Ninety-three summers. That there's commitment, my friends.
Spending a portion of each summertime in Grand Haven, a picturesque town on the western coast of Michigan that has had either a Tanis or a Pett connection for at least 100 years is as much a part of Jason's DNA as his HEIGHT. So, allegiance and devotion to a Grand Haven summertime was an unspoken, shadow vow taken with great solemnity during my wedding service, slipped in between in sickness and in health and until death due us part. It was never discussed and never debated. It was fact. We go to Grand Haven each summer. Like Notre Dame's code, (for the uninitiated, it's God, Country, Notre Dame), our code reads
God, Family, Grand Haven
Or God, Family, Pronto Pups, depending on which Pett you ask.
But I digress.
The traditions that we have in this hamlet are as predictable as the seasons. We walk to the pier. We fish. We spend afternoons on the beach. We read. We rest. We play board games and card games. We get Fricano's Pizza at least once. I get to read read read read read read READ. Kyle comes to hang out with the boys and Jason and I have a date night (either at the Grand or the Kirby Grill). We watch every sunset. We frequent Morning Star, the Bookman, (the best independent bookstore on the face of the EARTH), Butch's and Pronto Pups. We must, must, MUST visit Temptations.
We arrive at our favorite of all favorite houses, The Sand Castle. We converted to "the North Shore" six years ago from Indian Village, and from our beloved Stickney Ridge before that, and will never go back. We love it so.
We arrive in the house and couldn't be happier. We all just snuggle in and relax together. We are ALL in our happy place.
Thanks to Spencer Pett, our built-in babysitter, we got to do the BIG MEIJER SHOP ALONE.
The post-shopping reward.
When the sun sets, we head to the end of our driveway to watch our VERY OWN personal fireworks display.
Well. It's not REALLY just for us. But it feels like it is.
The Greatest Lake
I have tender feelings for Lake Michigan. She and I share a similar temperament. One day, we are calm as can be. Flat, placid, peaceful, and clear. A joy to behold. But other days, our waves rock and rumble and we can TAKE DOWN SHIPS WITH THE MIGHTY UNPREDICTABILITY OF OUR EMOTIONS.
The RUMBLER was kicking and screaming on day two.
Jason surprised me with a paddleboard from the Wet Mitten! She will have to be launched on a calmer day.
Grand Haven's Haute Cuisine
Grand Haven does not only have personal fireworks displays, the Coast Guard Festival, the famous Musical Fountain, and a picturesque lighthouse at the end of the channel. IT HAS FOOD. GOOD FOOD. People would argue that Grand Haven is not known for it's food. I respectfully disagree.
It's got good grub and I like it like that.
Welcome to the Morning Star Cafe, which serves the best breakfasts in all the land. (The cinnamon rolls are enough to make a grown woman weep).
Introducing PRONTO PUPS.
No. No. NO. NO! No, they are not a CORN DOG. Sacrilege, darling. They are PRONTO PUPS, a category of food all unto itself. Pronto pups are a juicy, meaty hot dog coated in a batter that is sweet, yet savory at the same time. They are a delight. They are an experience. They are a LIFESTYLE. They are also, happily, $1.75 a piece. (At the risk of dating myself, I remember when they were a dollar, you whippersnapper, you!)
The best GH gastro-extravaganza of all time was this: appetizers at Pronto Pups, a beef and bean burrito with #2 sauce from Butch's Beach Burritos for the FIRST entree, Temptations ice cream for dessert, and a carry-out Fricano's Pizza to eat while watching the sunset back at the cottage. Otherwise known as the post-dessert entree. Friends, that is the PERFECT NIGHT.
And for the quick, fun ice cream over the bridge in Spring Lake? Well, that would be Miss Lisa's.
Ladies and gentleman, for the piece de resistance, I give you RUSS'.
On Tuesday evenings we would take Gram Pett to Russ' She would always add a "salad" to her meal. . . . a half of a canned peach nestled in a mound of cottage cheese. Jason, a purist, gets the ham steak. ME? TURKEY GRAVY ALL THE WAY, BABY.
Literary and Artistic Pursuits
Grand Haven is a place for reading, and the Bookman keeps us well stocked. (It's proximity to Morning Star Cafe doesn't hurt, either). While we wait for our table, we browse. We choose. We get excited about what we will learn.
Be still, my heart! A Little Free Library!
The Bookman has some magical elixir that makes even the most reluctant reader into a bookworm.
Behold, Exhibit A:
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN SUCH A WONDROUS THING?
I met this girl in a stuffy, dimly lit, empty summer classroom at Holmes Elementary School. She was teaching fourth grade in the classroom next door to me, had just had her first beautiful brown-eyed baby boy, and was impossibly worldly, sophisticated, and smart. And hilariously silly and uproariously funny and wildly talented and creative and musical and artistic.
I've had the great good fortune to call her friend for almost twenty years.
Spending time with Susan and her talented husband Chris and her super interesting boys is a highlight of Grand Haven for us every year. I know you will leave the Mitten someday. JUST PLEASE. . . . NOT YET!
The Requisite ER Trip
It happens every year. EVERY. YEAR. Either urgent care or the ER. Ear infections, kidney infections, broken ribs, bronchitis, swimmers' ear, suspected broken foot. . . . .the list is endless. We make sure that the medical bills are all paid up before we even head to Michigan, because we know that we will be seeing the fine folks at North Ottawa Community Hospital for SOMETHING, and we want our credit to be GOOD.
I did my best to keep him occupied.
This year it was broken ribs. Rest and relax, big boy.
Grand Haven is a place where a boy can pack a sandwich and some cheese sticks in his pocket, walk alone to the pier at 5 o'clock in the morning with his rod and tackle, choose a spot and begin to fish. Grand Haven is also a place where the community of fishermen on the pier take a boy, who is hungry to learn, under their tutelage and teach him ALL THE FISHING THINGS. Bait, lures, tying things properly, patience, technique, patience, types of fish, patience, exotic invaders, patience, the impact of water temperature, and did I mention PATIENCE?
We brought him breakfast. No bites.
A mid-morning snack. No bites.
An afternoon pop. (That's soda for the rest of you). Nothing.
A late afternoon snack. Still nothing.
By now, we had all made friends with the fishermen. They were calling all of us by name. The pier had turned into Cheers, and we were NORM.
THE BOY DID NOT LEAVE THE PIER ONCE IN 12 HOURS. NOT ONCE.
His dogged determination was admirable.
It was getting close to dinnertime and I was getting ready to pull the plug on this grand adventure.
But just then, who saunters home, but this guy:
. . . with a steelhead, caught with the assistance of Mr. Kelley, Owen's favorite new mentor, a grin as wide as the lake, and some serious fisherman STREET CRED.
BEST FOOD HE'S EVER HAD.
I could go on and tell you about how Kyle and the boys dared each other to crack raw eggs over their heads, about how we got to babysit the sweetest little second cousin, how we tried and FAILED to potty training Landon, how we had a Monopoly marathon for the AGES, how the freighters come through the channel and the boys race to the pier to wave to the sailors, how our Chicago cousins came to visit, and how our family loves nothing better than sunsets over water and Lake Michigan sand between our toes.
But you know all that already.