Who puts a dog on a refrigerator?

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Who puts a dog on a refrigerator?  Where would a thought like that even come from? What terrible people would allow such things to happen to their pets?

In Saugatuck, the many animals that were around town were just as important to my Grandma Betty as the people she knew.  Just like with humans, my Grandma Betty had a way with animals too.  She loved all things, and all things loved her back.  Especially important to her were the dogs of the “family.”  Growing up, my family had Oreo.  The Sempowitz (close family friends) had Dirtball.  Ken and Tony (the men who lived in the cottage across from my grandma) had Copper.  And my uncle Donald (who actually owned the cottage but lived in Florida) had Maggie. 

Copper (a beautiful yellow lab with soft fur and big brown eyes) was extremely important to my Grandma Betty.  Because Ken and Tony lived in Saugatuck year round, Copper was always around to keep my grandma company.  Ken and Tony let her run free back in the woods, she never traveled too far… usually she could be found hanging out on the back porch with Grandma Betty.  Grandma Betty always had treats ready for her and a tennis ball to play fetch with on nice days when she was feeling well.  Copper was truly a best friend to my grandma.

But then there was Maggie.  Maggie always traveled from Florida to Saugatuck with my Uncle Donald when he came.  Maggie was a yellow lab also who was super adventurous and would do anything for my Uncle Donald.  I never meet a dog that was as loyal as she was to him.  They had a truly special bond. 

However, because she was so loyal, my uncle took advantage. 

My Uncle Donald is hard to describe… he is funny, laughs a lot, loves to be active, and basically never grew up when it came to his attitude.  He is always trying to find new and improved ways to shock people. And boy was he good at it.

His number one shock came the day that he decided to put Maggie on top of the refrigerator.  My grandma had cleaned it off one day, just to see what hidden treasures had been left up there a little too long.  For whatever reason my uncle decided to scoop Maggie up and put her on top.  Instead of trying to get away like most dogs would, she just let him put her up there and laid down like it was the most comfortable spot in the world.

Now, for those of you who know me, I am a HUGE dog lover.  I freak any time I think a dog is being hurt, scared, or any other way put in an uncomfortable spot.  But Maggie was always okay.  Grandma Betty would hand her up treats and watch her, just laughing quietly to herself.  When Maggie was ready to get down, she would bark and someone would come right away to her rescue. 

Once she was down, she always went straight to Grandma Betty who would give her and hug and a kiss (and of course another treat).  To this day, I credit all the compassion I have to my grandma.  I really learn how to love everyone (and everything) thanks to her.

Tennis and Soap Operas

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               As with all things, time passes and things wear down and slow.  Although my Grandma Bettys feisty spirit never left her, as years passed her body slowed and some things had to change.

                When my grandma was younger, many of the warm, sunny, Saugatuck summer days were spent with her and her friends at water’s edge of Oval Beach.  Every day these sassy ladies would put on their one pieces, grab their beach chairs and towels, and bring the latest gossip to be discussed.  Literally, if it was nice out, you could find these ladies in the same spot day after day from 11-3pm.  They even had a name for themselves, and most regulars in town called them this… the beach bums.  I spent many days when I was under ten at water’s edge with them (a later story to come about this). 

                However, as each year passed, less and less of the ladies were able to make it down the sand to the water.  Finally, my grandma admitted defeat as well, her arthritis making it impossible to climb up and down the sand dune.  For a while they still continued to meet, just hanging out at the top of the hill, but one day that even stopped.

                Because of this, my grandma decided it was time to get a TV for her cottage.  This was an astonishing revelation to many of us, seeing that the topic of a TV was never allowed when we were younger.  She just wanted something to fill a little bit of time while she was up there and had nothing else to do.

                Now, one would think that if she brought a TV to fill some time, she would get some good channels that she was actually interested in watching.  NOPE.  Grandma Betty refused to pay for anything more than then basic channels, no cable allowed!  Channels 2, 5, 7, 9, and 12 were all she had for years and years and years. 

                Tennis and Soaps…. Probably two of the worst things to watch became her favorites.  But did I complain, not a chance.  Grandma Betty always got her way. 

Picking up the Pieces

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               Sometimes things fall and you have to pick them up.  If you don’t, the puzzle can never be complete.  In Grandma Betty’s case, pieces of the puzzle often fell (and we were the ones always picking them up).

                No matter the season, time of day, or year, Grandma Betty was always working on a puzzle.  Cats, dogs, hot air balloons, under water scenes, cottages in the country, flowers, and pictures of fruit always lay half completed on a table in the living room of the cottage.  Since Grandma Betty spent all summer days up in Saugatuck, never heading home to Chicago, she had a lot of time on her hands.  Seeing as her grandkids and most friends weren’t around during the week, puzzles took up my grandmas attention.  If she wasn’t outside reading or spending time with her beloved birds, she was inside working on that puzzle. 

                Grandma Betty had a specific strategy for completing (most of which never got there) her puzzles.  First, she would put a blanket on the table (this was supposed to help her from losing the pieces).  Then she would lay all the pieces around the edges of the table (this is why I think she always lost pieces).  Like most people, she would then start from the outside of the puzzle and work her way into the middle.  Sometimes I would see the same puzzle on the table for a whole summer (or a whole winter). 

                Normally on nice days when my cousins and I were up there, we wouldn’t help.  I think we actually caused a lot of the pieces to be lost because of the fact that we ran through that cottage like bats out of hell.  On rainy days though, our lives were a different story.  If we couldn’t entice Grandma Betty with a game of War, we were stuck with the puzzle, and man was I bad at puzzles. 

                Looking back on this time now, I am glad that I spent this time with her.  I know a lot of people who weren’t as lucky as I was.

War

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                Flash! Bang! Patter, patter, patter, patter, patter, patter. Flash! Bang! Sometimes the weather in Saugatuck didn’t want to cooperate.  Storms kept us locked away inside.  Since Saugatuck was a place to be outside, these days were met with long faces.  But, as Grandma Betty would say “turn that frown upside-down and let’s play some war!”

                Card games filled most days when it was too wet to go outside.  Stored in a chest in the living room was everything we needed to keep a good game(s) going all day; there were always enough decks for any sized crowd.  Go Fish, Speed, Rummy, Crazy Eights, and the game of choice: WAR! This game was especially played when we were younger and didn’t have the capability to play games that needed more mental abilities.  Grandma Betty was always up for a good game of War.

                Even though I loved playing War with my grandma, we played a lot of solid multi-hour games, watching my grandma and my brother Gregory play War could keep a person entertained for what seemed like forever.

                Probably the best reason to watch these two battle was because for some reason when they played, sound effects took over the game.  This was only a Gregory and Grandma thing but every time a battle took place, they would both make a sound when placing their card on the table.  Common sounds included: whoosh, bang, crash, grrrrrrr, meow, ruff, wooooohhhh! Cards would also be slammed down when the game was getting close and cards needed to be won.  I, and others, would sit around the table and laugh at the ridiculousness of these games.

                Gregory always ended up winning his War game against Grandma Betty.  At some point during the game, she would make an excuse, get up and leave the room, and Gregory would switch out her high cards for the low cards in his deck.  No one ever said anything.  I am sure Grandma Betty noticed but she too was silent.

                I honestly believe, because of watching these games, she would have done anything to make us happy.

Forts

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               Growing up, I was not allowed to watch much TV.  My parents, and Grandma Betty for that matter, made us spend our days doing other things.  Summer was a time that you were always expected to stay busy, and stay busy outside.  Heck, there wasn’t even a TV in my grandma’s cottage until I was a teenager.  Because of this, Gregory, Emmy, and I had to find other ways to keep ourselves busy… building forts just happened to take up a lot of that time.

                You would think that after years and years of making them, we would have become fort making experts.  However, this was not the case.  Year after year, and fort after fort, we used the tee-pee layout, expecting different results each time (which of course didn’t come).  The tee-pee layout, as most you know, is stacking all of the stick vertically along one horizontal branch on both sides.  This layout didn’t offer much protection from the elements or take very long to build once we had all of the sticks (we usually made 3-4 forts per fort outing). 

                The longest part of making the forts was finding suitable branches that were long enough to reach from the ground to the horizontal stick.  It was not uncommon to find us crawling around, on hands and knees, checking thousands of different sticks.  Lucky for us, the huge forest around Grandma Betty’s cottage had lots to offer. 

                The only rule was that we had to say in yelling volume of Grandma Betty (man did she have a booming voice when she needed too) Depending on our age, Grandma Betty would call into the forest every half an hour to hour to make sure we were still alive.  All three of us would have to call back or we would all be in trouble.  Not one time do I remember missing that check-in.   Grandma Betty, as loving as she was, was not someone you wanted to be in trouble with. 

                After we were finished with a fort, and when she was still able to do it, Grandma Betty would come “inspect” our forts.  We would either get a passing or failing grade on how well we had done.  If we received a “failing” grade we would work our butts off to get it up to standards.  Boy, did Grandma Betty know how to keep us out of her hair by telling us we “needed to have a stronger fort.” 

                At least now a-days, thanks to Grandma Betty, I can build one damn good fort 🙂

The Swing

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               Nothing in Saugatuck could be better than my Grandma Bettys swing.  The swing brought old and young alike together for hours of fun and enjoyment.  No one could resist the pull of the swing.

                Now don’t get me wrong, I am a super scardy cat and value my safety.  I hate feeling scared. Serious.  The swing should have been my natural enemy then.  Instead it was my favorite part of the cottage.  Mine, and many others too.

                The swing.  Now I am sure most of you are thinking about a normal swing that you would see in any old random park.  But this is not the case.  This is soooooo much better than that.

                Behind my grandmas cottage is a large valley/trench.  I don’t know why or how but in that trench no trees have grown.  Because of this, somewhere along the line, it was decided to put up a swing.  One of the trees on the outside of the trench has a huge thick branch that has grown right over the top.  The perfect tree to hang a strong rope with a swing at the end. 

                The “swing” is a circular wooden board with a hole in the center for the rope to go through.  A huge knot right under the board keeps it in place.  Who knew a rope, a board, and a branch could bring such joy to such a large extended family.

                The scary part came when dealing with the stairs and the height of the jump to make it onto the swing.  One of the sides of the trench was lined with concrete steps.  The higher up the trench you went on the steps, the harder (and much scarier) it was to get onto the swing.  Basically, to make it onto the swing, you needed to reach your hands high onto the rope, jump as high as you could (pulling yourself up with the help of the rope in the process), and pray that your butt landed on the board.  I would say that about 99% of the time you made it (the other 1% ended in lots of scrapes and bruises).

                If you did make it, it was the best feeling in the world.  The rush of the scenery around you, the wind moving through your hair, and the yell of excitement coming from your throat.  It felt like you were flying.  Depending on the season, you could fall off mid-swing into the leaves or snow below.  If the ground was hard, you would want to wait until the swing came to a stop on its own, or drag your feet to make yourself slow down faster.  How many times I must have practiced my decent… bumps, bruises, and all.

                Grandma Betty never made it onto the swing.  At least not as far back as I can remember.  But, like all other things, she was always around, getting enjoyment out of watching others happiness.  She would lean over the back porch railing and laugh and smile with us until her arthritis flared up and her back started to hurt.

                As I got older, I didn’t go on the swing as much.  I didn’t spend as much time in Saugatuck to be honest.  But the swing wasn’t silent.  Grandma Betty continued to invite over her friends grandchildren and others around the neighborhood.

 

                To this day, even though Grandma Betty is gone, people still come over to use the swing.  No one calls, and no one asks, they just show up to enjoy a piece of the cottage and I am happy that they do.  I know Grandma Betty is still watching, no matter where she is looking down from. 

A Walk in the Woods

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               A half an hour.  An hour.  Two hours.  To the beach.  To the camp. To Mount Baldy.  Saugatuck has some of the best trails and many of them start right back by my Grandma Betty’s cottage.

                It wasn’t uncommon throughout the year to see people in their gym shoes with water bottles, and a walking stick passing by my grandmas cottage.  Sometimes the peace and quiet was disturbed by a large group of hikers.  My grandma, if she was outside, would always start up a conversation, acting like she had known them for years.  Sometimes, if she was feeling up for it, she would even join them on their walk.  Boy did she love to go on those hikes.

                I remember them a lot when I was younger.  Stifling hot, chilly, windy, or drizzling… whatever the weather, if we were bored, it was time to go out walking.  First, we would decide where we wanted to go.  Time and distance would factor in here.  Second we would decide which trail we wanted to take to get to our destination… red, green, brown, blue, or yellow.  Lastly, before we left, we needed to get all the necessary materials together.  Sometimes we would go on a picnic, so the basket needed to be packed.  Other times we would be headed to the beach… flip flops, towels, and suntan lotion filled our bags those times.

                Once we were on our way, finding a suitable walking stick was the most important.  Especially as my grandma got older, she relied on a stick more than ever.  This was always my favorite part of hiking.  Finding the perfect stick became a game of sorts.  We would try out tons of different sticks each time until we were satisfied with our choices.  I liked tall and thick stick that when stuck into the ground to bear my weight; they would break but only slightly bend.

                There were other wonderful parts of our walks too.  Exercise, being in nature (sometimes deer would move right around us), and talking and laughing about whatever while spending time together made these hikes so special.

                To this day, Grandma Betty is with me still when I walk these trails.