Our summer is winding down and the school year is about to begin. I’ve been wanting to take the time to record some of the delights of a summer in Green Bay.
It’s gourmet. It’s cheap. It’s German. It’s the closest grocery store to our new house.
Aldi is the same store that we used to shop at when we lived in Austria (it’s called Hofer in Austria, Aldi in Germany and Wisconsin). Back then trips to Aldi could be very penitential, especially when I was pregnant, but I couldn’t give it up because the bargains were so great. Here I find that it is cheaper than Costco. And seeing those old familiar German brands is balm to my soul.
It’s also an instrument of God’s providence for us. This summer while setting up our household, we’ve found that whenever we wish for something– a shoe bag that hangs over the back of a door, or life jackets, or a little shelf that would fit in a bathroom cabinet–God has sent it to Aldi within a week. I searched Walmart, Target, Costco, the Dollar Store and elsewhere for the kind of toilet bowl brush that I wanted to no avail. The next week was toilet bowl brush week at Aldi.
We have a picnic blanket that I bought at Aldi in Austria so many years ago. It has accompanied us on many a happy picnic or Shakespeare in the park. It bit the dust this summer, but I taped it with duct tape, because who can find a valiant picnic blanket? It’s worth is above rubies.
Well, guess what. It’s picnic blanket week at Aldi. Ten years and an Atlantic Ocean later.
Don’t forget your quarter for the shopping cart!
Every parish around here has a picnic during the summer as a fundraiser. I was intrigued to see the following type of advertisement on billboards and yard signs:
St. Mary of the Angels picnic: brats, burgers, raffle, music, booyah
Booyah? Is it the name of a local band? Does it mean “a fun time”? In other parts of the country, the word “Booyah” is the equivalent of “Ole!”. But for gringos.
Well, in Green Bay, Booyah is a beef and chicken vegetable soup, brewed in enormous metal drums. That’s not garbage the man’s scooping. It’s Booyah.
You bring your plastic gallon ice cream container and you can take away a bucket of booyah for $20. The people line up for Booyah and if you don’t hurry, you won’t get any!
3. Free lunch in the park
I think Green Bay was part of a federal program to give kids nutritious lunches in the parks during the summer. Every day, Monday-Friday, a free lunch was available to anyone under the age of 18 if they simply showed up to one of 20 parks (or the library) at the right time. No paperwork, no tickets, just surprisingly tasty meals for free if you’re there at the right time. You had to eat them on site, but when the site was the park or the library it didn’t take much coaxing.
When you haven’t found the box with your dishes, or you haven’t made it grocery shopping, or your dishwasher is broken, free lunch down the block was a God-send!
4. Little bookhouse (in your soul)
We were driving to Mass on our first Sunday in Green Bay and the girls kept saying, “Free books, Mama! There’s a box that says Free Books!”
What?? It had just rained the night before. Who would leave a box of free books outside on a Sunday morning?
Then they finally showed me what they were seeing. All over the city there are little birdhouses in people’s front lawns that are filled with books, and have a label: “Leave a book, take a book.”
That’s why they don’t have any used bookstores here.
Who couldn’t love a city where they do this?
5. The Packers
I’m not a football person. But if I were to support a professional football team, you can’t do better than the Packers.
They’re owned by the town, not a business. John took Marietta and Joseph to a “pre-season” (don’t call it a game!) and the security in the stadium was more strict than the TSA. And it was all ordered toward ensuring a wholesome family time.
6. Catholic Culture
One reason we came here was to be back in Catholic culture, like we were in Europe. From the teenagers walking out of Aldi with their scapulars showing, to the parish picnic yard signs that dot every neighborhood, to the outdoor Mass and Eucharistic procession at the Shrine August 15, we feel like these might be the droids we’re looking for.
7. The Shrine
Wisconsin actually has three major Marian shrines. Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in LaCrosse is bigger and more beautiful. Our Lady Help of Christians is very impressive and old.
But Green Bay is the only one that Mary actually visited.
On August 15 for over a century there has been a procession with the statue of Mary around the grounds of the Shrine. This year our girls were able to escort the statue. They are the ones in white.