Tag Archives: ferry

Good Morning (April A~Z Challenge)



Good Morning! What a friendly phrase! Having worked as a waitress on the early – coffee-and-breakfast-serving – shift for more than twenty years, I’ve probably spoken it more than most.

“Good Morning,” I’d say, as I plunked down mugs of hot coffee in front of my regulars as soon as they came in the door. I knew the exceptions that wanted decaf or tea, instead. I knew who might order a little breakfast, after a couple cups of coffee. I knew who needed to get to work quickly, and who would sit for an hour or more. They were friends, sort of, though we only met over morning coffee, and mine was a position of servitude. They felt like family, all of us still groggy from sleep, making conversation in the early morning hours.

“Good Morning,” I’d say, as I put placemats, napkins and silverware around a table, and handed a menu to each person seated there.  I’d always keep an eye on the clock, as the ferry dock was just across the road and it’s schedule drove our business. I’d address the issue right away. Early, it would be, “You have plenty of time before the boat, and the kitchen is not too busy yet. I’ll take your order as soon as I can, so you’ll have time to relax before boarding.”

Later, my spiel would sound differently. “Good Morning! If you want breakfast, and are planning to catch that boat, you should give me your order right away. At this time, I’d suggest any eggs be scrambled; pancakes will slow the order down a lot, but the cinnamon french toast is fast and good.” There were always a few stragglers who came in at the very last minute, wanting whatever we could fix them quickly, and pack for take-out.

In our heydey at the Shamrock Bar and Restaurant (which no longer serves breakfast at all), in the height of the season, we’d serve fifty to one hundred breakfasts before the ferry left the dock. By that time, “Good Morning” had changed to “What a Morning” as we rushed to clean up after the breakfast rush, and prepare to serve lunch.

These days, my “Good Morning” is first directed at the dogs. It loses a little in interpretation. What they think it means is “Roll over, show me your belly, and I will give you one hundred belly rubs.” Actually, when I’m speaking to them, it kinda does.


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.

Where I Live


beaver islander

It was suggested that if I were to have another day where I could think of nothing to write about, I could write about Beaver Island.

Today is that day.

Though there are many wonderful and interesting things to tell about this place, first and foremost, Beaver Island is my home.

My father was raised here, as were his parents.

In Lapeer, Michigan, where I grew up, we often had visitors from Beaver Island. Those visits were full of laughter, stories and reminiscing, and always put Dad in a cheery mood. We knew from a young age that Beaver Island was a special place.

We came here on vacation when I was a child. We roamed the fields, climbed the trees and played in the barn at the farmhouse where my father had grown up. We spent long days on the beaches, then snuggled under warm quilts in the big iron beds at night. When vacation was over and we boarded the ferry to begin our long trip home, I was the kid hanging over the rail, sobbing, because I couldn’t bear to leave.

When I was able to come here to live, I did.

Beaver Island is the largest of the islands in Lake Michigan. It is about four times the size of Mackinac Island, which sits over in Lake Huron, and quite a bit more remote. As the crow flies, we are about ten miles from the mainland, whether the shores of the Upper Peninsula or Cross Village in the Lower Peninsula. Transportation to the island – either by boat or small plane – comes from Charlevoix, about thirty-two miles away. The ferry ride is two hours long!

Beaver Island has about five hundred year-round residents, and about triple that number in the warm seasons.

When my Dad was growing up here, the main industries were Fishing, Farming and Logging. That changed drastically just after World War II. The fishing industry fell off, I think in part due to the introduction of the Lamprey eel. The last of the virgin timber had been logged and hauled away. Shipping rates made profitable farming nearly impossible. In addition, the G.I. Bill created a lot of opportunities elsewhere. Between 1940 and 1950, the population dropped from possibly about two thousand residents to barely one hundred fifty.

Today, there is some logging going on here, as well as fishing, farming and building. We have teachers and medical personnel, electricians, plumbers and carpenters. Tourism is our main industry, though, and the bulk of jobs are in the shops, pubs and restaurants that cater to them.

Winters are long and lonely and cold; Summers are so busy there is little time left to enjoy all the wonders here. Wages are often lower, and the cost of living higher than in most other areas.

When I answer questions that, “Yes, I live here year-round,” and, “Yes, I love it,” I often also add, “I have several brothers and sisters that think I’m crazy to want to be here all year…”

It is certainly not a place or a lifestyle that is for everyone.

Speaking only for myself, Beaver Island suits me just fine.

Zoom In Closer!



Several years ago, a visit from my daughter and her family ended on a day I had to work. As we had only one car, she got up and drove me to town to start my early shift, then came back to the house to wake up her husband and children. They dropped the car off to me, and we said our good-byes when they came to town to get on the ferry a couple hours later.

It’s not easy to rouse four children, exhausted from fresh air and late nights and cold water swims. It’s especially difficult  when the end of the vacation is the reason for having to get up early. We adults, too, had stayed up too late…last night to visit and all. Everyone was tired. Everyone was cranky. No one was being cooperative.

When I came home from work that day, a little melancholy at coming back to an empty house, I was confronted with the remnants of their chaotic morning.

Two mattresses were still on the living room floor, sheets and blankets strewn over them. The toy box had been emptied onto  the floor, and the contents were scattered throughout the house. Towels were hanging on every hook in the bathroom, and draped over the backs of two dining room chairs. A box of cereal had fallen on its side, and the contents covered the floor. A single dirty diaper, neatly wrapped in plastic, perched on the arm of the sofa. A brush and two hair ties shared space on the table with two coffee cups, four cereal bowls, a collection of silverware, a jug of milk, a jar of raspberry jam, three partial pieces of toast and a note from my daughter.

The note said: “Mom, Had a great time! Thanks for everything! Sorry to leave your house in such disarray. XOXOXOX.” A cheerio crunched under my foot.

“Disarray is a good word,” I thought.

She gets that from me. Understatement is the key!

I have evidently convinced several people that read these posts that I am performing super-human feats here at my little house on Beaver Island. I assure you,  that’s not the case.

I was going to admit it  last week, when Sara told me she thought I was one of those super-bloggers who could accomplish everything. I chickened out. I, instead, used the “Zoom” title to underscore my busy-ness, with garden and home and studio and home-made soup and bread…Then I read what Kathy wrote about  writing… her musings about what to write…and what, to her, constitutes something worthy of writing about. I knew, then, that I was squandering opportunities to say something real – and possibly meaningful – for deceptive, “look at my perfect little life” posts. That has to change. It is ridiculous to invite you in, then be afraid you’ll see my mess.

This week, the title is “Zoom In”.

That’s what I do. I give the close up view.

Photos of my flower beds show only the flowers in their weed-free beds. If I were to show a wider view, the weeds growing strong between the stones in my crooked walkway, the grass needing to be mowed and the rusty wheelbarrow would be visible.  Pan out a bit more and you’d see the collection of gas cans sitting near the back porch – because I never have a can with me when I need to get gas for the mower, so have to buy another. I think  I  have five now! You’d see the two pine trees that – for a reason unknown to me – were cut down three feet above the ground, leaving their bottom rows of branches spreading out over the back yard. The little shed that started life as a chicken coop, that has blackberry canes and wild roses growing through the floor, to the extent that I can no longer retrieve the hoses and tomato cages that were stored there. Hiding behind a big juniper bush, the satellite dish, giving me access to local television channels. Did I ever mention that I had TV? NO! I wanted you to think I was perfect!

This is just the outdoors!

I started this writing practice, having lost two siblings and my mother in a fourteen month period, as a way to make myself a little more aware of life as it happens. I wanted to pay attention to my surroundings, take notice of the every-day occurrences in my world, be more aware of my thoughts and feelings.

I choose to do my writing on this public forum, and I am thrilled to have people take interest in what I write.

I don’t choose to be dishonest. Sometimes, I just prefer to “zoom in”!