What do you think of when you hear the word "Milwaukee" (as in Wisconsin)????
Brewers . . . breweries . . . Happy Days . . . Laverne & Shirley (and Lenny & Squiggy) . . . cold . . . snow.
Well, for most of my life, when I heard that word, I immediately associated it with some of my relatives on the Ryals side of the family. Uncle Dean, my dad's brother, moved there as a single man out of grad school, married his wife, Chris, and they raised five kids there (4 boys and a girl, with one of the boys and the girl being twins born on Christmas Day 1976). I can remember going to visit the Dean Ryals family at least twice during my growing up years. One time when I was probably three years old, it was Christmastime and there was a LOT of snow on the ground. I mainly remember seeing my mom fall off of a snow mobile and crying because I thought she was hurt (she wasn't and got up laughing). The other time was in August when I was twelve, and I remember going to the zoo and feeling so big because I could carry my one-year-old twin cousins (probably not at the same time) and do things to make them laugh. My uncle has now passed away, but Aunt Chris, and two of the "boys" are still in the Milwaukee area.
Fast-forward to June 2005, when I started my job at Northwestern Mutual Financial Network. Suddenly, I had a new association with Milwaukee, since that is where the "home office" for NMFN is located. Over the past three and a half years, I have had the opportunity to go to Milwaukee on business four times, and have been able to reconnect with my aunt and cousins while up there. This past week, during dinner with Aunt Chris, Keith and Dennis, my aunt brought out some yellowed, folded pages, that turned out to be a story I wrote when I was in third or fourth grade about a mom who gave birth to twins (a boy and a girl) on Chrismas Day. It just happened that I wrote the story for school in mid-December, and then Aunt Chris actually had twins, my cousins, Dennis and Cindy, on Christmas Day that year! My mom had sent the story to my aunt and she had kept it all of these years. We all had a laugh reading my story at the restaurant the other night.
I'd say being able to see Aunt Chris and my cousins after all these years is one of the best "perks" I've received from my job at NMFN! And next time I go to Milwaukee, I need to look for the famed "Bronze Fonz" statue my cousin told me about . . .