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Michigan Summer

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Daddy had grown up in that little town. All of his brothers and sisters had, too. And every summer since I was little there was a week of growing up for me in Sebewaing, Michigan. There was always a big old white house to visit when I went there, and the laundry chute, the backyard, the stone bunnies, the playroom, and Sebewaing Park. They never went away. There was always a cool breeze on the creaky, chipped white porch swing, and if we needed groceries we would drive over to Luke’s. The huge bar in the center of the kitchen always harbored something for baking or cooking, but when it wasn’t in use was wiped clean. Every morning brought distinct smells of pancakes or coffee, and my nose would lead me down the creaky dark-wood steps like a dog yanking on a leash. After breakfast we might go to the park. It had huge wooden play structures and swings, slides, a tire, and a truckload of imagination. Other days we would drive up to Bay City and go to the beach for an afternoon or evening. And other days we would laze around the house and play Mancala, Clue or Little People in the playroom’s huge closet stocked up with billions of antique toys from when my dad was little.

I loved Sebewaing as much, if not more, than my first house in Ohio. So you can imagine my indignancy when Gramma Lynn said that she was trying to sell the creaky wooden well-loved house that my family had grown up in! It was my nest, and when this bird flew away from her regular tree she could always count on coming to this nest for awhile. And now they were selling it?!

After a while, it didn’t seem so urgent. Gramma Lynn didn’t have many people interested in buying the house. She got to keep it longer, and I was happy for that. But, like most things in life, even this came to an end. The time finally came when someone was interested. And just like that, I felt a longing to go back; I felt like my childhood memories still to come had been taken away from me like sweets being taken out of the hands of a disobedient child. My dad and little brother went one weekend to help pack up, and then Sebewaing was gone. It was like a dream where you are reaching for something but something else, something more powerful than you, is holding you back.

How could things possibly get better? I had only been to where Gramma Lynn was moving a few times before. I had visited my Uncle Al and Aunt Caroline, who lived on the Grand Traverse Bay off of Lake Michigan, but had never spent much time there. Uncle Al and Aunt Caroline’s house was so much fun; they had a private beach, giant garden with flowers, herbs and vegetables galore, two neighbor girls about the same age as me, and a golf cart I drove around their big wooded property. There was a man that lived in their garage light bulb that turned on and off and I could swear I saw him when I was younger. There was a long driveway to get down to the beach and Uncle Al would always let me sit on his lap and steer the golf cart to the waterfront. I had so much fun when I visited, but is Traverse City the same as Sebewaing? No. I found out that it’s better.

The first time I went was very different than going to Sebewaing. First of all, Sebewaing is only to the thumb of Michigan, and Traverse City is almost to the U. P. (Upper Peninsula). But the eight to 10 hour drive with my family is worth the wait.

We arrive in Traverse City on a nice, warm day in June to August. It’s about 8:45 P.M. and we have been sitting all day. We drive past a few motels, a Dunkin Donuts, and a pirate-themed putt-putt with a sinking ship in a small pond. We drive out of the trees that are on our right and see a breathtaking sight: The bay. It is a bit cloudy, but the sun is still up a little and the lights from the buildings show the dark, cloudy water. We go farther and pass what almost looks like a parking lot for boats, only the folded sails on the boats lapping in the ripples are so much prettier than asphalt. Right next to the dock on our right is an office building overlooking the water. It has seagull figurines pasted on the side to look as if in flight. After a few more minutes we turn left, away from the water, and start gliding through farmland and green space. There is a broken-down brown barn and silo on our right and trees back behind that. The sun is almost down but we are very close.

“How much longer?” I ask.

“Only about five more minutes,” answers Mommy.

We turn left onto a winding, curvy road and the trees block any bit of sun that is left. There are apartments on our right with the kitchen lights on with their backs facing us and modest one-story houses facing the road on our left.

“Alright. We’re looking for a row of five or six mailboxes and a gravel road in a few more minutes,” says Daddy.

I gaze out the window. We are turning left. I see a row of pretty houses out there and an old ski hill on my right. There is a forest behind both. We turn in the drive of the last house I can see. The crunch of the gravel finally slows down and stops. The door of the car opens and I can smell the scent of trees, water, sand and pine. Michigan air. Gramma Lynn comes out of the house with an apron on and folded scarf around her neck. I awkwardly walk up to her, (I haven’t walked all day and I am stiff), and we embrace.

“How was your trip?” she asks.

“Long, but it was good,” I answer.

We all walk in and Daddy unpacks the car. Mommy brings my brothers into the house and we explore.

The house definitely looks smaller on the outside than in. It has two bathrooms and the old one in Sebewaing only had one. The basement is finished and has a bedroom, bathroom, laundry room with closet as big as the playroom’s closet in the old house, and a main room that will serve as playroom. The upstairs has two bedrooms, a bathroom with a tub tall enough for a giant, a computer room, and a kitchen/dining room with a bar just like the old house. It’s almost better than the old house!

The next morning I find my olfactory dog yanking on his leash to take me to the kitchen. It’s pancakes! While we feast on the fruit salad, bacon and buttermilk richness we plan what to do today. How about the beach? Gramma Lynn has a neighborhood access and we want to see it. So after breakfast we head out to put on our swimsuits and sunscreen. While applying my sunscreen I hear a boy and girl, my cousins Finn and Esme, come in the door. Since they live around Traverse City, Gramma Lynn gets to see them a lot. That is the reason she moved there. Both of her daughters and one of her sons live up there with their families, and she wanted to be with them.

After a loud, squealing reunion of the cousins, we all get in the car and drive to the beach. I am squished flat between the booster seats of Zach and Esme and also hot from the stuffy car and sticky sunscreen I have on.

After a few minutes, though, I am not as stuffy. We are pulling into the parking lot and I see a play set and volleyball net in front of the car on a long lawn. I make out a glimpse of jade lake and bluebird sky through a break in the trees. Packed like a camel and laden with stuff, we tromp through the grass, over a footbridge with too-good-to-be-true crystal-clear spring water running in it, and through the sand to some empty white beach chairs waiting for us. On our right is a long dock, and on our left is a reception house with restrooms and supplies. In front lays a great expanse of shimmering green water with forested peninsulas jutting out on either side. There is clear blue sky everywhere with angel hair floating around, whiter than sea foam.

The water is really shallow; only about two and a half feet deep until you get well past the dock. Us cousins can play all sorts of games since other than me they are all five years old and under and need shallow water. We jump, try to run, bulldoze and “catch” minnows. We are all satisfied when we go back to Gramma Lynn’s.

The next day we go to the children’s museum. It is very small, but very well put together. There is a water table the size of my bedroom, a small playground demonstrating the water cycle, a pretend ship and crane to load cargo onto, and a lighthouse with two stories. The first story of the lighthouse you can “cook” in, and in the second story you can “watch for boats” out of the upstairs window. We come up with a crazy game full of hurricanes, pirates, seagulls, whirlpools, the Navy, fighter planes, sharks, foreign submarines, and squid that we get almost everyone in the museum playing. The Children’s Museum a neat, intimate little place to visit.

The next day we go to Aunt Caroline and Uncle Al’s house. I haven’t been there in years and am very excited for it to be only about twenty minutes away from Gramma Lynn’s. We stroll around the garden, drive the golf cart, swim at the beach, and look for Petoskey Stones on the shore. Petoskey stones are special rocks native to the Great Lakes and specifically Lake Michigan. They have a honeycomb pattern that is most prominent when wet and can be polished to stay looking like that forever. They are somewhat rare, but it’s worth it to look for them! When we go back to the yard we have a lovely dinner filled with herbs and bursting with freshness. After the plentiful feast, we say good-bye and go back to Gramma Lynn’s.

The entire trip was so amazing and heartwarming. The entirety of any trip I have ever had there has been so much fun! Traverse City is full of boutiques and small businesses, and the bay is one of the most amazing sights I have seen in my entire life. The woods clear your mind of all unwanted thoughts and the sand smoothes your soul to go back to rough everyday life. Other places are great. But it would have to be a pretty nice one to change my mind that Traverse City is not better.




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cinti kid said...
Jan. 13, 2010 at 9:41 am:
What a wonderful memory to have...
 
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