This incredibly flattering and beautifully composed photograph was taken this morning after breakfast at our beloved Bob Evans restaurant, this one just north of Lansing in DeWitt. We were driving south on US127 from Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant where, the night before, I’d given a long anticipated talk to the local student Planned Parenthood chapter about the illegal/unsafe abortion I had gotten while a student there in 1967. I looked a lot better than this when I gave the talk. Really, I did.
Afterward, I emailed my daughter: “It went well. I was pleased.” This seemed an overly economical way to say that I was deeply and thoroughly grateful that I could stand on a stage with a microphone and tell my story without shame or blame and with a level of understanding that took 45 years to simmer to that night’s perfection. I knew I could do it having been taught by many, including my stalwart husband/driver/friend/partner in all things, that one must just plant your feet and say it, be who you are, and be glad. So that’s what I did.
So this morning, the morning after as it were, we got up early, walked our dogs in the dark outside our Super 8 (this whole trip was extremely first class), packed up and headed south to our next key marker in our trip: Bob Evans. We headed for Bob Evans eschewing the dry (free) bagels, and the dry (free) muffins, and the makeyourown waffles (the knack of which I’d finally picked up on a cross-country jaunt we made last month). That says a lot because we’re in to travelling cheap unless we’re on an expensive trip, if you get my concept.
Bob Evans is a Michigan thing — it’s basically all about eggs and sausage and stuff that nobody should be eating. We love it. The biscuits just make you forget your doctor’s name altogether.
Anyway, after that, we headed to Hastings. Because we’d missed the annual trip to my parents’ gravesite on Memorial Day, it was essential to stop. So we left the freeway and motored through the farmland on M43 until we hit Hastings, turned right up the hill and ended up at Riverside Cemetery.
There I set to scrubbing off the moss that had grown in the letters of my parents’ names, using my husband’s Green Bay Packers long sleeved T-shirt which he had gallantly offered from the dirty laundry bag. Then I looked for stones, a way to let them know I was there, and gave them a kiss on the top of their headstone. And I remembered a question from the night before, “Did you ever tell your parents?” “No,” I answered, “They never knew.”
The kiss, my annual kiss, had every bit of my missing them and the feeling was so strong that it was physical. I could feel it in my cheeks and my lips, feel the tears welling up, and then it was over and I looked around for my husband who had trailed off into the woods with our our two dogs, leaving me to scrub and kiss stone unobserved. Bless him.
Our next stop was St. Julian’s Winery in Paw Paw.
St. Julian’s and the other wineries along I-94 in southwest Michigan are really popular with tourists (and probably the locals, too) because they pour free shots of wine. St. Julian’s is a favorite place of mine because I’d always stop there to stall for time on the way from Milwaukee to visit my parents in Michigan. I’d sample wine and buy cheese soup mix in a little box with a tiny bottle of hot sauce fastened with a red ribbon. I need to bring a gift, I decided.
All of Michigan is my life, even the places I’ve never been. It’s the trees and the hills, the way things look, the moss on the headstones, the lakes on either side of the road, the house on the corner with the stone foundation, the high school at the end of Main Street, the college I left, and the cheap wine at St. Julian’s.
I’m plenty grateful for this day with Bob Evans. Can you tell? I’m plenty grateful.