A Child For Each Season
I have lived in Michigan my entire life. It isn’t a popular state, by any means. Economically, I think we are #1 but on the wrong list. Tornados like Michigan. New Orleans residents were offered free housing here after Katrina and said “Uh…no thanks.” I even have a resentful memory of a Gallagher routine in which he puts on a goofy hunting hat and declares, “I am Michigan. Duh-huh!”
I was brought to Michigan en vitro and have been here ever since. Forty-two years ago, my parents left Kentucky. It was that classic black and white Hollywood scene of the poor family, squeezed into the 1955 Chevy wagon, with all of their worldly possessions roped to the roof. My mother was pregnant (with me) and my dad had a 7th grade education. They came to Michigan looking for a better life.
My father died over thirty years later with nothing. The aluminum fabrication plant he had dredged himself to each day closed with no notice to it’s workers and took their pensions with it. The plastics’ industry that sustained my mother for 30 years has closed as well. My parents, one dead and one dying, gave up their hopes for a better life because they made the mistake of relying on the powers that be to fix Michigan.
I have stayed here for different reasons. Perhaps my husband and I could have created a better financial future for our family elsewhere. Perhaps we could have, at the very least, struggled in a more pleasant climate. But we met, dated, married and started family in Michigan. As each child was born, I had another reason to stay here with the grapes, apples, and increasingly unemployed.
My first baby, a beautiful little girl, was born just a few days before a white Christmas. In fact, I have a baby for each season! My 2nd born, also a girl, was born in September, and came home to paisley carpet of fresh fallen leaves and Heather’s first jack-o-lantern smiling on the front porch.
My 3rd, our oldest son, was born on June 3rd. Oh, I remember the absolute gorgeous day we brought him home! His big sisters jumping up and down, cheering and laughing. Soon, they would decide that little brothers were not as great as they had anticipated.
My youngest was born on a typical spring morning. It was raining so hard, I insisted Bob keep the little ones home, who were 8, 6, and 4, because of the weather. Just before my discharge, my darlings did bring flowers to the hospital. I stood in my hospital room and held my newborn son, watching the kids cross the parking lot each holding a bouquet of daisies. My three coming to meet my fourth.
Perhaps this is why I love the seasons, all of the seasons, so passionately. I am always excited to see the first snow, first lilac, the first tomato and the first pumpkin. Each month brings something new to experience; something new to enjoy. Learning to make it through from one month to the next isn’t an attribute unique to Michigan but perhaps the most vital. Something better is just around the corner. Wait for it…
I don’t anticipate living my entire life in America’s 26th state. I have much I want to see and have seen nearly none of it, except on various sizes of screens. New Zealand, the UK, Ireland and even our neighbor Canada is on my list. I don’t plan on being a tourist in these places. My real dream is to actually participate as a resident and live with each of the area’s people. The land is not the attraction. The people and the lives they live; that is the actual fabric of culture. I want to bake bread in Italy, draft beer in Ireland, sit where Beatrix Potter sat as she sketched Benjamin Bunny. I want to live everywhere.
But as a mother and wife, I have lived here, in the temperamental midwest, creating a life beyond a perpetual sun or steadily rising economy. We have stood the test of time and money in a place many call home not by choice but by accident. As my children grow into adults and make decisions for themselves, I will encourage them to dream big and to error on the side of desire, not caution. But soon, they will build foundations on soil of their own choosing. Perhaps that soil will be that of Michigan.
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