Tag Archives: Shamrock

Good Morning (April A~Z Challenge)

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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.

Babies

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These two beautiful boys were born late yesterday, in New York. They don’t yet have middle names, and we haven’t been told if they are identical twins. I’ll tell you what I do know.

Their great-grandmother is my dear friend Emma Jean, who I worked with for many years at the Shamrock.

Emma Jean called her daughter, Kathleen, at 12:30 in the morning to give her the news. Kathleen used to babysit for my daughters. Now, she works with me at the hardware store…which is how I so quickly gained knowledge of the new arrivals.

Kathleen, in turn, went in to tell the news to her daughter, Emma Lee, who gave an enthusiastic fist pump when she learned the new cousins were two boys. Other aunts and uncles were alerted, too, I’m sure.

The twin’s grandmother is Cissy, another of Emma Jean’s daughters. According to Kathleen, she was tearfully ecstatic, and on her way to meet the boys.

Their mother is Katy who, along with her brother Jimmy, were some of my first students when I taught the summer art program here on Beaver Island. It’s hard to believe that she’s all grown up, and is now a mother herself.

Levi weighed in at a little bit under five pounds; James weighed a little over five pounds. They are perfectly healthy. They are absolutely perfect!

 

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.

Our New Lives

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jen first grade

Jennifer (on the far left) with Sister Marie Eugene and her first grade class on the first day of school

The day after my daughters and I arrived on Beaver Island, in the fall of 1978, I had to get my oldest enrolled in the First Grade. The little community school was staffed mainly by Catholic nuns, who stayed in the convent during the school year, but were away when school was not in session. There had been no one there to help me with arrangements during any of our four visits to the island that summer, so it all had to be done right away.

I started with a telephone call to the convent. Sister Mary Rock, the principal, set a time to meet us at the school. Jennifer would be in Sister Marie Eugene’s room. For the first semester, grades one, two and three shared the teacher and the classroom. When the second semester started, the kindergarten class would be added. Though kindergarten was only one semester long, the students performed well. Jennifer had excelled in every area in kindergarten at Schickler School. Here, we found she was two readers behind. She was also going to have to catch up in Spanish, which they didn’t introduce at the kindergarten level in Lapeer!

Finished with the enrollment process, our next stop was the Shamrock Bar and Restaurant. I had secured a job there, and needed to let them know when I’d be available to start work. I was given a couple uniforms – two sizes too large and of horrid mint green polyester – and a schedule. Though I had never been a waitress before, no training was offered. “You’ll be fine,” the owner told me, “just keep smiling!”

Next, we stopped in to see Carol LaFreniere. She had agreed to take care of my girls when I was working and to see that Jen got to and from school safely. Carol was a pleasant woman with a keen sense of humor and three little red-headed children. My girls had met her on one of our summertime visits, so there were no surprises. I shared my schedule with her and discussed any possible problems. We were ready!

At the farmhouse, we walked the fields. I kept the lawn mowed. We ate our meals together at the big table in the kitchen. We washed our clothes with the wringer washer, and hung them out on the clothesline to dry. We read together every evening.

On warm days, we gravitated toward the water, that year more than any other. On the beach at Iron Ore Bay, the day before my husband was set to come to the island, we piled sand into giant letters that spelled out, “Welcome, Daddy!” After he arrived, on one beautiful October day, we went back there for a day-long outing. We brought picnic fare, and built a bonfire to cook fish fillets and vegetables all wrapped in individual foil packets. We wandered the beach, finding shells and stones. When the air, toward evening, was getting cooler, the water felt perfect. We all swam, at dusk, then wrapped up in towels and blankets around the fire. We drove back to the farmhouse under a sky full of stars.

Jennifer did well in the new school. She caught up quickly with the lessons; she made friends. Both Jen and Kate did fine at Carol’s house. My husband started work right away, and seemed to like it. As for me and the Shamrock, well…that’s a story all on its own!