Citizen Wausau

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Wausau Still Gives Small Town Joy

by on June 8th, 2013

On a chilly, windy, almost-rainy Memorial Day, we had a row of tiny camping chairs in the backyard – 10 of them – and hotdogs grilling away. Our yard was filled with kids munching on potato chips and watermelon, while I played short order cook. Horatio wanted mustard and ketchup, Ben wanted spicy mustard, Madison, ketchup, Emily ketchup … and the list went on.

When we first bought this house on the northwest side of Wausau, our kids were the only shorties on the block. Last summer, we welcomed five new kids to the neighborhood, and it got pretty fun. This summer, another four were added, and the fun has grown to epic proportions.

Isn’t that the dream of all young families? Kids everywhere. A neighborhood safe enough to let the kids have relatively free reign of a three-block radius.

I have a collection of cell phone numbers, and I’ve met the parents. It’s a good thing, too, since starting at 8:30 a.m., we usually get our first knock on the door, which starts the unending revolving door of kids coming in and out of our house. More often than not, at lunchtime I’m cooking for at least six kids. Our yard is littered with bikes, and the rule is that if kids go upstairs to the playroom, they have to leave their shoes at the foot of the stairs so I can tell at a glance how many kids are actually in the house at any given time.

Last night we had a paper airplane party before everyone migrated over to the house on the corner where the dad was setting up a big trampoline. On Monday when the weather warms up, I’ll be putting out our wacky sprinkler in the backyard. The parents across the street have taken everybody on long bike rides to the park down the river. Life is good.

Wausau is growing. There are parts of town considered “ghetto.” While my neighborhood is still “low income,” we have enough retirees who care about their properties to make it safe. If there are shennanigans going on, we call the cops, because we take care of each other. When my neighbor was woken in the middle of the night by rustling outside his house, and he saw someone vandalizing a car at our Hmong neighbors’ driveway, he called the cops right away. The next day, at least three families on the block went over there to greet them and express our sympathies and regret that it happened to them. None of us wants anybody to feel unsafe or unwelcome here.

When I was a little girl living in downtown Wausau in the ’80s, all the neighbor kids played together. Three decades later, Wausau still offers that same environment, and I’m so grateful. I’m so glad we didn’t migrate away to the suburbs outside a big city where people become anonymous and build fences. It’s going to be a great summer. (It’s a shame that none of us has central air, though… because you could be darn sure that the house lucky enough to have A/C would become the new congregation point. LOL.)

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