Family lured Jerrianne and her husband to South Milwaukee in 2002 from Southern California where she worked as, first, a journalist, then, as a court information officer. She now stays busy with media-relations consulting, playing with her three grandchildren (part of the lure), writing, discovering her new environs, and hoping her garden will produce before the first fall frost.
So what do new kids in South Milwaukee do on New Year's Eve?
We're not party-hearty types. The club scene and the pub scene aren't our thing. We do like to socialize, though, and traditionally stay up to welcome in the New Year with a champagne toast, whether home alone or with friends.
This year, in the midst of my globe trotting, my husband checked with some friends about getting together. They already had plans to go to a party on their street, but invited us along. So we went.
Armed with homemade party mix, a couple of bottles of wine and a touch of self-consciousnous, we knocked on the front door of Pam and Dave Uhrig. They extended a warm welcome. Pam looked familiar, but with the vast number of people I've met in my lifetime and having embarrassed myself more than once by thinking I'd met someone I hadn't, I kept quiet.
After a rather nomadic life of a career military family, the Uhrig's party wasn't the first time we'd attended a gathering of people who were mostly unknown to us. The difference with previous situations was everyone else was pretty much in the same boat. This time, though, most everyone else not only knew each other, they had a pretty extensive history with each other. Many of them conversed among themselves.
"I feel a little like an interloper," I confided in my friend.
"Don't worry, we're interlopers, too," she replied. "I've only lived here 17 years and Don only 30 years. She seemed to be confirming what I have heard before. It's only after two or three generations of living in South Milwaukee that residents are no longer considered newcomers. Heck, we were the old timers in other places we've lived after only six months, so with nearly six years in South Milwaukee, we were feeling pretty well settled until jarred back to reality of what being settled in really means here.
We had a good time at Uhrig's party, though. Met some nice people, a couple of whom we had, indeed, met before. One was Pam who, after saying she thought she had met or seen me somewhere before, remembered where. She and I had both shown up at some of the "weed outs" South Milwaukee "newcomer" Don Lawson organizes every spring and summer in an effort to eradicate the invasive garlic mustard weed from Grant Park.
After sipping champagne at the stroke of midnight and waving sparklers on the Uhrig's snowy back deck, the party began to wind down. Then someone mentioned a familiar name. Mike McCarrier. Mike McCarrier? McCarrier was the name of the family that had the house built that we now live in. And we had met Mike. He dropped by one day a year or two ago, wondering if a sapling might have sprouted from the huge old oak tree in the front yard that he might have to plant in his yard. He hadn't recognized us at the party just as we hadn't recognized him.
After regaling us with a few stories of growing up with his sister and five brothers in what is now our house, but what will always be known in South Milwaukee as the McCarrier house, and our invitation for him and his wife, Colleen, to come over for a visit, we left the Uhrig's party feeling a little more a part of South Milwaukee with a growing circle of friendly neighbors.