Tag Archives: Grandma Florence

Leaving Beaver Island

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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.

The Grandmother I’ve Become

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This has nothing to do with the grandmother I am.

I’ve been a grandmother for more than twenty-one years.

As evident in this photograph of myself with my daughters and my first grandchild, Michael, I was a young grandmother, just as I had been a young mother.

Not only young, but modern in thought and actions.

When preparing for my first daughter’s arrival, I painted her bassinet bright orange. No mind-numbing pastels for my child!

I was the mother who was also bohemian, defender of good causes, feminist, forward-thinker, hippie, raising children like no others…do you see how young I was??

As a grandmother, I was the woods-walker, snake catcher, story-teller, beach-lover, dune-climber who offered all the wonders of Beaver Island to my grandchildren.

When Mikey was a baby,  I kept chickens. One glorious morning, with baby on my hip, we found our first two eggs in the chicken house. By the time his mother woke up, Michael and I had composed an entire bluesy song about it! When he and Brandon were youngsters, I’d pack a book, fruit and snacks and a thermos in the morning, and we’d go to the beach. I’d read and drink coffee while they built amazing structures in the sand. Madeline, Tommy and Patrick have had their share, too, of exploring the woods and fields and sand dunes.

For evenings, there were other activities. I hold firm to the idea that children like foods they help to make, so mealtime has always been a joint project. Like my own Grandma Florence, I taught them how to play “King’s in the Corner.” As a nod to my father-in-law, Jack, I taught them how to play poker (complete with his wonderful repartee: “pair of deuces…pair of tens…pair – a – goric”). I kept an art case, for entertainment on rainy days, just as my mother always had.

The “grandmother” I’m referring to is the stereotypical grandmother…you know, the one “I would never become.”

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I’m referring to the grandmother who has rows of holy cards (from funerals, no less!) lining a mirror…

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who  has too many little vignettes featuring photos of children and grandchildren…

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and doilies…

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religious icons…

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little collections of succulents…

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and a fat little dog, sleeping wherever she chooses on a loud-patterned piece of furniture (should I say davenport?).

(SIGH)

This, alas, is the grandmother I’ve become.

Transitions and Old Memories

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This  card came back to me recently, with a handful of old photographs.

I made it for my grandmother, Grandma Florence, about thirty-five years ago. She had been ill, and was just coming home from the hospital in mid-February. The front of the card had a poem I’d written:

We searched the stores through and through

To find a Valentine for you.

We found “I love you”s and “Please be Mine”s

But they just don’t make “Get Well” Valentines,

And none of them said what we wanted to say

So we decided to tell you in a different way…

And there, inside the card, is my little family, arms outstretched, offering a big hug.

My little family.

I don’t think anyone embarks on the adventure of a marriage, ever imagining it will end.

We don’t have children imagining them hundreds or thousands of miles away, with troubles and difficulties you can’t simply fix with a kiss or a band-aid.

We don’t form friendships thinking of the end of those bonds.

We don’t take in dogs or cats or even short-lived gerbils imagining their demise.

Endings always take us by surprise.

If we knew the pain of change, transition, death…or, knowing it, if we allowed ourselves to dwell on it, I think we’d never allow ourselves the joy of new beginnings.