You can take the girl out of Michigan, but you can’t take Michigan out of the girl.
As if this trip to my sister’s memorial service isn’t emotional enough, I didn’t anticipate the flood of emotion from recognizing city sign markers driving into town, under an hour away from my grandparents home. It has been an easy 20 years since I’ve visited central Michigan, Branch Township, where I spent weeks of my childhood summers at my grandparents’ home, eighty acres in the Manistee National Forest.
My grandfather drove a yellow Scout. Whenever we went to Reed City, Big Rapids, Irons, Baldwin, White Cloud or Ludington, we didn’t take the main roads and highways. My grandfather drove dirt roads, typically named some-number Mile Road, or two tracks, stopping along the way so my grandmother could harvest some anti-itch orange flower she’d boil and make ice cubes or shake chokecherries or crabapples out of the tree so she’d make into jam, or so he could catch a snapping turtle to make into soup. I kid you not you uneducated city folk. A trip to town was always an adventure.
It was the 70’s and my grandparents were into their CB and police scanner. We all had CD handles. Did you?
Breaker one-nine, breaker one-nine (somehow it was always channel 19). What were our CB handles? I know my cousins will piece it together for me tomorrow. There was Buckeye Ike and Buckeye Rambler. My mom’s was Katydid, I think. I can’t remember either of my sister’s CB handles. My brother was Kingfisher (uh huh, sure) and all I can say about my CB handle is that I’m consistent, Aggravation. Right? No shit.
Pine trees, walks in the woods, ferns, deer, bluegill and bass fishing, Troutorama, Blue Moon and Mint Chip ice cream, sand dunes, French fries in coon fat, playing cards, sun tea, snowmobiles, tractor rides, ATVs, mopeds, wild blueberries, sassafras, wintergreen, mushroom hunting, jam, pie, fish fry, homemade noodles, boating on the lake, building forts, 2 miles to check the mail, two tracks, deer blinds, salt licks, outhouses, main house, cabin, hammocks, chipmunks, which way: the front way or the back way, quilts, crochet, knit, old typewriter, Harlequin romance novels, cookbooks, jam, the ladder to the basement, then the back porch, lake house, slide shows, cousins, aunts, uncles, family.
The last time I was here, not counting funerals, on purely social accounts, was when I was 21, maybe 22. I took a month and drove across country, National Park hopping and camping, mostly by myself, with the exception of 4 days at the start with a friend. That was 23 years ago. Some things never change. Michigan may have changed, but not in my heart.