After the end of winter and all of spring in North Branch, Michigan, my daughters and I went back to Beaver Island for the summer. They had friends to catch up with; I had a job waiting. We had a houseful of belongings, left hastily behind, to make some sense out of.
I paid my friend, Roy, for the time we’d stayed at his Erin Motel. I set up payments (or at least let them know there would be payments…sometime) or made trades with all the people that had provided materials or labor, in getting our house to the state it was in. The electrician, who had expected my husband’s labor in exchange for his work, was offered a fairly new sofa, a color TV or to be added to my list for future payment. He chose the TV set. My cousin, Bob, for his assistance in building and roofing the house, had me draw a scene on a wall-sized mirror, and etch the picture into the glass. I had to learn how to sandblast, but one more person was paid.
One by one, I spoke to people that had given us lumber or insulation or shingles, in exchange for the promise of my husband’s help at a later date. Since I no longer had a husband, they had to deal with me. Some, I was able to pay out of the tips I earned tha summer. Others would have to wait. They all knew I cared, anyway.
At summer’s end, we moved to East Lansing, Michigan, to the Cherry Lane apartment complex on the campus of Michigan state University. There were three family housing complexes on campus: Spartan Village, University Village and Cherry Lane. They were spare, but had everything we needed. Everyone that lived there was either a student, a member of the faculty, or one of their family members.There was a huge library on campus, and many opportunities for cultural experiences from art to theater.
The campus itself was like a park. Walking trails led through well groomed lawns and gardens. Trees from all around the world were tagged with their origin and other information. There was always something blooming.
The entire town was geared toward college students. That was exciting to my pre-teen daughters. There were video game arcades and cute novelty shops, funky restaurants, and young people everywhere.
In the days before they started school – which was three weeks before my own courses began – we wandered the campus, learning our way around. We found the swimming pool, accessible for free, just by showing my student ID. We found the dorm building where free movies were shown. We gathered local newspapers to learn about the town.
Everything was new! These were exciting times for my little family. For the first time since my marriage ended, I started to imagine a future where we’d all be okay.