Just Like Home(coming)
times may change but the Water Street lifestyle remains the same
Most of my senior year at UWEC was spent on Water Street, much like the rest of the UWEC population. That neighborhood holds far more memories for me than any other place I’ve lived in Eau Claire in the last 13 years.
Back then I lived above Brothers with my girlfriends and fell asleep to Ants Marching by the Dave Matthews Band through our floor. I carved my name in the bathroom door at The Cam long before it burned down. “Kerm’s” showed up on my dad’s credit card bill a few times a month, and he was relieved to find out it was, in fact, a grocery store and not a nearby tavern. (Dad, I hate to break it to you, but I usually threw on a 12 pack of Bud Light with my milk and bread). I danced on many-a-table at the Pioneer. My boyfriend (now husband) and I “canned the man” in Randall Park a few years after I met him at a house party on Chippewa. One of my favorite pictures is of my husband and his groomsmen walking down the middle of Water Street on our wedding day. I could go on.
The first time I felt as old as the hills happened a few years ago. My best friend and I were at Mogie’s (where we used to know all the bartenders and were even invited to staff Christmas parties) when I asked one of the teeny, adorable bartenders how old she was. I did the math, turned to my girlfriend and said “When we started coming here, she was in the 7th grade.” Sigh.
A few years later, my husband and I took our son to the homecoming parade. The students (with their funny group t-shirts and mugs that probably contained wop) lined the West side of First Avenue. We belonged on the East side, where the parents congregate behind strollers, drinking coffee out of mugs. I longingly watched the students across the street while the cross country team jogged in front of us in their underwear, as is tradition. “Oh, to be that careless and carefree,” I thought. “Not to mention getting the party started before noon. I don’t remember the last time we were able to do something crazy like that.” We went home after the parade and took a nap.
I rarely visit Water Street these days, mostly because I have a full-time job and two kids. Even if we had a babysitter it would cost a fortune for her to stay until the following morning when I’m feeling well enough to be a mom again. Because, man, I am not 21 anymore.
If we do hit a happy hour, it’s usually somewhere that our age doesn’t seem to be as apparent and my late 90s style doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. And call me an old lady, but I like to go places that I can actually hear my friends talk. Instead of scouting restaurants with the best drink specials, I hope to find the one that is most kid-friendly. My friends and their families all live on opposite ends of town, so if the restaurant could be near that fancy bypass, that’d be awesome, too.
I miss college, I do. In so many ways it seems like it wasn’t that long ago (Remember when the walls in Mogie’s were green? Remember the first time you had a Delusion? Remember the first time you drank enough pitchers to get a free t-shirt from Ray’s?)
I had such a blast here. Even though my husband and I didn’t grow up here, we call ourselves “townies” because we never left after college. We didn’t plan on that, but suddenly Eau Claire just felt like home.
I still feel like I’m in my early 20s, but when I drive down Water Street I just can’t get over how much it’s changed and how young these kids look. Yes, I SAID KIDS. Then I look in my rearview mirror and see my own kids-my two little boys-and remind myself that they too might be seniors at UWEC someday, stumbling down Water Street. Lord help me.