by Cheryl Silver
“Well, at least you’ll be just a couple of hours away from Chicago!”
I can’t tell you exactly what I was hoping to hear, but the typical responses when I told friends in Madison, Wisconsin that my family planned to move to Champaign-Urbana definitely didn’t please me.
“I hope you like corn.”
I was born and raised in northern Indiana, so the plethora of cornfields didn’t faze me. Uprooting my three cheerful kids, leaving behind a great circle of friends, and finding a house that we could call home – now THAT was terrifying.
We couldn’t make our big move until mid-August, and the Champaign school district’s lottery system did not seem particularly friendly to late transfer students. I had visions of juggling my 3rd grader’s balanced calendar with my 6th grader and preschooler’s standard schedule. I couldn’t take the chance.
We found a home in Urbana, where kids walk to neighborhood schools. We settled on the state streets area, with its tall trees and walkable streets. It reminds us of our years spent in Oak Park, Illinois, before our move to the Madison ‘burbs. And my husband – a new professor in the department of Speech and Hearing Science – loves his “brisk 18-minute walk!” to work.
Now we’re slowly unpacking (luckily we discovered the Tupperware filled with molding chocolate cake early on in the process), creating order in our house and in our lives.
My oldest son leaves the house on foot every morning, lugging a crazy-heavy backpack and his prized trumpet, and joins a group of neighborhood kids to walk the short distance to the middle school. He seems to fit right in with all the other pre-adolescent sixth graders finding their way in the world. Huge relief!
My third grader’s adjustment has been a bit more turbulent. On his first day of school, he wept. “Moving sort of ruined my life!” I’m eternally grateful to the kind souls in his classroom who willingly sat with the “new kid” at lunch and to his teacher, who is friendly and encouraging. He’s warming up to his new environment – perhaps just a playdate or two away from really embracing this community. Here’s hoping!
Though my four-year-old daughter is busy making friends at her new part-time preschool, she often talks about Madison, the only town she has known. “I can see my old friends in my THINKING,” she tells me.
We all miss Madison, but we enjoy exploring Champaign-Urbana together. We stumbled upon a beautiful forest preserve in Mahomet while cheering on my oldest son’s cross country team. We’re delighted by the Krannert Center and all it has to offer. We’ve dined at some surprisingly delicious restaurants, and we can now say we’re “regulars” at the fantastic Urbana farmers’ market. Not bad for living here only six weeks!
Above all, we find everyone, from the “townies” to the University employees to the families we meet on the playground, extremely welcoming and friendly. Their response when learning that we moved here from Madison, however, always leaves me a bit unsettled.
“Oh, Madison is such a beautiful city!” This polite exclamation usually comes with a sympathetic shake of the head and apologetic shrug of the shoulders, as if to say, “Well, we don’t have beautiful lakes, rolling hills or Trader Joe’s, but we like it here. You will, too!”
Of course, we’re comforted by the knowledge that we can take a quick jaunt to Chicago if we need to admire tall buildings or make a Costco run, but we haven’t felt the need just yet. For now we’re content to settle into smaller-town life, meet new people, explore the area, and enjoy the corn.
Cheryl Silver and her husband, Aaron Johnson, moved their family to Urbana in August 2012. Silver is a mother of three, runner, theater enthusiast & performer, journalist, volunteer for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the video producer/owner of Silver Screen Productions – www.keepthegoodstuff.com.