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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

If you want to walk around naked, pull the shade.

I was tired of commuting a half-hour or more every time I wanted to visit a grandchild and every time I wanted to go to our favorite tango place. I was weary of caring for a 3,400 square foot home on 10 acres in Menomonee Falls. But even though I wanted to move out of the boondocks, I never expected to be living in a densely-packed neighborhood in Milwaukee. And I've found that, like all unexpected adventures, my foray into city living has come with blessings and revelations.

My husband, Mike, and I are living temporarily in his childhood home that we had emptied and spruced up for selling. (Mike's mother, a widow, is living in a nursing home.) For months, the house didn't sell...which turned out to be a lucky break for us. When our own home finally sold (after we had given up hope that the deal would happen), we had nowhere to go. 

We would have had a house to move into, but we couldn't sell our country place fast enough and we had been "bumped" from our deal on the three-bedroom brick ranch whose owners had accepted our offer last fall. It was a time capsule 1957 ranch on Honey Creek Parkway in West Allis, complete with turquoise and pink ceramic bathrooms...and acres of trees along the river across the street.

So here we are in a small Cape Cod home (pictured above) at 6712 W. Wick Place in Milwaukee, with no rent or storage fees to pay, just utilities and our portion of the property tax bill. We are grateful to have this blessing while we search for another home with a little bit of nature nearby for snow-shoeing and biking.

I spent my grade school years living in an almost identically-sized Cape Cod at 7887 W. Beckett Avenue in Milwaukee, where our house windows lined up exactly with the windows of the house next door. I was a nosy child, and I spent a lot of time gazing into our neighbor's house. I used to enjoy watching the grandma and grandpa who lived in an upper flat ten feet away from my bedroom.

Time has turned a funny twist. The windows where we live now line up exactly with the windows of the house next door. Now I am the grandma, there are children (and parents) next door, and I always feel watched. It's an odd feeling after 34 years of having only deer, squirrels and coyotes as close neighbors.

Here's what two months of city living have taught me (or reminded me again about what I knew during my childhood days on Beckett Avenue):

1. Small houses are step-savers. I can run up from the basement and answer the phone on the second ring.

2. Small kitchens are step-savers. My work triangle is tight and efficient.

3. Sharing a bathroom is a challenge to love, tolerance, and communication. Luckily we have a toilet in the basement (and by that I mean...a toilet).

4. It's fun to grab the mail out of a mailbox screwed into the house outside the front door, instead of trudging up a long driveway to the mailbox at the road.

5. Mowing the lawn takes a half-hour! Almost not long enough to work up a sweat.

6. Sidewalks and street lights are great for summer night-time walks.

7. If I want to walk around naked, I have to pull down the window shades.

Our grandson, Oliver, walking in the "back forty" on the property we sold after 34 years living there
Gail Grenier is the author of Calling All Horses, Dog Woman, Don't Worry Baby, and Dessert Firstall available from

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