Years ago, I took my dad on a little adventure just before Father's Day. It was part of my gift to him that year. We drove up to Croton Dam area near Newaygo and we explored the property that his grandparents and later his parents owned.
It was a fun trip, as he was never one to shy away from nosing about. No one was at the remodeled cottage, so we walked right up to the windows and peered inside. We walked all around the property. He told me stories about why there was a chunk still missing out of the concrete steps leading up to the back door. It was him, in 1951. His older brother had built a car from scraps and let me 12 year old dad drive it-and he crashed while backing up to the house. He never got to drive it again,
We walked across the street and looked at the lake where his grandpa, and then his dad and uncle, would put their boat in the water for fishing, the Kildaire, which was supposedly named for the area the Kelly family came from in Ireland.
As is often the case in this life, you discover how small the world really is through sharing stories. It turns out, all those years ago, my dad knew my Aunt Sandy, my mom's brother Jim's wife, way back when they were children. Sandy's family would come rent a cottage near the dam and she said, years alter, that she remembered my dad's family--and their difficulties in getting their boat across the street and into the lake.
Back in August, as the two year anniversary for my dad's last illness was on my mind, I started to feel pity for myself. I was feeling nostalgic and wanting to take my own trip down memory lane. But where could I go? We moved around a lot when I was a child. What was my touchstone? And who would want to go with me? Being the oldest sibling, and so much older than my younger siblings, we don't always share the same set of memories, so what I might care about, they might not even have been around for yet.
I finally settled on touring around Grandville, MI. This was where my mom and her siblings were raised. We often went to my grandma's when we were children. I was in Grandville schools for part of my childhood-when we lived in both Walker and Wyoming. When we lived in the upper peninsula I came down and stayed with my grandparents for several weeks during the summers. As an adult I stayed with my grandma often, after my grandpa died, to help her with chores and take her to church. I even lived with her for several years, before it became necessary for her to go into assisted living.
Once I had that settled, I deiced to go for my little trip down memory lane after I was done donating platelets since I go to the donation center in Grandville every few months to make those donations.
The first place I headed was Grandville's small downtown area. When I was in kindergarten through about second grade, my parents tried their hands at owning a business, a bookstore they called The Book Nook. I know which two store fronts might have been it, but I am not quite sure. My mom created a special children's section in the store-that she called Pooh's Corner. Another local bookshop later used that name when they decided to open book stores that were for children only. I was so pleased when the classic older car drove by in the last of this set of four pictures, as we had a gold car similar to that when I was around 6 or 7.
The next place I headed to was Wedgewood Park, a park that was right by my grandma's house-we could walk there from her house. In the winter they would flood the football field and you could ice skate there. When I was in 6th grade-I went to the elementary school that was opposite the park, Central elementary. At recess, I would go by the fence by the tennis courts-and that was right by my grandma's backyard, and she would hand me chocolate chip cookies through the chain link fence.
Wedgewood Park has a special children's playground that is dedicated to the memory of a friend of mine, a little boy named Bobby. He died in an accident just weeks before we were supposed to start kindergarten. When I was looking at his memorial at the park and brushed away some debris that was on it, a butterfly floated by.
Then I went to look at the war memorials and the garden's dedicated to the Rosie the Riveters. I also walked past the softball field. I sued to go there at night to watch ball games when I stayed with my grandparents during the summer. You could hear the games from their house, the crack of the aluminum bats, the cheers. It was so much fun to walk over and watch and grandma always gave me to change to buy snacks-such as Big League Chewing gum, or popcorn, or a candy bar.