Tag Archives: Lapeer

Travel

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On the last day of November, I loaded my luggage into the car, brought the dogs to Andi’s kennel,  stopped at Aunt Katie’s to say good-bye and pick up the car keys and went to the airport. I was going on a trip!

I’d been unable to leave the island over Thanksgiving, but still wanted to get visits with my brother, sisters and daughters before the weather turned bad. My friend, Bob, hosts a Christmas Party on the first Saturday in December, so I planned my trip around that. Complications caused him to have to reschedule his party, but my travel dates had to remain the same.

My flight was at eleven 0’clock. This time of year, the water temperature is often warmer than the air. Steam rolls up from the water.  As I flew over it, the shoreline was completely obscured by huge masses of fluffy clouds beneath us; I couldn’t see the big lake until we were halfway across it. It was a calm day, though, and a good flight.

Upon landing, I retrieved the “mainland car” from the parking lot and pulled around to load my suitcases. Five bags for five days travel: one with changes of clothes: one with pajamas, medicines and my toiletry bag; my computer case, with computer, scanner, and some paperwork inside; one bag of paperwork and reading material; one bag – my purse – loaded to the brim with everything else I might need.

I had one stop to make in Charlevoix, and was then on my way. M-66 south through East Jordan then onto M-32 east to Gaylord. I filled the car with gas there, and went to the Big Boy restaurant for coffee and a late breakfast. I was a little disoriented, as the restaurant has a totally different look. Had I made a wrong turn?

“What town is this?” I asked the server.

“Gaylord.”

“Well, that’s what I thought…Didn’t there used to be a gigantic Big Boy statue outside?”

“Oh, yes,” she smiled, “that has been moved to the Big Boy Museum.”

Well, that explained that.

I got onto I-75 south after my meal, with about three hundred miles yet to travel. Just outside of Flint, I switched to the I-69 freeway, which took me right into Lapeer. From there, it was a quick drive to my sister Brenda and her husband Keith’s house, where dinner was waiting. That would be my “home-base” for the next several days.

Thursday, I drove to Clifford to see my daughter, Kate. As I walked through the door, she handed me her telephone, to say hello to my oldest grandson, Mikey. Kate’s house is cheery, decorated for the holidays and adorned with her collections of art, books and antique toys. She and my son-in-law, Jeremy, took me to Frankenmuth, for lunch and some shopping. I got my glasses fixed. We got back to her house in time to catch up with Madeline and Tommy, just home from school. Kate helped me solve some computer issues.

Friday, my daughter, Jen, came to Brenda’s. We set up two computers, and spread our paperwork over the dining room table and the kitchen island. We managed to sort out many billing issues for the Beaver Beacon, and plot out the next two issues. Jen helped me solve some more of my computer issues, approved my bookkeeping method, and straightened out my database. We managed a little bit of a visit, too, but agreed that – if time allowed – we’d like more opportunity to catch up on things. Friday night, sisters Cheryl, Robin and Amy came over for a dinner of salad, pizza, wine, with lots of laughter and good conversation.

Saturday, I picked up a small gift, and went to North Branch to help celebrate the first birthday of my grand-niece, Ellie. That turned into a good opportunity to see other nieces and nephews, and more of my family. That evening, Brenda, Keith and I watched movies.

Sunday, I drove out to Lake Nepessing to see my brother, Ted, who has had some serious health issues lately. They were getting ready to decorate the Christmas tree, so his whole family was there. Jen stopped in, too, and we traded ideas around the table on healthy low-fat and diabetic diets before my daughter and I left them to their decorating, and went to have a less-than-healthy lunch at the bar across the road. Brenda and I drove to Cheryl’s house that evening, for dinner and several games of Scrabble.

Monday morning, up at seven 0’clock to start a long, hectic day. First coffee, and write, then pack: dirty clothes separated from clean and crammed back in the suitcases; new acquisitions and gifts put in bags that would endure the luggage compartment on the plane; computer – with all of its cords and paraphernalia – tucked back in its case. More coffee, then, and last minute conversation with Brenda and Keith before the final sad good-byes.

I filled the car, again, with gas and hit the road. My next stop was Gaylord, where I revisited the Big Boy restaurant just off the freeway. In Charlevoix, I topped off the gas tank and handled a little business downtown before going to the airport. Back on the island, I checked in with Aunt Katie and returned her car keys, went to Andi’s to pick up my dogs, then home.

Monday night and all day Tuesday were spent catching up: loving up the dogs; unpacking; laundry; assessing what groceries I need, what bills I need to pay and what other things I neglected in my time away. Rest! I came home with a virus, and no energy at all. Travel takes it out of me. Today, it’s time to get back into the swing of things.

Swim, II

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As a small child, I was frightened of the whole world. It didn’t seem like it at the time, though. I was bashful. I was shy about meeting new people or speaking in public. I was needed at home so couldn’t participate, much, in group activities. I was late in learning to ride a bike. I didn’t learn to swim, or skate, or drive until I was an adult. Then, as a grown-up looking back, I realized I’d been afraid.

As a parent, I didn’t want my daughters to take on that fear, or to grow up without challenging themselves. They went to preschool story-hour, Mom and child craft classes, Brownies and Girl Scouts, gymnastics, ballet lessons and roller skating. I enrolled them in swimming and water-play classes when they were very young; they could both swim well before they reached school age.

I took swimming classes then, too. My sisters, Brenda and Cheryl, did, too. We went to the Boy’s Club in downtown Lapeer, where there was an indoor pool. It was an old building that had started its life, I think, as a church. It smelled predictably of chlorine, and there were high windows letting in filtered light. I started with the class titled “Absolutely Terrified.” I did not feel absolutely terrified of the water, but I was nervous about what they would expect of me…better to start slow. As it turned out, it was a good place to begin. Though I could go underwater without panicking, I was never comfortable having my face in the water. That was where this class started.

Simply learning to be comfortable face down in the water, to open my eyes, control my breath and let my body relax was life-changing knowledge. Learning to keep my body in alignment, and my limbs close, allowed for forward momentum. That had never happened when my back was curled to keep my head above the water and my arms and legs were flailing around in every direction. I learned the breathing techniques and several simple swim strokes. I learned to dive.

After class, my sisters and I would shower and dress, pick up our children, and meet for lunch. During the summer, we packed a big salad, and went to the park to eat. Later, I continued taking Swimming Classes as part of the physical education requirements at college. My technique and stamina improved. Still, those first classes at the Boy’s Club are the one’s that stay foremost in my mind. For me, the first brave steps toward new knowledge are the most memorable.

Pull

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I am pulled in two directions.

I’ve always been drawn to Beaver Island. It holds my family history, and it holds my heart. It feels like home to me. Whenever I’ve had to be away from this island, I’ve kept a poem by Langston Hughes close:

Wave of Sorrow

Do not drown me now.

I see the Island

Still ahead somehow.

I see the Island

And its sands are fair.

Wave of Sorrow

Take me there.

Still, as I get older…as issues of companionship, health and capability move more to the forefront…as loss of friends and family becomes a regular part of life…as children grow up and away with hardly a backward glance…I am drawn to my home town. Lapeer, Michigan is where I was raised, and where my remaining siblings still live. My daughters are close by, as are several of my grandchildren. Driving to see other friends is less of an issue when it doesn’t begin with boarding dogs and getting on an airplane.

I join my sisters for an evening of wine, conversation and word games, and I realize how much I miss my family. I chat with my brother in the house that we grew up in…I talk face-to-face with my daughters…I have actual conversations with my grandchildren, and I feel drawn to that place.

Some things hold me on Beaver Island. My little house, in its current state of equity and unfinished disrepair, is probably unmarketable. Even if it were, the struggle to get – and then keep – this small piece of real estate makes it difficult to consider letting it go. My job here is secure, where jobs are hard to come by in other parts of the state. My aunt is in poor health and – though she gets assistance from others who love her, too – she depends on me for help and companionship. Just as I depend on her. My dogs are well suited to Beaver Island. The fields and trails and beaches welcome them. The sky full of stars holds me here…the canopy of trees…the water all around.

But still, I feel the pull.

Fox Lake Road: the Dream

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First of all, dreams are easy.

They can ignore reality in ways so extreme, it is only in hindsight – when wide awake – that their unreasonableness comes clear.

My plans and schemes and dreams for our home on Fox Lake Road were based on other buildings I’d admired: my grandparent’s house in Lapeer, Michigan, and the granary at the farmhouse on Beaver Island. Ideas were gleaned from books, magazines and diagrams of house plans. I filled notebooks with clippings; I drew diagrams on graph paper.

I did not consider available time…or money. I had no idea about the sequence of events that had to be incorporated into the building process, when they had to happen or how much they would cost. I didn’t know building codes or practices. I complained loudly when trying to redraw my perfect plans to show 4″ interior walls and 6″ exterior walls. Graph paper does not easily accommodate the fracturing of the square foot. Everything was skewed!

My plans were of a more ethereal, artistic nature. An imaginary grid would overlay our property on a north-south axis. All buildings would line up with the grid, presenting the roof pitch on the north and south sides. Passive solar features were considered in the house’s design, and we wanted to be open to other solar options as they became more affordable.

The house (28′ x28′, with a basement) and the garage (24′ x24′, on a cement slab) would each be one and a half story buildings. All others structures (garden shed, chicken coop, tree-house, barn) would mimic that shape in smaller versions. All  buildings were going to be square, each roof would have a 12/12 pitch, and each finished shape (adding the overhang of the eaves) would be divisible by five (I KNOW!!). Windows and doors would be placed symmetrically in each structure. All siding would be dark gray, board and batten; all roofs would be shingled in a lighter gray, to give the appearance of being bleached by the sun.

The basement would have winter play space for the girls. It would also have room for my art studio. Beyond that, there would be laundry facilities, a large chest-type freezer and storage shelves. There would be a door leading to a second stairway up to the outside; in the winter that area could be used as a root cellar. We imagined growing most of our own food, buying in bulk and keeping a well-stocked pantry and freezer.

On the ground floor, skylights would brighten the spaces. Wood floors would be of maple we’d milled ourselves. A centrally placed wood stove would provide heat. There would be a view from every window. Upstairs, a bathroom and three bedrooms.

Paving stones laid out in straight paths would lead from one area to another.  Fence lines would honor the grid that dictated placement of all man-made features. Wild bursts of flowers and other plantings would provide contrast to the strict layout. From the sky (at that stage in our lives, my husband was still talking about learning to fly an airplane), it would look like a series of Monopoly houses scattered across the landscape.

These were the plans we made, with papers spread out over the dining table at Charbridge Arbor and the big kitchen table of the farmhouse. They were discussed at length, fine-tuned and improved upon while we lived at Corner #16 and the house on Johnson Mill Road. Plans for our island life could lead us away from almost every argument, and bring us back to a place filled with big dreams for the future.

‘Course, like I said, dreams are easy. Real life, on the other hand, is…real. That’s what we came face-to-face with when we started building on the Fox Lake Road.

The Property on Fox Lake Road

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The land we bought was part of what had been a 40 acre parcel: a square, 1/4 mile on each side. Fox Lake Road curves a little bit through the western boundary line. It had been split into two twenty-acre parcels, both with access to Fox Lake Road, still 1/4 mile deep. The northernmost parcel had a two acre lot cut out of the northwest corner of it, and had a little cabin on it that was used as a hunting camp.That was owned by Thomas Tange.

The rest of that piece – eighteen acres – was owned by Dick Goller: pilot, plumber and  well-driller with a well-deserved reputation as a con man and a shyster. He was a short, round man with black hair, a booming voice and a big grin.  Though he was sharp at making deals, he also had a reputation for being a little dense. He came in to the Shamrock one morning, complaining that his foot was killing him. He swore the boot had gotten smaller overnight.

“Did you leave a sock inside there?” Bill Welke asked him.

“Oh, I dunno. That’s a thought, I guess!”

With that, he unlaced his boot and pulled it off. To guffaws and chuckles all around the coffee-drinkers table, and to Bill Welke’s absolute glee, he spilled a dead mouse out of his boot on to the floor.

“Huh! Well that explains it,” he said, “…suppose it wasn’t dead when I went to put the boot on. Little guy should’ve spoken up!”

Goller worked mainly from his home in Cedar Springs, but had started taking quite a few jobs on the island. Enough, he felt, for having a second home here. When he started putting his house up, he accidentally built it over the property line, on the land belonging to Tange. He split the 18 acres in half, then, and sold nine in order to purchase the section that his home was sitting on. He priced it pretty reasonably and, to sweeten the deal, he offered to put a well on the land for no additional cost.

So it happened that – just as my husband was recovering from his fall from a roof and getting back to work…as we were moving from Corner #16 to Johnson Mill Road…as I was opening a gallery in Lapeer, Michigan – we got a call from Ed Wojan about buying a piece of land. Ed was in the real estate business, and knew we’d been looking at property on Beaver Island. He thought we might be interested in this deal. We were! We made a trip to the island to have a look.

Seven miles from town, the land had a rough old two-track logging road running through it. My Dad said, “That’s a little too far from town,” and we said “No way!” From our home in North Branch, no town was closer than seven miles; I traveled twice that distance to Lapeer, and twenty miles further to college in Flint. Seven miles seemed like nothing. The logging road would be an advantage, we said. We could use the first part of it as a driveway. The back was a ready-made walking path through the woods. We could drive a truck back there, too, for hauling out firewood.

The property had three hundred foot of frontage on Fox Lake Road. The front third was a fairly open field with  wild black cherry trees and juniper bushes scattered throughout. The back was hard wood forest: plenty, if managed correctly, to provide us with a constant source of wood for heat. On the north side of the property, on what had long ago been the edge of a farmer’s plowed field, were three huge maple trees. That was it…the final selling point. We loved it!

 

 

Changing Direction

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Me, at my Mom and Dad’s house, Easter Sunday, 1982

When I sold the gallery in Lapeer, I bought myself a one-year membership in a new health spa on the main street. My girls were in school, in brownies and girl scouts, swimming and other extracurricular activities. My husband was taking night classes and had finished requirements for his contractor’s license. Our families all lived near by. We were vested in the area.

We talked about moving as far away as Schwartz Creek, so that I could pursue further education at Michigan State University in East Lansing. That city was about halfway between my husband’s job in Lapeer, and where my college courses would be. We would each have about a thirty-five mile drive. More fair than one of us having to commute the whole distance. It didn’t make a lot of sense, though. Our children would have to change schools…and if something happened where we were needed right away, both Terry or I would be thirty-five miles away, in different directions. That wasn’t fair to them. On top of that, unreliable cars and Michigan winters kept all of this in the discussion stage.

My husband continued to spend several weeks each year in Arkansas, working with his cousin on various projects. He continued to drink too much. Side effects were getting worse. One night, he came home and drove right into the door of the garage, doing extensive damage to it, and his vehicle. One morning, he woke me up early. Pale and shaken, he told me he had hit something the night before. He didn’t know what. He couldn’t have said whether it was an object or a person. I drove him down the dirt roads, following the erratic tire tracks that showed his weaving path home, until we came to the mailbox that he had mowed down. He made reparations; he swore he would change. Still, he kept on drinking.

Early one spring, my husband got a call  from Bill Cashman on Beaver Island. He had several jobs going; he could use Terry’s help. He knew we were buying land on the island…would we consider coming back right away?

“This could be the best thing for us,” he said,”A change of scenery, a different lifestyle, work that I can count on…”

“That could do it for us,” he said, “There, I can do better.”

Well, my heart was never far from Beaver Island. We’d had a direction; we were working from a plan. We all know what they say about the best-laid plans. So it was that we again packed up our household, and shortly after Easter in the spring of 1982, we headed back to Beaver Island.

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Time Out for Art: the Business

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by Katey, at six years old, while at the gallery with me. “You can sell it, I don’t mind,” she told me…as if I ever would!

Yesterday, I noted that while living on Johnson Mill Road, I opened a gallery in Lapeer. Look at me, almost flawlessly combining my address posts with my “time out for art” posts!

My sister Brenda and I were discussing, last week, various patterns in each of our lives, from the perspective of our sixty-some years, looking back.

Brenda, for instance, has – more often than could be considered “normal” or “just coincidence” – been left in a position of cleaning up  other people’s messes. When we were just kids, planning hikes through the field to build forts or create mischief, Mom would always be able to convince Brenda to stay inside, to clean the oven or scrub the floors. “My good helper,” Mom would say…and Brenda was lost to whatever game was at hand.

As teen-agers, when we were all taking on  baby-sitting jobs to earn money for school clothes and little luxuries, Brenda ended up, instead, being a housekeeper for Mrs Linahan, down the road. As young mothers, she and I both signed up for training and some simple social work, in order to earn money for Christmas. I was assigned two tutoring jobs, for a couple young girls in foster care. Brenda was directed to a woman who had lost her children because her housekeeping was so far below the standard as to be unsafe. It was my sister’s job to help her clean house, and teach her how to maintain it. The list goes on and on, right up to the present day. If there’s a messy house, Brenda will most likely be called upon to clean it. Uncanny!

In my life, I’ve had an unusually large number of cars with no brakes. Well beyond what a person would run into in life, even if they were negligent about auto maintenance. Seriously.

I have also gained a short list of failed businesses. Perhaps a better term would be unsuccessful. Definitely. I think I’d make a great entrepreneur. I have a million good ideas. I am a hard worker, and throw myself wholeheartedly into a project. I am perfectly willing to take on partners, to share in the profits for helping with the business. In fact, that seems to be my modus operandi.

The first of these endeavors was the art gallery I opened in Lapeer. I had just spent several years studying the fine arts, how better to use my education?

First, I took on the young man that had worked at the gallery that had formerly occupied the space as a partner, in exchange for him teaching me the business. That was my first mistake. He was a nice young man, and a good worker. I couldn’t afford employees. It seemed sensible. When we started to see profits, he was a full partner!

Unfortunately, in the year or two that we ran the business, we never got to the point of seeing profit. That wasn’t bad for me…I had a working husband. My partner had a young wife, and they were expecting their first child. Difficult, even, to ask for assistance when your name is listed as a full partner in what appeared to be a thriving downtown business! Eventually, he took a side job and most of the work of running the business fell to me alone.

I worked business hours Monday through Saturday, and put in extra hours to change the art display. On evenings and weekends, I’d bring my daughters in with me. They’d make drawings on the mat board scraps and pieces, and do their homework at my desk.

We did appear to be thriving. Customers came in and out daily. We put in long hours matting and framing. I employed several cost-cutting and money-saving measures, without sacrificing any quality. In addition, I brought in a new artist every month for a show of their work. We sent out hand-lettered invitations and hosted an after-hours reception with wine and snacks.

Despite all my efforts to bring in new and exciting artists, as a gallery we fizzled. Our busiest time of year was when senior pictures came out, and parents wanted nice frames. Though I refused to put them on our walls, I kept catalogues of posters – tigers on black velvet, waterfalls in iridescent tones, large-eyed children – for customers to order from, because they would then have us do the framing.

We always managed to pay the bills: materials, rent and utilities. All of our income came from matting and framing. We never sold a single piece of art. We never drew a single paycheck. When we sold the business, I think my partner and I each received $200.00. He was hired as an employee for the new owners; I bowed out. I have often said that I never felt so distant from the arts as I did when I was there, “working in the arts.”

 

 

 

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.

 

Review

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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.

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