Driving away from the old farmhouse I grew up in, I was pensive and melancholy. I knew the place was rundown, but to walk into the now-abandoned shack that held so many memories was such a letdown. I wanted to find a way to shake my sense of unease.
Another place that holds wonderful memories growing up was Lake Michigan, and Silver Lake to be specific. On my way, I drove through my hometown of Hart that was just a mile or so from our farm.
Making my way past Hart Lake, I turned left towards the cemetery where my mother was buried. I stopped to see her little headstone with the wrong birth year on it. I have always wondered what the story is behind the incorrect headstone that marks her grave.
It never seemed to bother any of us, because that grave wasn’t her home it was just a marker with her name on it.
Tomas Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go home again” and after my trip to Michigan last month the literal meaning of that title hit me hard. If you have been following my story, you know I grew up in a small town in Michigan. In August I flew home to go to my sister Janet’s memorial service.
It was a somber trip dotted with memory lane moments and visits with old friends and family. I stayed at my sister Linda and her husband George’s 40-acre country home and we spent a lot of time sitting on her porch chatting.
On the day of the memorial, we headed towards Lake Michigan to join our family for Janet’s service. As I sat in the passenger seat looking out at the countryside rolling by, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic.
I remember thinking when my oldest son turned 10, in the same amount of time he will be a man. The decade between 10 and 20 holds so many changes, and I was no exception to the rule.
I have shared before that my mom died when I was 11, and that I think of my life as “before she died” and “after she died”. The few years after her death were some of my hardest.
Not only was I dealing with the loss of my mother but by 12 my period started and my emotions were all over the board. I was either completely lost in thought or crying.
Puberty can be hell for so many of us and my personal experience was compounded by loss and sorrow. Worst of all, about the only thing I knew about having a period was I had to use those giant pads from the 1960’s my mom had used.
I was born in 1959 in a little town in Northern California. While that is probably not very significant, the fact that I was my mother’s ninth child, my father’s tenth child and my parents’ fifth child together is significant. I know, confusing right?
From the moment I can remember anything about my life, I was
surrounded by lots of people. Not only did I have a bunch of siblings but I
also had many cousins. There was always someone to play with.
My parents were hardworking people who made their living off the land.
As a matter of fact, my father’s occupation is on my birth certificate. Ranch hand. I find it interesting that my dad’s profession was necessary on my birth certificate. In a way, I have been “classed” from the beginning.
Do you ever wonder what it was like for your parents when they were kids? I don’t think about my dad’s youth as much as I do my mom’s. That’s probably because she was the rule-maker of our home.
And the enforcer too.
When I was a kid, I didn’t think about or care what made her the way she was, I was more concerned with ducking her flip-flop as she tried to swat me with it for not doing what I was told.
But as an adult, I have to wonder what it was like for her growing up in that little farmhouse in Michigan with four brothers and three sisters.
She was born in the spring of 1924, unless you go by what her headstone reads. Not sure how that happened, but it’s off by a year. She was the second child of eight, in a home that would soon be crowded. Continue reading
When you experience a death of a parent at a young age, your life gets measured into two pieces. You see your life before the event, and then after. It’s like there’s a crack in your personal timeline that you have to hop over each time you recall memories.
At least it’s that way for me. When I look at my life and think about my past everything is measured as either Before Mom Died, or After Mom Died.
It’s Friday, September 1st…the beginning of Labor Day weekend, and the beginning of the end of summer.
We’ve had a lovely summer and I am looking forward to fall. Autumn is my favorite time of year. I think it comes from growing up in Michigan. You can feel the change in the air, and there is something magical about that for me.
This was the time of year the grapes that grew just up the hill from our garden were ripe. I would run up there each morning and pick a fat bunch so Mom could put them in my lunchbox.
I remember riding the bus to school in the fall, looking out the window and counting the buckets that were hanging from the maple trees. The mornings were crisp and cool and the afternoons were so warm we would be dragging our coats home with us.
Taking the bus home from school, my brothers and I would get off at the farm that was over the hill and through the woods behind our place. It was so fun running through those cool dark woods towards home. Sometimes we would stop to look for the last morel mushrooms that would be growing under the damp leaves.
I think the other reason I loved autumn so much was because it was also the end of summer work. There were no more cherries to pick, the garden had been harvested, and we could spend the early evenings outside playing hide and go seek.
It was the best time of year. And it still is for me.
Go enjoy your long weekend…because after autumn, winter is coming.
The best thing about moving is you get to start over. No one knows you or your history. There’s no long-established notion of who you are.
That’s how I felt at 19 in Bend, Oregon. I was determined to make a fresh start. Growing up in a small town in the Midwest was a little bit like growing up in a fish bowl. It’s not that all 2,000 of us knew each other; it’s more that it just felt that way.
Bend was two thousand miles away, away from my old life, and away from being the poor farm kid. With a staggering population of 15,000 people, for me it felt like a big city, and it was love at first sight.
It may not seem like it, but I like to think of myself as lucky. Leaving Michigan didn’t turned out like I thought it was going to, and finding myself on the cold side of a door wasn’t exactly good fortune. But luck was still on my side as I waited for Jonathan to pick me up.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, in that moment the only thing I had to my name was a suitcase full of clothes and a few keepsakes, a couple of dollars and a phone number of a stranger I had met just hours earlier.
That stranger pulled up and opened the car door and said to hop in. It was 1978 in the Mid-West and yeah, I had hitch hiked before, but this was different. Hitch hiking always scared me, but I didn’t feel worried when I got into that car.
I left Michigan for the last time when I was 18. One freezing cold day in February of 1978, I was done. Done with school, done with the weather, done with that small town, and done with a relationship. It was time to move on.
My chance came when a friend was going to Springfield to visit her father and stepmother. She didn’t want to go alone, and asked if I would go with her. I came up with the $86 one-way plane ticket and packed a small yellow suitcase. Before I knew it, we were on a plane bound for Missouri.
As a teenage girl, living with a single older father had its challenges. One time I got in trouble because he found a razor in the bathtub, and asked me if I was shaving my legs. I was in ninth grade.
We were living in Oregon at the time, and I hated it. I was going to a strange new school, and I had no friends. The first day of ninth grade, I met a girl in the cafeteria who asked my name. When I told her, she laughed and said her uncle had a dog named Loretta. That was also the school where I was teased for having “chicken legs” because I was so skinny. I wanted to go back home to Michigan.
My dear sister Linda is 15 years older than I am and like a second mother to me. She came to my rescue and told our father that she was moving back to Hart. And she was taking me with her. I was elated. We packed up her car and her three young boys, and headed back home.
That’s when I met Greg. He was two years older, my brother’s best friend, tall and blonde and so sweet. We hit it off immediately and before long we were dating. I was happy and busy with a new boyfriend, school and work.