I never have been much of a “vacationer.”
When I visit a place, I want to see it the way the locals do. I don’t want the “tourist experience;” I want to fit in. I imagine that it’s my place, that I’m familiar with the people and their particular mannerisms, that I know the vendors and I’m a regular at a certain coffee shop.
I wanted to live on Beaver Island for as long as I can remember.
When my Dad gave up his own electrical business and started working at Chevrolet Manufacturing, he got a paid vacation. We used that time to go to Beaver Island every summer, to the farmhouse where Dad was raised, and where my Grandpa George and Grandma Florence still spent their summers.
We played on rope swings in the barn, roamed the fields, climbed trees and built forts. On rainy days, we explored the old trunks and boxes and attic spaces. Grandma would let us help with the old wringer washer, and was always up for games of “Crazy Eights” or “Kings in the Corner.” On nice days, we’d load up and go to the beach. In the evenings, Dad told the old stories as he drove us around on the curving roads through the tunnels of trees.
I loved it all! I always imagined it was my home. When the time came to go, I was the kid hanging over the rail of the ferry boat, sobbing.
I wanted to live there.
In preparation, of course, I’d read.
The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald, plucked from my mother’s bookshelf, was early research.
E.B.White’s essays – written when he moved from New York City to a saltwater farm in Maine – were treasures. His story about trying to save an ailing pig, that would eventually go to slaughter, still makes me laugh…and cry. His sheep were named with Celtic numbers (Yain, Tain, Eddero, Peddero, Dix…)and his little dachshund was always around, investigating the goings-on.
As soon as my daughters were old enough, our bedtime reading turned to the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. One chapter a night, we went through the entire Little House on the Prairie series, learning as we went about the old ways.
An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter helped me plan my own island garden. She talked about the way Sweet Peas climbed and wound around their supports, about tiny bouquets of the little blossoms and of their heavenly scent.
Sweet Peas were added to my list of dreams for my little island home.
Eventually, I did move to Beaver Island, with a husband and two small children.
It didn’t always go as planned.
Problems arose that were never covered in the books I’d read.
Living on Beaver Island is not what I expected it would be.
It doesn’t matter.
I kind of fit in. It’s my place. I’m familiar with the people and their particular mannerisms. I know the vendors, and I’m a regular at a certain coffee shop.
I still hate to leave Beaver Island and I love coming back.
Sweet Peas blossom just outside my kitchen door.
This is home.