Moving to Hawaii • Our Time in Michigan • Written by Curtis
We arrived at my parents home Saturday afternoon in time for dinner and general socializing, but were tired as is often the case after driving almost non stop a third of the way across the country. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect on our arrival, warm and sunny with a gentle breeze. It felt so good to be out of the city and away from all the traffic and busyness on the East Coast, outside and enjoying the peace and quiet of small-town Michigan. We grabbed some chairs and just sat out on the driveway to catch up, and let Charlotte run semi-freely (she doesn’t quite understand the electric fence yet, but she only ran across once this time so we’ll call that a win). She immediately transformed from sleepy and cuddly dog on a road trip to a spunky little puppy, bounding around, chasing and jumping after butterflies.
Drawing by Denise Jorgensen
The next day we went to my family’s church and then headed Southwest towards Allegan County, Michigan. Here in Allegan county is much of the origin of my dad’s side of the family (at least for the 20th century) and my dad has gone to great effort to learn and teach relatives of our ancestry. This includes creating letterboxes commemorating the lives of our forebears. We visited a couple cemeteries with ancestors, saw the auto shop where my great-grandfather worked, and ended our travels at the property owned by my great-great-grandfather, the first of my paternal ancestors to come to America from Denmark. The land has been turned over to a wildlife sanctuary and the home is destroyed, but we enjoyed wandering around guessing at where structures might have been; comparing trees and bushes with those contained in pictures and drawings we own of the property.
From there we headed still further west to Crane’s U-Pick Orchard, a local family operation that my parents visit frequently. Peaches and Nectarines were in season and we picked a bushel of each. The peaches were incredibly large, so much so that we had a competition to ‘find the largest’. Mom won!
While picking peaches, we made arrangements to meet my Paternal Grandparents near Muskegon for dinner. We made a few more stops on the way to retrieve letterboxes, some carved and planted by my dad and others that were new for my parents as well. We had a good evening catching up with my grandparents and cousin.
The next day, my parents both took time off from work to spend the day with us in downtown Grand Rapids. The forecast was scattered showers so we opted to visit the Ford Presidential Museum along the Grand River. We enjoyed the Museum quite a bit and learned much about the late president. Not knowing much about Ford, I was surprised to learn that he was never elected to either Vice President or President, but was rather lofted into those positions by the scandals of the Nixon-Agnew Presidency. Also interesting for me was to hear my parents’ take on things considering that Ford was the first president that either remembered.
We finished the museum by visiting the graves of Gerald and Betty Ford before walking across the River for some lunch. My parents discussed and pointed out some of the interesting parts of downtown Grand Rapids, particularly the abundance of sculptures/murals left over from the annual Art Prize competition: an international Art Competition hosted by the city where the art is displayed all around the downtown in public areas and businesses. A rather ingenious (and effective) way for downtown beautification and revitalization.
We grabbed lunch at the B.O.B (Big Old Building) and discussed what we would do on Tuesday. We all agreed that it would be nice to see my maternal grandparents, but they lived on the opposite side of the state. To drive to them and back would be an additional 4-5 hours of driving. So instead we asked if they would come see us that evening, spend the night, and spend Tuesday with us. They agreed, and were able to head over right that afternoon — it must be nice to be retired!
My parents had to work the next morning, so my grandparents, Jess, and I went to visit the Fred Meijer Gardens. The gardens house a collection of sculptures – many rather enormous – along with a traditional Japanese garden and arboretums. We opted to take the tram tour and learn about the sculptures from the guide. I won’t claim to understand even half of the exhibits, but they sure are impressive. My personal favorite was a work titled ‘Cabin Creek’: a horse that appears to be made of weathered driftwood but is actually cast bronze patina-ed to look like wood.
We walked around some more following the tour before going to Chick-fil-a for lunch and to visit my mom. We then returned home and relaxed for the afternoon before saying goodbye to my grandparents.
That evening we took the dogs for a walk with mom in a nearby wood with some letterboxes and pulled up some juvenile oak and maple trees to transplant to my family’s yard. We then enjoyed our final night with my parents and sister before loading up the Jeep and leaving for Iowa the following morning.