Time to Tube

sols_6[1]scan0114

Growing up in Saugatuck during the summers was always exciting.  Getting away from home and spending time (only two hours away) felt like an awesome vacation each time we went.  Honestly, it was like a free for all up there (it really wasn’t… Grandma Betty kept us in line) but it seemed like it when we were there. 

One of our favorite past times was playing on the water tube.  We did have a boat, and sometimes we could persuade a parent to take us out into the lake to go tubing, but it was difficult and required a lot of promises of chores that none of us wanted to keep.  So, somehow, at some time, someone decided to tie the tube to the end of the dock in front of our cottage.  Doesn’t sound very fun, right? Well, you don’t know what fun is then!

Grandma Betty was the easiest to sucker into coming to sit and watch us to make sure we didn’t get hurt.  Instead of sitting up on the yellow chairs at the cottage, she would bring a beach chair down and sit on the dock while we went crazy in the water.

Literally, for hours, all we did was jump off the dock or the boats into the water and see who could get onto the tube and hold on while everyone else tried to tip you off so they could get on and try to hold on for dear life.  It was like a challenge to be king of the tube and man did we take it serious.  When you were on the tube, sitting in the middle, you had to use strategy to stay on.  When you were in the water, trying to get onto the tube, strategy was also needed.  Many alliances were formed and broke as quickly as they were made when trying to get onto the tube. 

Gregory, Emmy, myself, the Kosick kids, and the Murphy children made sure on hot days with no air conditioning that this “game” was played.

Lucky for us, Grandma Betty was always read to watch. 

Crane’s

cranesfront[1]sols_6[1]

I don’t think there will ever be a time that I can live without it.  Beautiful rolling hills all shades of colors as you pull up.  Sweet and wonderful aromas that hit you right when you walk in the door.  Mouthwatering as you pick up the perfect one and take it to the counter… grabbing six other things you can’t live without on your way.  Crane’s Restaurant and Bakery = legendary.

Located in Fennville, right next to Saugatuck, Cranes farmland was purchased in 1916.  Apples, cherries, and peaches grown right on the land and used in the most amazing pies, ciders, and donuts are second to none.  You can also stop in to eat a complete meal in the small and quiet restaurant while you’re there. 

Grandma Betty had a love affair with Cranes.  About once a week she would head over to make her weekly pick-up.  Like I said, once you go in, you can’t leave with just one thing.  Grandma always made sure to have Crane’s apple cider donuts on hand.  If she knew people were coming to visit, she made sure to buy extras.  She also usually left with a jug of apple cider and at least one pie.  Our family favorite… the cherry crisp.  Sweet and succulent ripe fresh cherries backed into soft and flaky pie crust and topped with crunchy and delish oats, it was like biting into a piece of heaven.   Of course, once a holiday came along though, we would come home with multiple flavors… pumpkin being the favorite around Thanksgiving.

Nowadays, every time I head up to Saugatuck, Crane’s is a must stop before heading back home.  I make sure to buy a dozen donuts, a jug of cider, and of course a cherry crisp pie… just like Grandma Betty would have wanted. 

Sunsets

sols_6[1]IMG_0249

Red, pink, yellow, gold, orange, blue, purple, black… it’s amazing the colors that come from a beautiful sunset in Saugatuck.  All of the colors mixing as if it is a piece of artwork in someone’s mind.  Forming together each night into the perfect blend and bringing a family together. 

Every minute colors change, and just like it families reform as well.  Some nights of bright lively colors show the happiest of times and the vibrancy of life.  Deep blues, purples and blacks show the struggles that must be dealt with but aren’t seen nearly as often.  Every night brought something new, just like every moment of life is unexpected until it happens.

Grandma Betty really knew about the meaning of a sunset.

“The Hill”

sols_6[1]IMG_0260

Although my Grandma Betty spent many days in the peace and quiet of her wooded cabin, she could also often be found down in the middle of the hustle and bustle of my family’s cottage.  If she wasn’t sitting on the back porch of hers, she would most likely be found on “the hill” to the side of the cottage.  “The hill” is the families meeting place, the gathering place to be exact… it’s the place where deals were made, tears have been shed, laughter could be heard, and love could ALWAYS be found.

“The hill” was much like my Grandma Bettys back porch, an easy place to sit and just relax while the world flew right on by past you.  However, unlike my Grandmas cottage which was surrounded by piece and quite, ours was always surrounded by the sounds of Saugatuck.

First, was the noise that the people who were sitting on the hill were making.  Unless you woke up super early and found yourself sitting in silence in the wee morning hours, the hill always had something going on.  It’s like the metal yellow chairs attracted people like flies to the glow of a light bulb.  Laughing, talking, yelling, whistling and who knows what sometimes filled the air constantly.  People from our family as well as family friends and just people from town would always be coming and going.  Fourth of July and “the hill” was the best time of year.  Everyone hoped to get an invite to “the hill” on that day. 

Next came the noise from the street.  Because our cottage is on the only street to get to Lake Michigan in Saugatuck, it was always busy.  And I mean always… cars, trucks, motorcycles, people walking, people on bikes or roller skates, people with dogs and scooters.  Most of these people knew my Grandma Betty too, so people would always yell up to her (or other members of the family or friends) that were sitting on “the hill.”

After the noise from the street, came the noise from the river that feed into Lake Michigan.  All kinds of boats filled that river.  Fishing boats, cigar boats, jet skis, million dollar yachts, and even cruise liners passed our cottage.  The ferry and its blow horn also filled the air with noise.

Lastly was town.  Music, cars, and voices could be heard from the other side of the river.  Sometimes people would scream across the river to say hi when they could see my family on “the hill.”  Town was always the last thing to be heard, sitting on “the hill” at night.  It never seemed to fully shut down.

I couldn’t tell you have many days, hours, minutes, and seconds my Grandma Betty (hell all of us really) spent on that section of land.  All I know is that it brought us all together, and that’s more than I could ever ask for in the end. 

Mt. Baldy

Baldy 3sols_6[1]Baldy 2Baldy 1

Two hundred and eighty two steps to the top.  A landing to stop every twelve steps to take a break.  The most amazing and beautiful view awaiting you at the top.  SUCCESS!

Mt. Baldhead (commonly known as Mt. Baldy to regulars) is every fitness buffs dream workout spot with the best reward after all that work.  Built during WWII as a lookout tower, Mt. Baldy sits atop the highest dune for miles around.  Although the tower has been closed off to visitors, the stairs that lead to the top of the dune are open and often used by many who know and visit Saugatuck. Although it is closed during the winter (who really would want to shovel all of those stairs) Mt. Baldy offers hard to find views for miles and miles.

For whatever reason as kids, Gregory, Emmy, and I (and other childhood friends) always thought climbing Mt. Baldy was the best idea ever.  At least once every time we came up, we would make our way over and pull ourselves to the top (stopping A LOT on the way up).  Grandma Betty never made it up with us, but she would walk to the bottom of the steps with us and wait until we made our way down.  Usually it took about a half an hour or so because we would goof off at the top and run around (we didn’t really care about the view at that age). 

One time, which I will never forget, thanks to some hikers who had found another way down from the dune, Grandma Betty almost skinned us alive. 

We had decided to follow the lead of some hikers who said that there was a path down the side of the dune that you could run down instead of having to go back down the stairs. “Run down” we thought, “that has to be much faster and sounds a lot more fun.”  But man were we WRONG.

To get to the spot that you could run down, you had to hike way out of the way… and it took a long time.  Almost an hour after we had gone up, we finally made it to the bottom of the dune about 30 feet from the bottom of the stairs.  As soon as Grandma Betty spotted us, all hell broke loose.  I have never been as scared for my life as I was that moment with her. 

Months later, when we were finally allowed back, we found another route down the dune… one that lead straight to Lake Michigan. 

Lucky for us, we had enough sense at that point to go down back the stairs and tell Grandma Betty about the discovery.  We were “old enough” the next time to try it out.  Grandma Betty drove us to Mt. Baldy and dropped us off at the base.  While we were climbing, and running down the HUGE sand hill that lead to the beach, she drove her car to meet us on the other side.  And what a blast it was.  Getting hot and sweaty on the way up and the run down, made it even better to get into the cool water of the lake.

Thank goodness Grandma Betty gave us that second chance. 

The Ferry

sols_6[1]images[2]

“Who wants to go into town?” Grandma Betty called.

“I do!” yelled Emmy.

“Me too!” I screamed.

“Go grab a dollar each and let’s be on our way then,” Grandma Betty replied.

One of my favorite parts of my family’s cottage is that it is literally across the Kalamazoo River from the town of Saugatuck.  Walk out the front door and in front of you in the hustle and bustle and noise of a tourist attraction.  Many nights I fell asleep to the lull of music and voices from town. 

Saugatuck, one of the most visited towns in Michigan for travelers who want to get away, has artsy shops and boutiques and delish restaurants that keep people coming throughout the summer.  It is ALWAYS busy.  And busy means hard to find parking spots when you want to go hang out there for a couple of hours.

Because of this, years and years and years ago, the town of Saugatuck put in a ferry to transfer people across the river to town so they wouldn’t have to drive.  Ingenious if you ask me.  It takes about 5 minutes to get across, a dollar each way, and wa-la… you are in town. 

The ferry was Grandma Betty’s favorite way to get into town.  We would walk down to the get on point; it took about a minute from the cottage (maybe two if grandma was going slow that day) and got on to cross.  You always knew when the ferry was running because of the bull horn.  It was always shot off to let boats know it was coming and to slow down as to not break the chain that attached the ferry from one side of the river to the other.

I don’t know why we always had so much fun on the ferry.  To get across there was a crank lever that needed to be continuously pushed to get across.  Even though there was always a teenager working on the ferry, Grandma Betty would always make us crank our way across (and pay too).

My value of hard work to get what I wanted started on that ferry.

GEM

sols_6[1]

GEM: A cut and polished precious stone or pearl fine enough for use in jewelry

GEM: A person held in great esteem or affection

GEM: Gregory, Emmy, and Mallory’s Saugatuck fine dining restaurant

Per usual, the three of us cousins kept busy with our active imaginations when we were younger and spending time in Saugatuck.  If we weren’t planning Granny Anne skits, making forts, spending time at the beach, on a hike, or playing cards, you could beat we were up to something else.

Most summers, Grandma Betty took the three of us up to her cottage so that our parents could have a little summer reprieve from us.  We usually would go up on a Saturday, spend the whole week with just Grandma Betty, and then our parents would come up the following Saturday to take us home on Sunday. 

One year, I couldn’t even tell you how old we were, it was decided that the three of us should do something nice for Grandma Betty.  Somehow it was decided that cooking dinner was the best plan we had.  (Thinking back there were so many other better ideas that would have been an easier feat).

But there we were, in the back room where Granny Anne skits were put together, trying to decide on a meal to make.  We, of course, did not have the most tasteful pallets, and within an hour or so the meal was planned.  You should give us some credit though, we did have a four course meal all picked out.

Instead of just making the meal though, we had to put on a production.  Because my Uncle Donald owns his own business he insisted on having a computer in his room.  So, without my grandma knowing, the three of us snuck back there, fired up that bad boy, and made up a menu (no choices, just telling what was going to be served). 

We also made up a name for our meal service, GEM.  We thought it was pretty clever to say so myself…

We let Grandma Betty know our plans and she took us to the grocery store.  She sat in the car while we headed into the store and spent her money (who in their right mind would allow that to happen in today’s world?!) We got all the needed materials, paid, and headed back to the car.

Once we got back to the cottage, we sent Grandma Betty to her room and closed the door to the kitchen.  We got to work right away, all three of us running around and making a HUGE mess.  Because Gregory was younger, he set the table and only got to work with the cold foods.  The menu included a starter salad, a cup of soup, spaghetti, and a piece of cake for dessert.

After a few hours, it was time to serve our meal.  Gregory put on a suit coat (that had been used in one of our many skits) and brought Grandma Betty to the table.  He handed her the menu, brought her a glass of water, and asked her what she would like to have for dinner (like she had a lot of choices).  Grandma Betty faithful ordered each thing.

I have to say, she ate everything that we made.  Some of the foods that were supposed to be warm were for sure cold and I know the cake didn’t turn out right, but she put on a smile and kept on going. 

Just last year I was poking around the closet and I found our menu from that day.  She had kept it all those years.  A true sign of love.