dies down, I add “and for family.”
But that’s not the whole story. Yes, my husband’s family lives in Wisconsin and yes, it’s a big factor in our choice to move, but it’s only part of the reason. Truth is, we’ve been looking to leave Portland for the last two years. We started with Europe: London (can’t stay longer than six months), Amsterdam (can’t stay longer than three months), Bordeaux (not a good fit), Dublin (couldn’t sell the condo). Then we looked at American cities: Austin, Denver, Seattle, Santa Fe (to name a few), but none were the right fit. I kept saying I wanted a place that felt like Appleton and two months ago I said, “why not just move to Appleton?”
Why Appleton? A myriad of reasons: great music (it’s home to Lawrence University), an airport, close to Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul, as well as Milwaukee, real seasons, cheese, live music in restaurants and bars any night of the week, Brewers/Packers/Badgers—a trifecta of sports greatness...but underneath it all, a sense of community. This is a place where political parties raise money side by side for a shared cause. This is a place with a well-educated middle class and a strong work ethic. This is a place with refreshing humility and open-faced friendliness. It’s a place where you feel like you’re part of something even when you’re a stranger.
Will Appleton be a forever home? Maybe, maybe not. All I know today is that it’s the next step. It feels right. It feels grounded—like sinking your hands into fresh soil—a place to put down roots. The winters may be brutal, but the people are warm. My husband is returning home. I’m returning to a place that might prove to be home: the heartland.