Daily Archives: September 19, 2012

A Day on the Mainland

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The day before yesterday, I traveled with my aunt to the mainland.

Aunt Katie had medical tests scheduled, an appointment with her lawyer, and plans to do some visiting and shopping. She can still drive, but prefers not to when off the island. She invited me along to be her driver.

She mentioned it first a few weeks ago.

“I’ll bet you’d like a trip to the mainland!” was how she worded it.

It’s not easy for her to ask for help.

“I’d love it!” was my reply.

The “mainland” is thirty-two miles away by ferry boat or small plane, to Charlevoix (the Beautiful), in the northwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula. Two hours by boat, twenty minutes by plane. When I came to Beaver Island on vacation, I always took the boat; since I’ve lived here, the plane is the most practical means of transportation. From Charlevoix, it is a half-hour drive north to Petoskey, to the clinic where Aunt’s medical tests were taking place. Her friend, Rose, is in Petoskey, too; the lawyer, in Charlevoix. She had a list to fill at the grocery store, and another for the pharmacy, based on sales she had found advertised in the paper.

I made arrangements to have the day off work.

I started thinking of all the things I’d love to do, with a little spare time on the mainland.

Maybe, since our flight was early, we could drive through McDonald’s for breakfast.

I know it’s not healthy, but it’s a rare treat. When I’m on the mainland, I allow myself the indulgence of a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich. If I’m traveling downstate to see my family, I also allow myself a large bag of Mesquite Barbecue “Krunchers” Potato Chips…but that’s another story.

A quick run into the second-hand store would be fun.

I’ve been watching for clothes suitable for work. We have a nice re-sale shop here on the island, but the one in Charlevoix is good, too. My daughters (who would have scorned the idea back when I was buying their clothing) discovered second-hand shopping when they realized their children grew faster than the cost-of-living, and they’ve turned it into an art! “Look at the labels first,” they tell me. There is no sense spending two dollars on something you could buy brand new for ten. The goal is to find good labels that speak of excellent quality and high prices…then you know you have a “steal” at two dollars. There are rules about checking for working zippers, missing buttons, split seams and stains. Of course, things like size and style come into play, too, and the best things won’t last, which makes the last rule very important: “Go often!”

What a treat to find time to visit a bookstore!

We used to have a nice bookstore here on Beaver Island, run by my friend, Mary Blocksma. She offered wonderful books and art, yoga classes, writing groups and great conversation in a room attached to her little home (where she often fed me lovely meals based on her knowledge of Indian cuisine or local mushrooms). She found self-publishing and book tours too costly to run from the island, and moved to a city down-state. I was broken-hearted when she left. We have an excellent library, but I love a good bookstore. When I get to the mainland, I like to stop at Book World in Charlevoix, Horizon Books or – my favorite – McLean & Eakin in Petoskey.

A quick run into Cherry Republic for their (absolutely wonderful) Cherry Scone Mix, and a dash into American Spoon Foods for a couple jars of salsa and their Cherry-Berry Conserve would be fantastic. If time allowed for a trip to The Grain Train in Petoskey, I could replenish my supply of rice, barley and beans for winter.

I’d check the grocery store for sales while Aunt Katie shopped. There were a couple personal care items I needed from the pharmacy, too.

I arrived at Aunt’s house at 8:25, with my first cup of coffee in hand. It is suggested that passengers be at the airport a half hour before the flight. Ours was scheduled for 9AM, so we were already rushing.

A few big raindrops started coming down as we drove to the airport, but the winds were calm.

The plane left on time and the ride was smooth.

I picked up the key at the desk, and wandered through the parking lot to get Aunt’s car. We – those of us that use her “mainland vehicle” – are always instructed to park as close to the terminal building as possible, in the long-term parking. For some reason, this day it was parked in the farthest space, in the most distant lot. By the time I found it, and drove around to the terminal to pick up my aunt, she was more than anxious to get underway.

Scratch McDonald’s, on to Petoskey.

First stop, the clinic. We were almost an hour early for Aunt’s appointment, but she checked in at the desk, and the receptionist said she might be able to get in early.

“This will take at least two hours,” Aunt Katie said, “Don’t you have some running around you’d like to do?”

She’d said that same thing to me the last time I brought her to this clinic. I’d headed for the gas-light district, went to my favorite bookstore, brought my purchases next door to the “Roast ‘n Toast” for a cafe mocha and a croissant, and got back to the clinic in a little over an hour. My 83 year old aunt was standing outside on her poor, wobbly legs waiting for me. “You’re late!” was the greeting I got.

Aunt Katie was the one that taught me how to handle disagreements with “stubborn Germans” like my father. “Don’t argue,” was her advice, “You’ll never win. Lower your eyes, bow your head, say ‘you are absolutely right’, then go on and think however you want to.”

Turns out, it was great advice.

Recognizing Aunt Katie as another “stubborn German”, I just said, “Sorry, Aunt Katie, I missed the turn.”

Not wanting to find myself in the same position this time, I said, “Thanks, Aunt Katie, but I think I’m just going to catch up on my magazine reading.”

This time, her tests took over two and a half hours.

Probably especially true in an election year, but Time and Newsweek magazines are pretty worthless if they’re more than two months old. People magazine is not much better.

By the time we got out of there, we had directions to Rose’s new home, but no time to go there. Aunt Katie was hungry. So was I, but I’d have happily settled for just another cup of coffee. No time for any of that, we had to get back to Charlevoix for the appointment with the lawyer.

Paperwork reviewed, signed and notarized, copies made, instructions given, pleasantries exchanged and we were off to get some lunch.

One bowl of soup, each: navy bean with ham. A beer for Aunt Katie; coffee for the driver.

Back to Petoskey, then, to see Rose. We found the place without incident, and had a good visit.

Aunt Katie’s legs were bothering her quite a bit by the time we left, so it was decided I’d do the shopping and she’d wait in the car. The pharmacy first, as it was right on the corner. I managed to work through her – very specific – list, in that – totally unfamiliar to me – store in what I thought was record time. “We’re running out of time!” was the greeting I received as she opened the back door for me to deposit the armload of boxes and bags. “We’re doing okay,” I told her. “A half hour to get back to Charlevoix will leave twenty minutes for me to run through the grocery store, and we can still get to the airport by five o’clock, with plenty of time to park before our 5:30 flight.”

“But you had stops you wanted to make!”

“No, Aunt Katie, nothing specific. I’m good.”

“The re-sale shop!”

“I think they closed at four o’clock. That was only if we had extra time.”

“You wanted to go to the bookstore. Well, you have too many books already.”

“You’re right, there!”

So, on to the grocery store with another list, and on to the airport (where I found a nice, close-to-the-terminal parking spot) and on to the small plane for a nice flight home.

A LOVELY day on the mainland!

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