Sunday morning. The house is suddenly quiet. Matt and his family’s luggage have just left on the taxi. Ted, Julie, Jordan and Matthew are riding down on their bikes. Ted will see them off at the ferry docks, then ride back up. Only Blake and I are here at the house, and in the stillness, I can still hear Jordan asking where her Harry Potter book is and Matthew asking to go feed MacGyver. Tears are coming – I fought them when they left – now they will flow. Special prayers go up for their safe travel. Matt plans to drive all night because he has to be at his desk Monday morning, and it will be a hard drive for them. Ted, Blake and I are planning to walk down the hill to attend the 10:30 Sunday morning service at The Little Stone Church. That will help.
The weekend was packed with activity, but Mother Nature was not in a very good mood. Even the fleece jackets came back out again. It rained off and on – but only showers that didn’t last more than a few minutes. Despite all that, we managed to have a wonderful time. There really are no bad days on Mackinac Island – just ask our grandchildren!
I know I’ve mentioned MacGyver – the horse Ted and I discovered several weeks ago over behind the West Bluff. When Julie and the kids met him, he was an instant hit, and from that day on, a trip to “feed MacGyver” became a natural part of their day – as did a trip to Doud’s to buy carrots and apples. And a wonderful thing happened Thursday evening. Julie and the children went down with their MacGyver “treats”, and his owners were there also! They were so gracious and nice. They told Jordan and Matthew all about MacGyver (and what he likes to eat – would you believe marshmallows and LifeSavers!), and even invited them into their beautiful barn to see the vintage carriages they own. It was all Matthew and Jordan could talk about. Julie said she was in such awe, she forgot to ask if she could take pictures!
I had discovered right away on this trip that when the children couldn’t find something interesting to do inside, I could always say, “Bear needs brushing!”, and they would spend at least an hour making Bear look like he had been to the beauty parlor. Friday morning, even Julie joined in.
Finally it was time to walk downtown. Julie had to catch a ferry so she could go to Pellston to pick up Matt at the airport. We had plans to take the children to some of the historical houses on the island while she was gone. Blake hung with us until Julie left, then went off to work.
Our first stop was the McGulpin House, one of the oldest structures on the island, dating back to the 1780’s. It houses an exhibit showing the construction techniques of the time. Next was the Beaumont Memorial, where Matthew tried on a pair of real beaver gloves, and they both tried their hand at writing with a quill pen – really hard for a left-hander!
When we got to the Biddle House, they really began to get interested. Built in 1780, it has been restored and furnished as it was when Edward Biddle, a prominent fur trader, and his Indian wife lived there. Interpreters demonstrate spinning and baking. The house’s kitchen was full of great smells as sausage sizzled over an open fire in the fireplace. The interpreters, dressed in period costume, explained how a typical noon meal would consist of a meat of some sort (like the sausage), mixed with vegetables. Then there would be rice and beans, fresh baked bread, and usually a fruit pie.
Outside the kitchen was an herb garden, and another interpreter picked a stalk of fresh rhubarb, explained to Jordan and Matthew the leaves were poisonous, then stripped the leaves so they could taste the remaining stalk. Matthew shook his head, “Don’t like it – it’s too sour!” Jordan thought it was yummy. BeeBe agreed with Matthew!
For the children, the best part of the historic tour was the visit to the Benjamin Blacksmith Shop behind the Biddle House. This is a working museum where a smithy coaxes iron into the shape of wagon rims, street light brackets and candle holders. Jordan and Matthew learned that blacksmith shops are always very dark because the smith judges the temperature of the fire by the different colors of the flame, something that would be impossible in a bright room. The smith explained to the kids the anatomy of a horse’s hoof and how the shoes are put on without causing the horse any pain.
We walked over to the Pink Pony and got a table on the outside patio so we could watch the ferries come in. Blake met us there, and when Matt and Julie’s ferry docked, they joined us.
We ordered pizzas from 3 Brothers Sarducci, called for a taxi, and sat around the kitchen counter and den at home, enjoying family conversation, with the children both trying to tell their dad at one time everything they had been doing for ten days. Of course, MacGyver was the hot topic of conversation, and they insisted that Matt had to go feed MacGyver before bedtime. They cut up apples and carrots and off they went. When they didn’t return for almost three hours, we had begun to wonder what they could possibly be doing for so long. They finally returned and told us they had fed the horse, then walked all the way out to sunset rock to watch the sun go down. It was the first time Matt and Blake had been on Pontiac Trail, and they were very impressed with the view.
On Saturday morning, the weather was gray and misty, but we didn’t let it stop us. We had promised Jordan we would go hiking on the Tranquil Bluff Trail, which is pretty rugged and steep. We left to make good on that promise, walking almost the entire way to that particular trail through wooded paths, coming out at Arch Rock, then continuing on Tranquil Bluff. We had the dogs with us also, and believe me, when that trek was over, we all went home and took a much needed nap!
After naps, we went to the Village Inn for dinner. On the way down, Blake became the “carriage”, Matthew – the passenger, and Jordan, the “horse”. They love their Uncle Blake.
We topped off dinner with ice cream from JoAnne’s. If you read “A Day in the Life of a Mackinac Island Fudge Maker”, you know that it was JoAnne’s that allowed me to follow one of their workers through his morning of fudge making. The shop we went in Saturday night was a different JoAnne’s, and when we walked by the kitchen, a sign on the refrigerator door caught Julie’s eye. They had placed it there so all their employees would go online to look at the blog story.
It’s now Sunday evening at 10:30. Ted has just talked with Julie, and they are in St. Louis. About 5 hours to go, putting them home around 2:30 in the morning. Julie and the kids will be able to sleep in, but Matt will be at work on time. Seeing their luggage piled up at the boardwalk this morning, awaiting the taxi, was such a sad moment. Our family and our guests come, and it is always such a happy time when they step off that taxi. When they are going the other way, it is not so happy. We hate to see anyone leave, but when it is children and grandchildren, we hate it even more. Watching Matt leave on the taxi, and Jordan and Matthew and Julie ride down that hill was so bittersweet. We enjoyed them being here so much.
We pray the memories we make this summer with our children and grandchildren will linger with them all their lives. They will certainly linger with us for all of ours.
NOTE: Historical information on the McGulpin House, Beaumont Memorial, Edward Biddle House, and the Benjamin Blacksmith Shop taken from Amy McVeigh’s Mackinac Connection: The Insider’s Guide to Mackinac Island.