Along the way, while Dean helmed the wheel and tried not to cross the center line, the girls and I brainstormed names for the RV. It was a dry desert of ideas until Molly suggested "Liz." I readily agreed to it because it tickles me to no end when the girls come up with a name that I have never recalled them encountering before. It reminds me of when I named my first doll Mabel. I am sure my mother was hoping for something more current, like Heather or Stephanie or Jennifer (by current I mean the mid-nineteen seventies), but I stuck to my guns with Mabel. I think it is no coincidence that my first doll had white hair. I have never seen a gray-haired baby doll, but my Mabel had it.
Anyway, Liz chugged north until we parked her in the KOA campground in Petoskey. Did you know that KOA campgrounds are pretty much completely awesome? They have tent sites and RV sites and diminutive cabins that are stocked with tiny stainless steel appliances. They have heated pools and pancake breakfasts and the most fascinating assortment of people who own trailers that have plasma TVs on the OUTSIDE and two kitchens, in case opening the door to your RV while you are camping is simply TOO MUCH TO ASK.
The only problem we identified at the KOA (and mind you, this was before I became a mystery shopper, but that, my friends, is a story for another day) was the skunk that came skulking out from the bushes while we were making s'mores. It is really SUPER DUPER hard not to scream when you see a skunk ambling toward you from ten feet away. But you must not scream. And you must somehow, through a great deal of hissing, convince your small children not to scream.
|"Daddy" got cold, but luckily I was there to lend him my jacket.|
|I try not to look at this picture, because really, who can feel romantic toward that face on the left?|
We took the ferry over to Mackinac Island for the day and ambled from fudge shop to fudge shop getting free samples. You can fill up doing this. No need to buy any fudge!
Thanks to my mother's warnings, I had basically packed a snowsuit and ear muffs for each of the children for the ferry ride over, but when we got there it was really warm downtown. We walked along the crowded sidewalks and I held Susannah's hand until she suddenly tripped. Or I thought she tripped anyway. She was there one minute and on her knees the next. I fussed over her for a minute and kept walking and she tripped again. And again. It wasn't until I let go of her hand and walked behind her for a minute that I realized what she was really doing was suddenly dropping to her knees of her own volition. For some reason, the crowds, the heat, the constant fudge smell in the air, made her want to get down on bended knee and cause a small army of strollers and shoppers to suddenly swerve. She did it over and over while we walked downtown but walked upright in other portions of the island. As soon as we hit the main road on our way back though, there she was again, kneeling in the middle of the thoroughfare. Thankfully, there are no cars. And thankfully, we didn't cause any Japanese tourists to break a femur trying to avoid landing on the weird American toddler crouched in the middle of the street.
We also rented a horse and buggy for an hour and it only cost us about half a monthly mortgage payment! "Babe" was a real hit though because she obliged us with several vile gas emissions that hinted at the upcoming event which was the highlight of the trip. The view of Babe pooping a scant twenty-four inches from our face was fantastic. My mom had been hoping upon hope for it to happen and dreams really do come true.
Also, even though I have been to horse camp twice in my life, I get no respect. Neither from my peers, nor from Babe. She did not seem awed that I had spent a CUMULATIVE FOURTEEN DAYS with her kind and refused to alter her pace one bit in response to my expert tongue-clickings and lashings. She trotted once, and I led the kids to believe it was all my doing, but Babe and I both knew who was in charge.
The trip was a whirlwind because we turned around and headed right back home, but first stopped in Ellsworth, the little northern Michigan town where my grandparents grew up and where they returned after retiring. It was bittersweet to go back and remember our visits. I was shocked to realize that there was a river about four blocks from my grandparents' house because we only visited three landmark locations: their home, the little stone house at the top of the street, and the candy store where we spent the dollar my grandma put under our pillows. Sometimes it was a Bic pen and a notebook, or other times, a full-sized candy bar. Molly and I always politely said our greetings and lingered in the kitchen long enough for it to seem like we had come to see my grandparents instead of the real reason we had come: to see what was under our pillows. In hindsight, it might have seemed like we didn't care. In reality, that treat stands out as the best tradition, along with the parting gift of being able to pick out our own jar of canned fruit (pears for me, peaches for Molly).
I wonder what will stick in my girls' minds from their childhood. I hope their memories are filled with skunks and horse poop and Shirley Temple movies in the RV.