Sunday, May 31, 2009

State Memories Project: Michigan

This particular memory comes from a rite of passage in our family. At age 10, each of us—my siblings and me--got to fly to Detroit…alone!...to spend a week or ten days with Aunt Sally (mom’s kid sister) and Uncle Fred. I therefore headed out there in August of 1980, and remember loads from that trip—Bablo Island amusement park, Greenwood Village, hanging out endlessly with my cousin Joe, and my first major league game (Tigers 8, Red Sox 7…a game that ended at 12:50 AM due to a huge rain delay).

In the middle of that 10-year-old trip, we headed up to Caseville, a town at the tip of the thumb where my Grandpa Joe, who had died the previous year, had a cottage a long block from Lake Huron. My cousin, me, Aunt Sally, Uncle Fred, and maybe a couple of others had gone up there with some neighbors of Sally and Fred’s who had a daughter named Beth about my age and a son a little younger whose name I have since forgotten.

The four of us kids had headed down to the beach for the last bit of daylight, walking the five or six houses west-bound (I remember it as about a hundred yards) to the water. Once there, we saw an absolutely flat-out gorgeous sunset--a bright, vivid, very dark red sun in a perfect circle hanging a little ways above the water. We were all between 7 and 10 years old, but we were absolutely awe-struck by the sight, loudly shouting “Whoa! Wow!” a few times.

I’m not sure why, but it occurred to me that the adults needed to see this sunset. My companions agreed.

So we all ran as fast as we could off of the beach and up the road to the cottage, where we ran in and shouted at the two couples that there was an incredible sunset that they needed to see and that they had to get out there NOW because the sun was going down and they’d miss it. (Because of trees and houses, the sunset was invisible from the cottage; one had to walk to the beach to see it.)

We did everything we could to impart this sense of urgency to Aunt Sally, Uncle Fred, and their neighbors, but much to my dismay, I remember them lollygagging a little, getting on shoes, etc. At every moment of the way, the four of us shouted “Hurry up! It’s going down! Hurry!” And at every moment, the adults would not comply. Even when we were out on the road, we were running ahead of them a little, then turning around to gesticulate and tell them to run, hurry, they’d miss it--yet they were still not compliant. They walked very, very slowly and engaged in stupid adult conversation instead. They didn’t understand the urgency.

I saw the last of the bright-dark-red sunset through the trees, but when we got to the clearing, the sun—and the sunset—was gone. We tried to describe it, and said “Couldn’t you see a little of it through the trees?”

“That? Oh! I thought that was a light!” said the neighbor mom.

I remember feeling exasperated that I’d tried to share this beautiful thing with others, and they didn’t seem to understand its beauty or importance until too late.

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