Monday, June 12, 2017
Traverse City, Michigan
“—Oh, that noise is a frog,” babbled Jack, my nephew. He interrupted the middle of a previous thought to point this out—something about Grandpa, a small plastic bucket, and the fish they caught earlier that day. The mystery stands.
He continued spouting off unfinished thoughts and random nature facts as he showed me around the cottage, leading me to a canoe kicked up on the shore. I stopped for a moment to admire the lake and breathe in the air. Pine trees and moss. It smelled exactly the same as it always had. Fresh.
My tour guide had abandoned me by the time I turned around. I could hear him chattering away somewhere off in the distance.
His attention span is genetic.
My sister struggled to place her infant daughter, Isabella, into a papoose as I looked on. A papoose. Because we’re up north so we’re going all out Ojibwa, apparently.
“Is this how it’s supposed to go?” she asked, skeptically.
“You think I’m the right person to ask?” I said.
“Do you think she’s comfortable?”
Her body looked like a starfish and she was at risk of being suffocated by my sister’s chest.
“She’s fine – she likes it,” I said. “Let’s go.”
“McMansion monstrosity,” I said, pointing out a giant house wedged between the road and Spider Lake. It was for sale.
“Overpriced,” Sara replied. Eight hundred thousand dollars (we checked later), so she was right.
We continued walking down Lake George Trail – a dirt road running along a thickly forested ridge with Spider Lake on one side, Lake George on the other.
“I’m into this one, though,” I said about a charming and tiny A-frame that couldn’t have been more than fifteen feet wide. “The garden’s a little overgrown, but I like that.” The owner stomped up from the side of the house as I was finishing my thought, muttering something: an admonishment to Fudgies, probably.
“She’s so quiet,” I said, referring to Isabella.
“She’s like this most of the time, totally chill,” Sara said. “When she does scream you know it and so do the neighbors, but she’s usually like this.”
“Well, we’ve already irritated the locals anyway, so live your life girl!”
We walked around the lake and caught up on life and wedding planning, a topic I have been avoiding, despite venue selection being one reason we were up there.
An extraverted Lhasa Apso ran up to us on the street, followed by two middle-aged women. “You guys from here?” I asked after greeting the dog because I am a man with his fucking priorities straight.
“North Carolina,” one of them said.
The other scoffed. “Only for a year.”
“Still getting used to saying that—we’re originally from here. Where are you guys staying?”
“Miller cottage,” my sister responded.
“Oh, how nice. Enjoy.”
Was there a twinge of cynicism in her response? The New York version of my psyche immediately sought out her motives. She was a bit sarcastic earlier. Did she really mean that—“enjoy?” Maybe she has some sort of beef with the Millers? God, I hope so.
Or, perhaps, she was just being nice.
We’ve been in Michigan less than twenty-four hours…
The back of the cottage faced west, out over the lake. Dusk was about to meet nightfall and a storm was due anytime now. The rest of the family was holed up inside. I sat by myself on the deck where it was still and sticky—summer in Northern Michigan.
The wind picked up and started whipping through the trees. The lake, which had been a mirror earlier, started to get those little ripples where gusts of wind dance on the surface. Lightning flashed in the distance followed by the gentle rumbling of thunder, which always seemed to take longer to reach us than it should. It was still pretty far off in the distance.
It’s one of my favorite things in the world—watching thunderstorms roll in. Especially in Michigan where the rain seems to hold off until Mother Nature has given you a show. In New York you get it all at once and then it’s over.
Here, it takes a little more time.
My mom and sister started a game of Rummikub just inside the screen door, and I could hear the clinking of the plastic tiles and the low tones of their conversation. I stayed outside as the storm got closer. The rumbles of thunder were getting bolder, and better in tune with the lightning. Not crashing or dramatic, but those long and strong rumbles that slowly gather intensity and that you feel deep in your bones.
The rain eventually blew in on a huge gust of wind, and I made my way inside after letting a few drops fall on me. My sister dodged off to feed Isabella, so I took her place at the table. Diane was happily organizing her game tiles. She’s never more pleased than when her entire brood is under one roof.
Maybe we should have been European.
Our bedroom was tucked in the corner of the house and had two twin beds that we pushed together, haphazardly. I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the old transistor radio so we laid in bed and listened to the rain.
I tried throwing my arm over J but ended up sinking slowly into the crevice where the two beds were pushed together. The pillows were too small and kept falling behind the bed. I was happy anyway.
The window was cracked and the vocal bullfrog my nephew pointed out earlier was busy croaking sweet nothings to his admirers across the lake. They were deep and a little vulgar sounding.
I pushed J.
“My love, you really need to quit farting.”