Tag Archives: johnson Mill Road

Johnson Mill Road

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Jennifer, in front of the house on Johnson Mill Road

I almost never liked this house.

It wasn’t a bad house. It was a three bedroom, ranch style home with an attached garage. It looked normal. Too normal, I thought. Too hemmed-in, predictable, suburban.

Yet not the neat, orderly suburbs that some of my sisters lived in, with similar houses, incomes, families and lifestyles. This road was in disarray. At the corner was a double wide mobile home with a tidy yard, set on the diagonal. Next, a small older house on an unkempt lot, then a field, our house, then a mobile home set so far back from the road, it was my view from all of my rear windows. Across the road was an old farmhouse.

The only neighbors I got to know were the ones in the trailer next door…and I didn’t like them. He was quiet, and went to work each day. She was extremely overweight, and read romance novels all day long. They had three or four children, whose names all began with J. They weren’t bad or unkind, just uninteresting. That was enough.

Our yard was a field overgrown after some excavation (perhaps for placing the foundation of the house) that left unexpected ridges and steep hills that were difficult to mow. There were a couple tiny trees and a wild shrub or two, but no landscaping.

The house itself was pretty standard. An entry through the garage led to the eat in kitchen. I think I remember a sliding glass door behind the dining space, to get to the back yard…but maybe it was just a window. Vinyl wallpaper in a blue and green floral pattern covered the walls. The floor was vinyl tiles in a pattern that looked like red brick. Dark brown, Mediterranean style cupboards had antiqued brass knobs and pulls. A closet near the doorway to the living room hid the furnace.

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Terry, pretending to give Katey a birthday spanking

In the living room, a red brick (“real red brick,” I complained, “I suppose to match the fake red brick floor?”) corner hearth held a cast iron wood burning stove that we never used, except to hang Christmas stocking near. White walls, burnt red carpet, a picture window and front door, then a hallway down to the bedrooms and bath.

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Me, in the kitchen that I hated

Things that  happened while we lived there:

  • We started purchasing a piece of property on Beaver Island. It was financed on a five year land contract, so we made the sensible decision to pay it off first, then make decisions about putting up a house there and moving back to the island, or just using it for vacations and eventual retirement.
  • I opened an Art Gallery in downtown Lapeer. It was on the main street, Nepessing Street, on the block that used to have Looney’s Restaurant, and on the very site of a recently closed but always successful gallery. I negotiated with the owner to lower the rent for the space; I took on the young man that worked there as full partner, in exchange for teaching me the business of matting and framing. I brought all of my own good ideas for enlivening the art scene in Lapeer, Michigan, my knowledge of art and artists, and my full enthusiasm. How could I fail?
  • I took the last of the money I’d been saving – for moving back to Beaver Island – and bought my husband a new sofa for his birthday. The large bed/sofa he had built for our last place did not work in this one. It felt like a good investment in our lives here.

So that’s how it was…until things changed again.




brenda and cindy 1952

It seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve written about an address. So long, it’s a bit difficult to get back into the spirit of it. I was on quite a roll for a while there, reliving old times and pulling up memories I hadn’t thought of in years. I took a break from it, while traveling, as I knew i wouldn’t have access to old photos, or time to spend sifting through the cobwebs in my mind to get the facts straight.

Now, trying to get back to it, I note resistance. These are hard years I am moving toward: troubled marriage; separation; divorce; teen-aged daughters and all the worry and angst that accompanied that phase in our lives; new relationships and their eventual failure, too. Until I finally end up here: poor, alone and over-worked. Ugh! You notice the attitude? That’s what I’m struggling with.

So, before I force myself over this hump and back to the dirty work at hand, let’s review.

  • First the Grandparent’s house, next door to my own house, and a big part of my early childhood.
  • Next, the house on Hunt Road, across from Lake Nepessing in Lapeer, Michigan, that my father built, where I lived until I got married.
  • The first, upstairs, Court Street apartment in Lapeer, Michigan.
  • The second, downstairs, Court Street apartment, in Lapeer, Michigan.
  • The Lake House, on Lake Pleasant, in Attica, Michigan.
  • Charbridge Arbor, in Lapeer, Michigan.
  • The farmhouse on Beaver Island.
  • The Stone House on Beaver Island.
  • Corner #16, in North Branch, Michigan

(Whew! That’s a lot of moving around!)

I left off there, in the back duplex apartment of what used to be the Deerfield Township Hall. We were not unhappy there. Still.

The bedrooms were very small. We started with the girls sharing one room and my husband and I sharing the other. We then (my design, Terry’s handiwork) built a bed frame with bookcases for headboard and footboard that would sit in the large living room. When the bolster, pillows and  upholstery cover for the mattress (all sewn by me) were put on the bed in the morning, it looked perfectly suitable as a large sofa. That gave the girls each their own small room. It seemed like a good idea, but it had short-comings. Eventually, we put the girls back in one room, and turned the other small bedroom into a dressing room.

There were still problems in our marriage. Terry was continuing to spend too many nights out drinking, which resulted in too many fights. I eventually read a book put out by Al-Alon, that caused me to re-think my reactions. The drinking wasn’t my problem (though it clearly affected me) but I was allowing it a central place in my life. I tried, instead, to not take it personally. I didn’t pretend to approve of the nights out, the drinking or the money spent, but I tried not to feel that it was a personal affront. I didn’t cause it.

It helped me, but my change in attitude made Terry feel threatened. He wondered what I had going on that I no longer obsessed about what he was doing. Always an issue, he became more and more suspicious, jealous and possessive. No amount of reassurance helped. Then, he worked harder and harder to get me to engage angrily in an argument with him, because that reassured him that I was still vested in the relationship. There were occasions when he followed me to class, and paced the halls outside the door. There were times he dropped the girls off at his parent’s house, so he could follow me to a study group, and sit outside in his truck. There were violent outbursts.

Terry’s mother had started working for a realty company. She and my father-in-law had purchased a house for an investment, and approached us about renting it. We had never been very successful in the past with paying his parents what we owed them, whether for rent, land contract or personal loans. I didn’t like putting ourselves in that position again. Terry liked the idea. He liked the house with a yard, with a more “normal” look and feel. If he was going to quit drinking, going to get his life in control, this change would help, he said. “I could do it there,” he said.

And so it was that, just as I was graduating from Mott Community College with an Associate of Arts degree, we were getting ready to move about three miles away, to Johnson Mill Road.