This past week we all had a taste of Thurston Woods in the form of house drawing. My group drew the site plans of two homes, with one of them having been completed by yours truly. The only training I have in drawing of any kind is the art projects I had done while in elementary and junior high (many moons ago), but found that this type of drawing is not difficult at all. All one needs to know is how to add and subtract, what a fraction is, and then pin point the various parts of the home that you think should be measured.
Once the drawing was completed, the more difficult part began; that of putting the information into AutoCAD. The students were given a crash course into the program and then helped through any rough spots by Jeff, Arijit, and other students that had previous knowledge of the program. I found that it was easy to use once the basics were mastered. And, it didn't hurt that I was only "drawing" the site plan instead of an interior of a home (which I am told is much more difficult). However, the most interesting part of the week for me was being able to interact with one the many homeowners we encountered through our home visits.
I am quite the talker (even with people I don't know) and was able to get one of the owners, Laurie, to open up to me quite quickly while a group was measuring her home. I found out that she and I have similar personalities: we are both upbeat, fun, and humourous, and we also have some similar interests: Germany, community involvement, etc. I found all of these things out just by sparking a conversation with her about an interesting piece she has sitting on top of her television: a folded and framed United States flag that belonged to her god father. This story morphed into more stories about her family and its German heritage, how her uncle owned a German bakery when she was a child, and how she sent both of her children to the German immersion school in Milwaukee.
Laurie's past is a large part of who she is today, and it shapes the way in which she views the world around her -- including the neighborhood of Thurston Woods. She grew up in the neighborhood and moved only blocks from where she grew up when she purchased her home in 1982. She was single and attending the University of Wisconsin -- Milwaukee, where she obtained a B.A. in Fine Arts -- Fine Design.
Tomorrow I will formally interview Laurie and am going to use a lot of what we discussed this past week as jumping off points for it. I would like to learn more about her family's heritage and the types of cultural traditions that are still employed within the family. I would like to learn more about her role in the planing of the community garden on Florist, the older women that used to "watch" over the neighborhood, and what her thoughts and feelings are about the changes within the societal structure of her neighborhood -- from owners to renters and from older generation to a younger one. I am extremely excited about the interview and cannot wait until I can share more about her sense of self, place, space, and the community of Thurston Woods with all of you avid readers.