When my mind is fluctuating from calm to crazy, as is its custom of late, a much sweeter remembrance, my way of refocusing is to go back to my original home in Buchanan, Michigan. My life was not perfect but it had perfect moments I can focus on and gleen from. I had moments of singing or playing the piano on stage in church as a solo or with my choir friends, led by Judy Earnst, who always got the best out of us and I appreciate to this day for doing so. I remember riding bikes with my best friend Shawn Quick (now Shafer) and meeting her for a slushie at the 7-11 on warm days or by McCoy creek or the park across the street from her house on Moccasin Rd. I remember spending the night at her house and going down to the donut shop in the morning and splitting a long john. I remember running the fields with Sheba, our black lab, or working them to pull the rocks or weeds out as need arose. I remember mowing 14 acres of grass on the riding mower. I remember breathing in the night air while laying on my thinking rock and watching the stars. I remember homemade ice cream Daddy made and how amazing it tasted. I remember softball and my succint pleasure in hitting that ball as hard as I could and surprising everyone with how fast I could run. I remember my grandparents, both sets, and how very thankful I am that I got to know them and be related to such wise, amazing people. I remember walking through the woods in the back yard on the trails and enjoying sitting quietly enough to see deer come close by and rabbits hop about and foxes eye me up. I remember the smell of freshly cut hay and how heavy a hay bale is. I remember how beautiful downtown Buchanan was to me and loved riding by the Jordan River, that muddy murky river always on the move, always interesting to see. I remember swimming at Phil and Dale Weldy’s pool with the church or my friends and swinging on their amazing tree swing, how high that would go! I remember my amazing Aunt Rosie and long to see her and love how encouraging she has always been. There are so many beautiful treasures of memories all snugged in my mind. These are my roots I fall back on, my core, my happy place. Here is where I have needed to be of late, so many ugly things happening in the world around us, so many difficult things happening personally. So I go back. I long to take off and visit my family back home. I want to see them so badly, it has been too long, but I must content myself with fond memories of those simpler times and appreciate such a beautiful collection of happy thoughts to sort from. These moments are gifts. And even if life was rough, as mine often was, there are always those options to choose to focus on and draw from to help you remember you really grew up as God’s child. He never leaves you without some blessings. He never leaves you completely alone. He won’t now.
When people ask, I say I grew up on a crop farm in Buchanan, Michigan. That is true but not the entire story. Truth be told, up until I was 10 years old, we lived in a trailer park on Red Bud Trail Road North in the back row. People didn’t call them “mobile home” parks at that time and truly it would have been too fancy for the place. We were at the farm a lot helping with things on weekends but largely, we were there. There were wonderful neighbors and questionable ones, some were the best of the best and some were pretty scary. In the middle of the park was my true hangout, a huge (seemed like at the time) playground with the tall swings, taller monkey bars (the square steel bar ones), a really high metal slide that mostly gave you butt bruises at the bottom, it was so steep. And free of charge, for no additional money, came plenty of rough and ready children (and I am using the term loosely). And of course, plenty of time for me to practice my boxing skills Daddy taught me because my mom used a huge triangle to ring us when to come home for food and of course rough and ready children think this is a great way thing to tease a child about (once). 🙂 We (my only living sibling, a sister) had bikes, but I was at the playground alone because she never wanted to play. So I would pedal back after I heard the annoying bell and after making sure my pride was intact from the bullies and eat contentedly. Rainy days were hard because my bedroom was small and gloomy because of dark fake wood paneling and one small window. I was every superhero I knew of at some point in that trailer. It was my imagination that saved me from the fate of so many there, some abusive, some abused, most poor, some held down by their own belief that the insults hurled upon them through life were true, but fairly some extraordinary and the most generous souls alive. When Grandpa Batterson died and I was 10 and my Daddy cried for the first time ever, I think, Grandma bought a modular home on the hill of their property and our family moved into the old farmhouse. And that began the best, most hard working childhood I could imagine. From darkness to light the contrast was. From cats only to cats and dogs and guinea pig and fish and hermit crabs because there was plenty of room. All that to say this. When we have lived in a dark place for a long time, the dark looks like it is as light as day, we get used to fighting to get by, we protect ourselves by escaping into our minds, we are always on guard with brief moments of splendor, like when we went to church. But just because your eyes have adjusted to the dark does not make it light. When we move to the light, when God graces us with light, the darkness is revealed and light can start to dispel that darkness in time. We don’t have to be bound to the darkness. I say I am from the farm not from the trailer park. I don’t own that bleak time. I own the light. It is my choice, my decision to change my point of view and focus on what saves and not what crushes. Everyone has that choice in life. Everyone can choose the light.
I grew up in Michigan. So, Christmas happened there for me during my growing up years. Fast forward about thirty some years and we live in Florida, where Christmas happens now. There is a stark contrast between these two places and this is what I see as the biggest differences.
MI: cold, very cold, sometimes snowed, so stoked didn’t
FL: not cold usually at all, pretty much like the other seasons
MI: to keep food cold for get together, wrap it and put it out on the unheated porch, like an extra fridge or freezer
FL: try to cram all food into fridge or freezer because you put it on the porch it will melt or draw bugs
MI: all the family gets together and eats all day, plays games, watches the Macy’s Day Parade, eats more really good food inside
FL: those few family members here get together and go out to eat then spend time outside, maybe even hit the beach or swim
MI: gray skies
FL: blue, sunny skies
MI: scrape off the car and bundle up
FL: flip flops and shorts
MI and FL: lights, presents, Christmas programs or candle light services at church
Both are wonderful and both represent the birth of Christ well. No matter where I am I love Christmas! Happy Christmas, everyone!
There are several places I have vacationed where you feel you are truly somewhere else really destressing and beautiful.
1. One place is my home town of Buchanan, Michigan. Were it not so cold and gray half the year I would still live there. But alas. In Buchanan (see my post on Buchanan, Michigan), you are truly in a small town friendly farm community far from the street noise and smog. You feel you are away from the hustle and bustle and yet are only a half an hour from the big city of South Bend, Indiana or a half hour from Warren Duns beach and Tower Hill on Lake Michigan. And there is no place in the world better for fishing blue gill than Ronnie’s beach. Fabulous vacation spot!
2. Another great getaway place is Niles, Ohio. There is a fabulous Victorian bed and breakfast there that inspired friendly relaxation. Again, tiny town and superb library complete with cafe and bistro but still close to big town of Youngstown, Ohio, which boasts one of the best Art Museums I have been to (apart from the mansion one in Philadelphia, PA). I stumbled upon it and have longed to return since. Perfect restoration place!
I will rack my brain to remember more, but these two spots may get you relaxing and reviving from stress elsewhere if that is your desire. It is fabulous to see great places and let them wash over you and I believe these need to be shared and not kept to one’s self. God gives beautiful people these fabulous places to share with others and I think that is what should be done! 🙂
My home town of Buchanan, Michigan is a small town near Niles and St. Joe in the Southwest corner of the state. It is about a half hour’s ride to Warren Dunes on Lake Michigan and about the end of any long dirt country road is a little lake, like Ronnie’s Beach. Until I was about 10, we lived in a trailer park on Red Bud Trail North Road and the trailer was sold and driven away when I was 10 and we moved out to the farm on Chamberlain Road. Two of my favorite things in the world to do were first to run through the fields after chores were done with our black lab mix dog Sheba and walk over the railroad tracks and down the hill to McCoy Creek. I’d play on the playground and we’d swim in the creek and on a lucky day would watch a softball game there. We’d head back home through the woods on the trails by dark. The other great thing was to ride my bike and meet up with my best friend Shawn and get a Slurpee from 7-11 and head over to the park. There was also an amazing place called Marz Sweet Shop downtown that made amazing homemade chocolates and the best tuna sandwiches and banana malts you could ever imagine. If still there, that place alone is worth the journey. The town was quaint and beautiful to me, a picturesque and endearing scene of beauty any season of the year. We were close enough to South Bend and Mishawaka, Indiana to have any amenities you’d ever need. And the church there I grew up in, Buchanan Christian Church, was robust and alive and full of about a quarter of the town as members, or so it seemed and people lived their faith. People knew people there and helped them out. Of course this was necessary in a place where snow coated the ground half the year. 🙂 But the people of the Midwest, and particularly the area I grew up in are some of the friendliest, realest, most good hearted bunch of folks I’ve come across in all my travels and places lived. I miss my home town and hope to make the long voyage back someday. But if you are looking for a destination to explore and really enjoy peacefully,out of the rat race, I recommend Buchanan, Michigan.