It is always a little jarring for me to come back to Wisconsin. I moved away in 1984, and I guess I always expect everything to be the same as it was when I was growing up. Of course, there have been significant changes, but my brain still stubbornly persists, and re-images the landscape even as I stare at it. That's not a Target, it's the decrepit little ski lodge I lived in for months while our house was being built. Truthfully, I prefer the Target -- the ski lodge's roof leaked all over, was chilly, and was decidedly un-homey. Target is much more satisfying, if far less unique.

But a few things haven't changed at all. Today I spent a pretty sunny afternoon out on one of the lakes I used to hang out at as a kid. Outside of some new houses here and there, it really is just the same. It is a very low-key place; the lake culture here is all about the neighbors hanging out, all chillin', everybody sort of watching out for one another, the pontooners and the tubers and the jetskiers and the steadfast fishermen. There are wealthy people and not-at-all-wealthy people, but this is no Lake Snooty -- it doesn't seem to matter here so much what kind of boat you have, more that you are friendly and courteous. And like beer.

The water was a little chilly for me, but it didn't bother the kids at all. We plopped out the anchor near a skinny little peninsula (for sale if you have a spare 1.9 million bucks) and they jumped in, screaming at the cold water, delighted at the same time. There were waterbugs to catch, swim strokes to practice, and a 21-year-old cousin to chase.

A very kind neighbor offered to take Mr11 out tubing. He tubed until they hit some very big air, throwing the neighbor's niece off in a fabulous wild spiral in the air. He hung on but bashed his nose and decided he had had enough. He's a city kid, after all. The neighbor told him he did a great job, and even offered to take him out again tomorrow. "Anytime, buddy, you just say when, we'll be here."

Another neighbor give the OK for MissSix and Mr11 to use his giant bouncy float, and we enjoyed watching them jump and wipeout, repeat until giggled out.

After a couple of hours it was time to motor back in to get ready to grill some steaks. The climb up the steep hill to get back to the house is much easier this year. Thank you, treadmill.

We have a nice meal, enjoy the pretty flower garden surrounding the patio, planted with such care every year. We chat about the family, Adam Lambert and Michael Jackson (my violent opinions are stand-alone on these issues here), and eat the Jello cake that MissSix and her Grandma made the day before. A broken sewer pipe in the basement cuts short the evening, but some neighbors come over to survey and advise, and I am sure it will be fixed soon, without a call to the weekend plumber.

Things stay the same here. It is probably why I left, but also why I love to return.