If there’s ever a time to take a road trip through northern and middle Michigan, fall is when you want to go!
When Jill and I met up in Mackinaw City Wednesday morning, I was hoping – in addition to a wonderful planned visit with Jill’s parents and with Lowell and Faye – that we’d be driving for two days through God’s beautiful autumn handiwork. The fall showcase peaked on the Island a week or so ago, and with the on-and-off-and-on wind and rain, the color remaining is beginning to look a bit ragged. Since we’d be traveling four hours south, I thought we just might catch some fresh-down-the-runway color as we traveled downstate first on I-75, then on US 127 into Lansing.
Unfortunately, after an hour or so of chatting non-stop my eyelids did what they usually do once I get comfy in a car on a long trip – they closed. I stayed awake more on the return trip, so I did get some pretty foliage photos (more on that on Monday).
Jill drove – partly because we were going to places she knew well – and partly because she knows my can’t-keep-my-eyes open-in-a-car reputation! Smart girl!
Jill usually doesn’t go back to Lansing until the end of the season, so this trip (about two weeks early) was to be a surprise for her two nieces, Haley and Ashlynn, who think their Aunt Jill hung the moon, the stars, the planets, and – of course – the sun! We met Jill’s mom and dad – Joanne and Ken – at the nieces’ home so we’d be there when youngest niece Ashlynn arrived home from school.
We all climbed into Ken and Joanne’s car and headed for a volley ball game at the middle school, where 12-year-old Haley would be playing – totally unaware that Aunt Jill was anywhere around.
After the game and after picking Jill’s car back up, we made a few shopping stops, then went to Ken and Joanne’s home for the evening.
Joanne warmed up a big pot of beef stew, which really hit the spot after being out and about in a chilly rain. I turned in fairly early, read for an hour or so, and dropped off to sleep as a train passed in the distance – a sound I haven’t heard in a long while.
I’ve met Jill’s parents on several occasions over the last four summers, but have never had more than a few minutes to talk with them. So, I especially loved being able to sit down over coffee, cantaloupe, and freshly baked pecan pastry Thursday morning and chat for a while.
Over the few hours I spent with them, I learned that they have been in the same house since the 60’s, purchasing it at the same time other young couples were buying in this East Lansing neighborhood and starting their families. They even still have some of the same neighbors – like Nancy, who I met Wednesday night and who has lived across the street from them for years.
When I went upstairs to pack my pj’s and put on my traveling clothes, I was suddenly struck with memories of sitting at the breakfast table talking to my mom and dad. You know how things like that creep up on you – when you least expect them? I had to sit down on the bed and fight tears before I could go back downstairs to say goodbye.
When I hugged Ken and Joanne goodbye, I was still afraid I was going to start boo-hooing all over them, so I just said, “Thank you so much for having me.” Joanne looked a little worried, and I said, “I’m ok – just having a sentimental moment. Can’t talk about it.”
But I will now.
Joanne and Ken aren’t nearly old enough to be my mom and dad. But sitting there with them that morning – watching the way they interacted, the way they looked at each other, their back-and-forth banter at the breakfast table – took me back to some of those same moments in my childhood home. The love they feel for each other – and for Jill and their two sons – is so evident on their faces it was almost like something drew me into a time machine and put me back at the red Formica kitchen table on Washington Street in Sylvester, GA.
So, Joanne and Ken – for the warm hospitality and hot stew, for the coffee, sweet cantaloupe, and pecan rolls, for the comfortable bed and lovely linens – thank you so much. But what I’ll really cherish and what I’ll always remember of our time together is feeling as though I’d stepped through a looking glass into the past – and spent a few minutes with my mama and daddy.
And for that – there aren’t any words special enough to write.
Hope you join me back here on Sunday evening or Monday morning for the rest of our road trip story – meeting Lowell and Faye Greene. God bless.