Maybe it the mild winter in Georgia this year. Maybe it’s because my daughter visited Michigan last month. Maybe I just need to go to the store and purchase a Vernor’s Ginger Ale.
I live in suburban Atlanta, in the oh so genteel South. This is my home of choice, in part because you don’t have to shovel heat, and because circumstance brought me here. I love the environment, I love the people and the slower pace of things, the Southern drawl is musical. But I am not from here. My boots may be covered in red clay, but my veins have Deeetroit motor oil in them. Southerners can sense this, and, as welcoming as Southerner hospitality can be, I will never, truly be home here. My true home is surrounded by lakes, not just any lakes…Great Lakes.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about my home is snow. Lots and lots of snow. As a kid, our biggest winter activities included snowball fights, snow fort making, and sledding on any downhill surface we could find. We could make a sled out of anything, snow shovels and trash can lids worked well. My nose would turn red and I could feel it. do so. When we came inside, our entry was piled high with snow boots and swollen, wet hats and mittens. I haven’t owned a pair of good snow boots in this century. If you were lucky enough, you had a relative with snowmobiles to ride. My Uncle George’s family did, and we were allowed to ride on the back with our cousins. In the winter, we went door to door shoveling snow for money. These days, I can’t find a kid to pay who would be willing to mow my lawn.
Speaking of family…I grew up with two large, extended families. I can barely recall how many Aunts, Uncles and cousins on each side. I went to school with some of my cousins. The best memories are the large family gatherings that were for weddings, graduations or for when one of our out of state relatives came into town. Those parties could go on for days and wouldn’t end until somebody got up on top of a table to dance. My female cousins and I still aspire to work it like Grandma Marie did.
Some pretty cool people were born in Michigan. The obvious Eminem, Kid Rock, Madonna and Bob Seger easily come to mind. But there are countless others with Michigan roots like Kate Upton, Thomas Edison, Dax Shepard and Kirsten Bell, Iggy Pop, Ted Nugent (the Motor City Madman), Serena Williams and Tom Brady can all claim their Michigander roots. And Carhartt Gear? It’s from Dearborn, MI.
My love of the lake life stems from my upbringing. When you are surrounded by 21% of of the world’s surface fresh water by volume you get to swim a lot. The same uncle with the snowmobiles also had boats and lived on a canal. How’s that for lucky relations?Other than swimming, summers meant an escape “up North”. Because Michigan is a large state that consists of two parts, the term “Up North” is rather vague. My Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Chet has a cabin near Alpena. My brother and I were fortunate and were able to spend a summer there in Wild Michigan. The cabin was plumbed, but when I was small and before I can recall, the restroom was an outhouse. The pump that once brought running water into the kitchen still stood even though it was replaced by running water.
The other Michigan love? Automobiles. Summers were spent cruising in them, looking at other cars and looking at boys. One of the biggest events was to attend the Autorama (World of Wheels) to look at an endless array of custom cars. My father once took me to the Detroit Auto Show, where the manufacturers rolled out their latest and greatest, but I preferred the bawdy Autorama. In suburban Michigan, most of our Dads worked for the Big Three manufacturers, much like their dads did. I remember enduring the tougher times when the words “layoff” or “strike” was in the air.
When it comes down to it, I can proudly profess that I love my sweet Southern home and I plan to live my life out here beneath the Southern stars. I will drink up my sweet tea, and soak up the humidity that wraps around a body like a warm blanket. Michigan made me, it taught me to swim in murky water, take a Michigan left turn and carry on in the face of adversity. I am fortunate because I have a proud past and feet that happen to be planted in both North and South. My friends and my heart will always reside in two different places.