The first thing that struck me when I set foot on the cold Milwaukee soil wasn’t welcome back, or where’s the bus?
It wasn’t even God, I hate college so much, even though it was a particularly prevalent thought of mine in the weeks leading up to this moment.
No, the first thought that ran through my head wasn’t quite so highly educated, or even well-articulated, even.
At the particular moment when the doors whooshed open and I went from the air-conditioned interior of General Mitchell International Airport into the frost-riddled sidewalk outside, my brain spoke thus:
Holy shit it’s cold fuckfuckfuck why is it so fucking cold god damn it I should’ve brought a scarf fuck fuck fuck
It really was incredibly cold: I’d like to think that, after nearly three years in American Canada, my body has gotten itself somewhat used to the frigid temperatures that are the norm during winter season up north, but so far, it still resolutely refuses to believe that it’s not in sunny, dry California anymore – where it’s been for the past 12 years.
In any case, I’m back. And the weather aside (it reached -2 degrees today), I’m glad to be back. I am once again with friends of mine – old friends returning from their own winter adventures, new friends whom I’m excited to greet again for the first time – and familar sights jump out at me as I drag my well-traveled suitcase along the clip-cloping concrete of Library Mall: the ever-under-construction fountain in front of Memorial Library, Bus 80 dawdling in front of Humanities, waiting for its driver to return, the barren trees still standing sentinel over Bascom Hill.
The people, too, are familiar: I see a group of obviously inebriated students clad in their red-and-white gear; the gossiping girls headed to College Library to study but will walk out hours later, having done anything but; the lone, lanky guy wearing a peacoat two sizes too large, pushing up his glasses on his face and hurriedly walking somewhere, trying not to lose his footing on the ice; and the gaggle of professors with steaming cups of coffee in their hand, discussing syllabi.
And, amidst all of that, there is me: slowly walking by all of them, with my mitten-less hands stuck deep in my coat and my face steadily freezing over due to the harsh wind blowing in from neighboring Lake Mendota.
As I pass by each story told, each laugh shared, every drunk chatter, a part of me eases itself back into college life, into Madison life, welcoming myself back to Wisconsin.
And when my home appears in front of me, after a long, arduous walk across campus, my spirits are lifted despite (or because of) the lightly sprinkling snow, the sound of ice sheets cracking on the lake, the dusting of frost that covers the ground, the bone-chilling wind gusting around my face trying to tear my ears away from my head.
Welcome to Wisconsin.