Monthly Archives: March 2016

Life at Corner #16



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Kate and Jen, coloring Easter eggs, 1981

Living one year on Beaver Island had changed me. I had grown up. I had more confidence in myself. I was more comfortable with my life.

Before Beaver Island, I would beg my husband to take us somewhere (usually to his parent’s house for dinner and a few games of cards) two or three evenings a week, when he came home from work. Though I’m sure they got to the point of dreading our drop-in visits, now they were so rare, my in-laws even brought it up. Our relationship with them hadn’t changed.  I was just less needy.

We were busy, too. Our first year back seemed to fly by. Jen zipped through the second grade. She started third grade the same year that Kate started kindergarten. They were in swimming classes for part of the year, and ballet classes for part of the year. I was back in college, in Flint, with a full load of classes, and working as a server at the Big Boy restaurant in Lapeer. Terry traveled to Arkansas for a few weeks to help his cousin with a big job there. I wrote an essay for a national organization, and won an Honorable Mention. Sometimes, with a deadline for a drawing or painting class, I’d turn our kitchen into an art studio. For a few days, meals would be basic picnic fare, as I took over table and wall space for creative endeavors. We planted a big garden in the summers there. My sister, Cheryl, and I started bicycling together. Now and then, I babysat for her children.

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Easter morning, 1981

We had left Beaver Island with a stack of bills, and a packet of information on new land parcels for sale on Eagle Hill Drive. We intended to get caught up, then buy land, eventually put up a small house, and move back to the island with a secure place to live. It was a good plan, and we were making good progress on the stack of bills…when my husband fell off a roof.

Terry broke both arms and sprained a leg. We were lucky! It could have been much worse. With my restaurant tips now our main source of income, all plans slowed. Still, I continued to send little checks, five dollars here, ten dollars there, to the patient creditors on Beaver Island, to pay off our debts. Mrs. Chapman, whose husband had provided us with both gasoline and fuel oil, would always send nice receipts. “Thank you for the effort,” she’d write, “every little bit helps!” I continued, too, to put a little bit in a savings account every week, looking to the future.

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Jen, looking for eggs, Easter morning, 1981


The 52 Lists Project #12


april 10, 2013 012List your best qualities:

(This is one of the hardest lists I’ve done!)

  • I have pretty good hearing. Not as good as my sister, Cheryl, who can hear a whispered conversation two rooms away…but not bad.
  • I am pretty strong – physically – for my size.
  • I often remember my dreams.
  • I have nice hands. They are a lot like my mother’s hands, and that pleases me a great deal.
  • I enjoy all kinds of music.
  • I try to see all sides of a situation, most of the time.
  • I am kind, most of the time.
  • I am a good reader.
  • I write well.
  • I can handle a lot of solitude.
  • I have a pretty good sense of humor.
  • I am willing to endure financial sacrifices to make better choices ethically or environmentally.
  • I am kind to all living things. Except mosquitoes…flies…and sometimes ladybugs.
  • I am often very patient.
  • I am quite stubborn (sometimes that is a good quality!).
  • I am a good cook.
  • I’m good at arranging things. Not like the mafia “arranges things,” but like items on a shelf.
  • I am a hard worker and a loyal employee.
  • I am a loyal friend.
  • I’m a good letter writer.
  • I am devoted to my family, sisters, brother, cousins, nieces and nephews, children and grandchildren. I love them for all of their kindness, silliness, and strength. I am proud of every one of them for their smiling perseverance.
  • I have a good memory.
  • I am a good story-teller.

(Odd, that the list I claim is the most difficult is also one of the longest!)

Corner #16


Cindy, in the kitchen at Corner #16, 1980

“Corner #16” was at the intersection of M24 and Burnside Road. My next address was 31 E.Burnside Road, just two buildings away from that intersection, in the back half of a duplex that was made of the building that was once the Deerfield Township Hall. The new Deerfield Township Hall, a big, modern building with a large, fenced parking lot, was across the road.

Our building was a long rectangle of cement blocks, painted in that pale green that is often associated with hospitals and other institutions. The large yard was fenced on three sides. On one side of our house was  a cute little residence where an older gentleman lived. He had a stash of “the good stuff,” he told us: the spray for insects that was now illegal. If we’d like, he could spray our yard, too. “No, thanks,” I told him, “I don’t mind the bugs.” He was friendly and kind to us, but I can’t remember his name or much of anything  about him except for the DDT. Past that house was Bryan’s Market, on the corner.

In the other direction, there was a drive with small houses lining it; more yards and houses and drives that led into little subdivisions continued down Burnside Road, with an occasional old farm house. My sister, Cheryl, lived down that way, in a nice home that looked out on a pasture.

Just a short drive south on M24, and off to the right was Sweet School, where Jen would start second grade. The school had classrooms for kindergarten through third grade; after that the students went in to North Branch for school. Its smaller size seemed perfect, as a transition from the Beaver Island School.

Continuing south on M24 would bring us to Lapeer, ten miles away. From there, it was about twenty miles to my college classes in Flint. North on M24 from our house would bring us to the highway leading into the village of North Branch. Though we were technically in Deerfield Township, our address was North Branch.

There were two sets of cement steps, and two doors on the driveway side of the building. The first door led to the front unit, where a young couple lived with their twin babies. The second door led into our new kitchen. It was a spacious, open room with a row of cabinets filling the far wall. The refrigerator was  straight ahead, on the wall that divided kitchen from living room. There was an old stove there, too, with only two working burners and no oven. For about the first eight months that we lived there, I used my electric frying pan to bake bread and rolls, lasagna, even birthday cake! The dining table fit nicely in the center of the room. At Christmastime, there was plenty of space for a large, decorated tree in there, too. I loved that kitchen!

Just to the left of the entry door, a wide passage led into the living room. Windows on both exterior walls all had deep sills, compliments of the concrete block construction, that were perfect for holding houseplants. A “front” door in that room led out to the back yard. It was the biggest living room I’d ever had, almost twenty feet in either direction.

Two doors on the far wall led into  bedrooms. For a home with such an expansive living space, the bedrooms were tiny. Their dimensions were, I’m guessing here, maybe 10′ x10′ with a closet carved out of one wall. A hallway to the right led to the bathroom, which also held the washer and dryer. A door at the end of the hall hid the hot water heater.

This was our new home!


Leaving Beaver Island



garden island 014By the time the summer of 1979 arrived, with all of its crazy activity, I was kind of ready for it.

My husband and I had come to an agreement. The girls and I would stay on the island for the summer. I would work through the busy months of June, July and August at the Shamrock, to repay their investment in training me, and to set aside some money for our future plans. Terry would continue to work on the mainland, with occasional trips to the island for visits. He would find us a place to live on the mainland, with consideration to school systems for our daughters, and proximity to his work and my college. We would both concentrate on paying back the huge fuel oil bill we’d run up. He said, “I can do this (meaning, depending on the day and the conversation: quit drinking, drink more sensibly, control his temper…), but I can’t do it on Beaver Island. Not right now, anyway.” We would keep our sights on island life, but would get our lives in order and come back with a more secure lifestyle.

Jen and Kate had made friends, and were looking forward to summer on Beaver Island.

I had gotten to know my co-workers at the Shamrock, and become more familiar with the job.

I was pretty confidant that things were going to work out…and they did.

Of course, no amount of planning could have prepared me for the onslaught of customers rushing in to the Shamrock every morning. We often served a hundred breakfasts before the morning ferry left at 11AM! Then, it was a rush to get everything cleaned up and ready for the lunch crowd. It was ridiculous and crazy, some of the hardest work I’d ever done, and a great bunch of fun. It was a gigantic confidence-booster,  to – day after day – handle problems big and small, and continually get the job done.

I’d pick up the girls after work, and we’d go home to get ready for the beach. Because the farmhouse was a short mile and a half from town, we often headed right back to the public beach on the harbor. We could easily get a few hours of relaxing, playing and swimming in before going home to get supper on the table. Because the farmhouse was used by all of the family for vacations, there were often aunts, uncles or cousins there to share the meal.

It was a good summer. Too soon, it was over. Jen and Kate went downstate with their Dad one week before I left, to spend some time with their grandparents. During that week, my friend Linda visited with her friend, Mary, and my Grandma Florence and Aunt Katie both came to the island. The night before I was to leave, I went around the island with friends, Beth Ann and Diane. I got home very late, and quite drunk. Aunt Katie was waiting up. “You’re never going to make that 8:30 boat,” she said, “You’re not even packed!”

Little did she know the powers of a life-long procrastinator! I was packed, ready, and had the car down to the boat on time the next morning. A dozen friends and co-workers were there to see me off. That’s when the tears started. By the time the horn sounded, I was crying out loud. Passengers squeezed my shoulders or patted my back in understanding. “Awww, I know…we always hate to leave, too,” they said. My friends drove to Whiskey Point, where the lighthouse sits, to wave a final farewell. I’m sure my sobs were audible across the water. By the time the ferry boat reached Charlevoix two hours later, even the most sympathetic of the passengers were getting fed up with my tears. “Come on…” one man said, “there will be other vacations!”

I pulled myself together for the four hour drive ahead. By the time I got through the “roller coaster road” and into Gaylord, I was anxious to see my daughters, and looking ahead instead of behind.

Timeout for Art: Another Perspective


collagraph, Kinship

Last week, I was moved to write about “staying on the bus.” When I look at the many years I have skittered from one artistic endeavor to another, I wonder where my pursuits might have landed me if I had stuck with one area of exploration.

I thought of it not only in artistic terms, but in relation to my whole life. What if I had just focused on being the best mother I could be, rather than also attempting to be a good student, an artist, a cook, a gardener, an employee…

It all seemed reasonable when I wrote it, and I still think the idea has merit. However, there are other ways to look at it. Clearly there are other points of view. Perhaps I wasn’t as  clear in explaining my meaning as I should have been. Some thoughts expressed by Elizabeth Gilbert in her new book, Big Magic, might clarify what I was trying to say:

My favorite meditation teacher, Pema Chodron, once said that the biggest problem she sees with people’s meditation practice is that they quit just when things are starting to get interesting. Which is to say, they quit as soon as things aren’t easy anymore, as soon as it gets painful, or boring, or agitating. They quit as soon as they see something in their minds that scares them or hurts them. So they miss the good part, the wild part, the transformative part – the part when you push past the difficulty and enter into some raw new unexplored universe within yourself.

And maybe it’s like that with every important aspect of your life. Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon. As my friend Pastor Rob Bell warns: “Don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.”

Don’t let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding.

Because that moment?

That’s the moment when interesting begins.

collagraph, Kinship2

Now, with that bit of clarification, let me say that I do not regret one moment of my artistic exploration. I certainly don’t think any of us should focus so narrowly on an endeavor that we don’t let other inspiration come calling. What if I’d never gotten my hands in clay, or experienced the joy of pulling a print? I can’t imagine! But, honestly, sometimes it’s just too easy to move from one thing to another, and sometimes I use it to avoid the hard stuff.

As for the other aspects of my life, well…I can only imagine how very screwed up my daughters would have been, if they had been my sole focus in life. I was neurotic enough about parenting as it was, even with other distractions!

I want to be an explorer. I just don’t want to be running around so intent on the pursuit of everything, that I never actually fully experience anything that I’ve found.

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…And How It Went


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So, our first winter on Beaver Island was the winter of 1978-79. It was “the year of the blizzard” in Michigan. All over the state, records were being broken, cars were buried and folks were snowed in. I had no idea. I thought it was just Beaver Island…and I didn’t know it was unusual. Dad had warned me that winters on Beaver Island were hard!

We were at the Stone House that winter, four and a half miles from town, one mile from our nearest neighbors. Bonnie and Denny Wagner lived about a mile south of us, in a big farmhouse that they were in the process of remodeling. Their son, Craig, started the first grade with my daughter, Jen. They also had a daughter, Missy, just a bit younger than Katey, and a toddler, Johnny. We all became good friends, and often shared dinners together.

My husband played poker once a week with a group of islanders. He played pool at the Shamrock. I played in a pool tournament that winter, too. Though I am awful at the game, I managed somehow to take third place! Now and then, Terry and I would hire a babysitter, and go to the Shamrock for the evening. Sometimes we played backgammon.

Did you count, as we were going through the rooms of the Stone House? There were four wood stoves! The only one that sat idle was the old cook stove in the kitchen. We had to keep the garage warm enough to keep the water pipes from freezing. We tried to keep the house heated with the other two. Fuel oil was expensive; we didn’t want to use that furnace more than we had to. We quickly used up the wood that had been in the garage when we moved in. Then, our main focus became finding more.

We got slabs from the lumber mill, free for hauling away. They were dirty, and didn’t give out much heat, so we used them only in the garage. We bought wood from people that had extra; we cut and hauled wood when we could. We gathered windfall and dead wood. We used the furnace more than we’d planned. It was a constant struggle to keep warm.

In the middle of February, a massive storm came through. It dumped several inches of snow, took out electricity for long hours and blew down the chimney on the Zanella’s house down the road. It blew a big tree down, right over our driveway. My husband and I looked in awe out the dining room window, where the top branches now reached, and were rubbing against the glass. The tree had fallen right across our car, crushing it. We stared. We turned and looked at each other. We grinned.

“Firewood!!” we said, in unison.

It wasn’t all good. My husband and I separated that winter. He was drinking heavily; we were fighting too much; he was homesick. Work on the island had slowed with the cold weather. He had jobs to do downstate. We decided it would be best to take a break, and see if we could figure things out.

It made for a long, lonely winter. Hours at work were minimal during that slow season. Keeping the fires going was my main occupation. My daughters were now four and seven years old. They were  almost my only company, and they went to bed early. Don and Florence Burke stopped in once. Topper McDonough visited two or three times. He’d bring a six-pack of beer. I’d drink one while he had the rest, while he told me stories of when I was a toddler, when he visited my Dad in Lapeer. “You were a little monkey,” he’d tell me, “You could run full out along the back of the sofa! You nearly gave me a heart attack!” It was nice to hear tales of when I was young. For much of that winter, I felt very old.

In the springtime, my Dad came to the island with my sister, Brenda and her son, Alan, with the intent of helping me move back to the farmhouse. The suckers were running in the streams, and Dad taught the kids how to catch them in nets or with their bare hands. They’d keep going back to the creek for more, while Brenda and I stood in the wood shed at the farmhouse, cleaning the fish. The ones set aside for smoking didn’t need to be scaled, but plenty enough of them did. We started with heavy spoons. At one point, Jewell Gillespie stopped in with an electric scaler. It was certainly fast, but sent the scales flying everywhere. I got back to the Stone House at about three in the morning…stood under the shower trying to get the fish scales off my skin and out of my hair…then collapsed into bed. What a nightmare!

And yet, in hindsight, it became a good memory. The kids all certainly enjoyed it! It quickly became a tradition, among myself, my sisters and our children, to come to the island with Dad in the springtime, for a cold, wet and fish-smelling splashing good time!

By the first of May, we were back in the farmhouse for the summer.


The Stone House on Beaver Island



At the end of October, in 1978, we moved out of the farmhouse and moved in to the Stone House. Easy to find, it was featured on the new Wojan-Cashman map of Beaver Island. During the tourist season, the large home rented for a whopping two hundred and fifty dollars per week…but from the end of October to the first of May, we could have it for a mere one hundred twenty-five dollars a month!

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The Stone House was on the corner of the King’s Highway and Paid Een Og’s Road (pronounced, roughly, podge-een-ogg ),about two and a half miles south of the farmhouse. It had recently been the retirement home of a Catholic priest, Father Donahue. His nephew, Jim Lovely, had inherited it when the priest died. It was from him that we rented it.

The main structure was a two story square building of beautiful fieldstone with a gambrel roof, but additions had been added in almost every direction. To the south, a large enclosed porch collected enough heat to feel like a sauna on sunny days days. Another enclosed porch faced the King’s Highway to the east. On the west, a couple large additions featured a  living-ding room, bathroom, kitchen and a garage at the end of the driveway off Paid Een Og’s Road.

The yard was bordered with flowering hedges. A large, old rickety barn stood to the south of the house. The woods came right up to the driveway on the west.

We always parked in the driveway, and entered through the garage. The west wall – farthest from the house – and the back wall were covered in pegboard, loaded with simple tools. Shallow benches and shelves hugged the walls. In the center of the garage sat a barrel stove. The wall closest to the house had wood storage along the first half, then the stairs that would lead into the kitchen, and then a space for a washer and dryer. It seems like there was room to park a car in there, but I never remember doing it.

Up the stairs and into the kitchen, you would first be face to face with a beautiful old cast iron wood-burning cook stove. Pans rested on its surface and hung above it. Turn sharply to the left, to see the rest of the kitchen. An electric stove stood alone on the left, on the wall shared with the garage. Cupboards lined the wall straight ahead, with a sink in the center and the refrigerator at the far end. A window above the sink looked out on the driveway, side yard and Paid Een Og’s Road beyond. A little table was tucked into the corner opposite the refrigerator; between those two items, a doorway led to the dining and living space.

The dining table sat in front of a large window, again facing Paid Een Og’s Road. The far wall had once been the back, exterior wall of the original building. The wall was fieldstone. It grabbed the cold and held on to it. Those stone walls radiated cold all winter long. Though they were lovely, I shudder with the memory of them. A bookcase stood against the stone wall, its shelves filled with missals, ledgers and old cookbooks.

The stone continued  across the back wall of the living area. On the opposite side of the room, on the wall shared with the kitchen, was a large stone fireplace. A slab of wood retrieved from a shipwreck was the mantle. Into the face of it was carved the legend, “Chop your own Wood and it Warms you Twice.”  A “heat-a-lator” insert helped to send more heat back into the room. Tucked into the far corner was a door that lead into a small bathroom. The south wall had windows that looked out onto an enclosed porch. On the far end of the stone wall, just opposite the bathroom door, was a doorway leading into the original house.

What had been living spaces were now sleeping quarters. The first, main room was kept open. Just inside was a stairway, leading to two upstairs bedrooms. We only used those rooms for company. Another door led to a set of old wooden steps that led to the basement. There was a fuse box down there and a fuel oil furnace. Kettles and zinc wash tubs shared space  with equipment for making saurkraut, apple cider and maple syrup.

Across from the stairs was a small desk that held the telephone. Straight ahead was the front door, leading into another enclosed porch, this one facing the King’s Highway. A pot-bellied wood stove sat in the center of the room. To the left, an archway led into a mid-sized room with two twin beds. That became the bedroom for my daughters. At the back of that room, a wooden door led into another small bedroom; that’s where my husband and I slept.

That’s the end of the simple tour through the Stone House on Beaver Island



Monday: Report


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With less than two weeks before the official first day of spring, it seems to have arrived here on Beaver Island. After three sunny days, we had rain through the night. My sleep was sound, so I don’t know if it rained hard, or steadily or just off and on. I never heard thunder. Twice through the night, my little dog woke me to let her outside. Twice, I threw off the covers and stumbled sleepily to the door. When I opened it, I could see that it was raining. Rosa Parks poked her little nose outside to assess the situation, shook her little head “no, thanks,” and we went back to bed. So, it rained enough to keep the little dog inside.

It has transformed my yard from “endings of winter” to “definitely spring.” The snow is gone! There are three  curved ridges of snow left in the entire yard. A few tiny clumps still shine out from the woods. That’s it! Even the large, icy mound that the snowplow leaves, that gets packed together and frozen so hard it often stays until June…gone!

This overnight unveiling has revealed all the tasks left undone last fall, when icy winds and cold gave me license to put things off until spring. The last of the fallen leaves are now a sodden mess over large areas of the yard. Winter’s winds have done their usual job of shaking down the dead wood from my old trees. Picking up branches and hauling them to the fire pit is an almost daily task. Still, the snow melt shows all that I’ve missed. The grass, which never did get mowed the “one last time before winter” that it needed, gives a raggedy appearance through the leaves and twigs.

The garden, too, shows a wealth of sins. The raspberries need to be pruned, weeded and thinned if they are going to do well this year. The strawberry bed needs fresh pine needle mulch. Old vines, from last year’s tomatoes, squash and beans, need to be pulled out and hauled away. My compost barrel – which seemed like such a flawless idea when I started it – is full to overflowing. The last two times I carried out the little bucket of kitchen scraps, I had to use a five-gallon bucket as an annex, as the barrel was full. It may compress as it thaws, but it needs to be emptied soon. My wheelbarrows both need repair. The small one has a flat tire; the large one, a broken handle.

Spring fever, it seems, arrived at my house before the season. I’ve been dragging around for weeks, with never enough energy to accomplish all the things I wanted to. The worry of all the things not yet finished keeps me awake many nights, which adds to my exhaustion. Saturday night, we turned the clocks forward, so I’ve lost yet another hour. And now, with the melting snow, my list of things-to-do has quadrupled.

On the positive side, there are daffodils and tulips poking out of the ground in the flowerbeds that flank the kitchen door. The branches of trees and shrubs are heavy with buds that are almost ready to roll open into leaves or blossoms. The wild ramps are already showing green in the woods. The air smells fresh and clean. It’s a little bit early this year, but I think spring is truly here!


The 52 Lists Project #11


april 7,2012 022

List the ways you can rejuvenate your space:

  • Oh, fresh paint would be so nice! I think white this time, all the way through, ceilings and walls the same. Not stark white, though…white with just a touch of warmth.
  • Flooring, to cover the painted particle board that has worn to show the paths I take from room to room and that holds on to sand and spills in every crack and crevice. When it was first painted, it was a wonderful improvement over the plain particle board which, when it was new, was a huge improvement over the icy cold, cracked and chipped, painted cement slab, which was a slight improvement over the plain old unpainted cement slab that filled the air with cement dust every time I swept it…but I’d like a real floor. Because the floor is “on-grade,” meaning no air space below it, hardwood flooring is not recommended. Because it isn’t level, sheet vinyl or tiles would require the added expense of plywood under-layment. Because the house is small, I’d like the flooring to be consistent throughout. That means it has to be suitable for bathroom and kitchen as well as other living spaces. That eliminates many of the click-together floors that have an MDF base.Carpeting would never be a good choice for me: too much sand, too many spills, and I’d never want a carpeted bathroom! Because there are probably no options that I can install myself, I have to figure the cost of a contractor, too. All of these things are contributing reasons why I still have no real floor, though this house is more than thirty years old. It sure would spruce the place up! I’m currently considering vinyl plank flooring.
  • Light fixtures. Right now, in the living room and dining room, there are rims to light fixtures, but both of the globes broke, so the twisty compact fluorescent bulbs are exposed…and not the most elegant look. The entry has a different type of fixture. It’s globe is intact, but its rim has totally rusted out, a casualty of the many years I used an unvented propane heater. It caused every bit of uncoated metal in the house to rust: curtain rods, hinges, door handles and light fixtures. Even the refrigerator shows rust, under it’s  white enamel. The kitchen and laundry room have simple porcelain light fixtures that hold bulbs.
  • Woodwork. Baseboards where floors meet walls, trim around doors and closets and windows…that would really spruce things up!
  • I’m thinking of painting my front door some unexpected color, just to liven up the entry.
  • Outside, this year I’m going for bales of hay and a big load of mulch to get my gardens back in good shape. Mowing, trimming, weeding and pruning will help, too.
  • Beyond that, I bought a new used tablecloth at the re-sale shop last week.It is washed, pressed, and ready to go.  As soon as the weather signals spring, I am putting it on the dining table, along with a couple bright candles in clear holders and a bouquet of the earliest daffodils. That is rejuvenation at its best!

The Working Life



Soon after moving to Beaver Island, I started my job at the Shamrock.

I was scared to death. I was shy, timid, clumsy and uncoordinated. In other words, I had almost nothing needed to be a good waitress. Still, this was a new place; I could reinvent myself, couldn’t I? Things did not need to be true just because they had always been true. That’s what starting over is all about!

So, I dressed in the ugly green and white pin-striped polyester seersucker uniform that had been provided. I rolled and twisted and safety-pinned the elastic waist of the slacks, to make them fit. I pulled my hair back into a ponytail, and practiced saying, “Hello, how can I help you?”

I arrived on time. Barb, the owner, was there to greet me. She introduced me to her mother, Betty, who was one of the cooks, and Catherine who was the other cook. She taught me how to brew the coffee, where to get the ice for the bin behind the bar and where the cups and glasses were kept. She explained how to put placemats, napkins and silverware in front of the customers. She introduced me to Walt Wojan, the first customer in the door. She watched me bring his coffee, reminded me to keep smiling, and left.

I found, over the next few weeks, that Barb had a very minimal training style. A few pointers, and there you go, you’re on your own.

I nearly panicked, but didn’t. I fell behind, but kept going. I messed up, but not as bad as I could have. At one point, I did something wrong, and Betty came out and yelled at me, shook her head, disgusted, and said to the customer, “These dummies we get…they don’t know anything…” Well! The first chance I got, I marched right in to her kitchen. She started to tell me I didn’t belong there. I silenced her with a wave of my hand.

“I am new,” I told her, “I have never waitressed before. I was given very little instruction. I made mistakes. I will try my best to learn this job…but I will not ever again have you talk to me that way or talk to customers about me that way. If that happens, ever again, I will go home, and I won’t come back.”

“Okay,” she scowled, “Get out there. Get out of my kitchen. Go back to work.”

And that’s what I did.

That wasn’t the last disagreement we had. It wasn’t – by far – my last mistake.

It was significant only because it was the very first time in my entire life  I had ever stood up to someone in my own defense like that. For me, that was momentous!

I came home after my first day, told the girls to play quietly in the living room, and collapsed, exhausted, on the sofa.

Working at the Shamrock was one of the hardest jobs I’d ever done. I was not particularly good at it, not at first, anyway. Still, I loved it! I met wonderful life-long friends there. In that first year they were Emma Jean, Chris, and Diane. When you work with people in a stressful, difficult job, a bond is formed that supersedes differences in age or lifestyle. Catherine, it turned out, was my father’s first cousin. We found we shared an irreverent sense of humor and a love of word games. Though forty years separated us in age, we giggled and talked and shared secrets as if we were sisters. Even Betty and I developed a  respect and sincere fondness for each other, as time went on.

Customers, too, became like family to me: sometimes annoying or demanding, and always with their little quirks, but dear in their own ways.

Tips, in case you’ve never worked in a job where you might receive them, are fantastic! I do believe I could learn to love almost any job, if people would just toss money my way every so often. I felt appreciated. Eventually, I got to be very good at the job. Always, I felt my contribution was necessary to the smooth execution of getting coffee and breakfast to dozens of people before they went to their jobs or boarded the  morning ferry.

Working at the Shamrock Bar and Restaurant was a life-altering experience, and one of the best gifts Beaver Island brought into my life.