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.
For the fourth week in a row, our next-door neighbor has cut our grass. Front and back yards. And edged. And swept up the clippings. He doesn't ask if we would like for him to cut it. He doesn't knock on the door first to let us know he's going to cut it. He just does it. That's because he knows my husband had major knee surgery on March 31. And because that's just the way our neighbor is. When it snows in the winter, more often than not, before we've even rolled out of bed, he's out there blowing off our driveway along with his own. And he does our neighbor's driveway across the street and his neighbor on the other side of his house. That's just the way he is.
Today, as he finished up our lawn, I went out to thank him. His response was a smile and a "Happy Mother's Day." That's our neighbor, Jerry. He knows what it is to be a neighbor.
Barbara Degermanjian and her twin sister, Mary, lived with their dog, Cindy, near my daughter in Grant Park. They were often outside either working in their yard or sitting on a bench behind their house, enjoying a sunny day. They waved at passersby and sometimes asked my daughter to stop by for coffee and to chat.
They looked so much alike, even in their advanced years, that I couldn't tell them apart. Small, wiry, shoulder-length white hair forever escaping their loosely bound pony tails.
I'm in Albania. Native country of some of our South Milwaukee neighbors. Owners of the Madison Avenue Mediterranian Market on Madison Avenue are from Albania. So are owners of Lily's Cleaners just over the city line in the Piggy Wiggly shopping center.
None of them, however, have any connection to my visit to this country. I'm on a U.S. State Department-sponsored media-relations consulting project. It's been an interest trip so far. Missed my flight connection in Munich, which meant hanging out there for 11 hours.
I heard a band playing and thought perhaps something was going on at the soccer stadium I can see to the right from my hotel window. But no, only a couple of runners trotting around the track around the field. But I did hear a band, and it sounded like it was live, not recorded.
Then I saw it, coming down the main boulevard to the left that ended at the main building of the University here in Tirana. Although it wasn't a large band, it did have a motorcycle escort. And police were blocking access to the boulevard on the side street directly in front of my window.
Well, that was adventure.
By the time I’d finished breakfast, it looked like the rain predicted for today wasn’t going to materialize. The sky was cloudless and sunshine flooded the city. So instead of spending the day working as I had planned, given the weather forecast, I studied the handy little “Tirana in Your Pocket” booklet I had purchased the day before to see what I might want to do outside. The nice thing about my hotel location, lots of possibilities are within walking distance.
Yes, the city of Ljubljana, Slovenia, looks like Old World Europe, but the residents look a lot like South Milwaukee neighbors. It's only when they speak and the language isn't English that I'm jarred back to realizing I'm not in a quaint fairytale theme park in the U.S.
The place and people are charming. Like Tirana, Albania, the streets and parks teem with young people, families and babies. Appearances of a comfortable lifestyle abound.