Nasty, Brutish & Short

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Good times and station wagons

August 1, 2007 09:10 PM

Well, the kitchen is full of luggage, tennis rackets, Henry's life jacket and two bottles of wine (one to share with Mrs. NBS's parents, one with mine).  We leave at first light.  Or, as soon as the missuz gets home from l'hopital, showers the germs off, and has a bite to eat.  She'll sleep in the car.  I'll drive.  Henry will keep an eye out for pigs. 

Taking off for the yearly trip to Michigan brings back so many memories of hot, sticky station wagons crammed full of yours truly, my three sisters, my parents, and two weeks worth of clothes for all of us.  Those were the days before we had a washer and dryer at the cottage, and had to send it all in to town to the Progress Laundry.  This was such a inconvenience that we usually packed enough socks and underwear to last two weeks.  Even with the modern conveniences, though, there is still a quite a bit to take, because in Northern Michigan, you need warm weather clothes, cold weather clothes, beach clothes, cocktail party clothes, tennis clothes, etc. etc.  It's not that it is terribly fancy, it is just that there are so many activities and the weather is so unpredictable.  This makes packing a nightmare, but it is a little easier than it was when I was young, and it is a lot easier than it was when my great-grandparents were going up, via train, then ferry (we're on the mainland, but it was so isolated, in those days you had to go by boat from town).  They traveled then with steamer trunks, and most importantly, "help," which sounds more glamorous that it probably was.  I highly doubt it made things easier than we have it now, and we do not have to wear wool bathing suits like they did.  That counts for a lot. 

I only remember the station wagon trips with my parents, and when I was allowed to go up early with my grandmother.  I remember convincing her to stop at McDonald's--she had never been.  She preferred Lester's, in Bryan.  She thought is was important that you go in somewhere and sit down to eat.  I did not see the appeal in that.  Our trip to McDonald's went like this:

My grandmother, standing at the counter before the big menu: "Fillet O, what kind of fish is it?"

Pimply teenager at the Paulding McDonald's: "Eeets uhhh sqwaaare feesh."

My grandmother: "A square fish, I've never even heard of a square fish!"

Like it was some kind of tilapia or something.  She also liked Big Boy restaurants.  "It's the best kind of fast food restaurant," she'd say assuredly.  "You can go in and sit down." 

And just this past Sunday, I saw an old station wagon--exactly like one we used to have--parked in front of a Big Boy:


Can you imagine four kids, two adults, and all their belongings traveling 500 miles in that?  But we did.  In "the way back," which was where you went if you wanted to be alone, or if you were bad, the seats pulled up out of the floor, and there were two little benches that faced each other.  It was really cool.  But not when you were in trouble, when it was called "being sent to Siberia."

We had so many station wagons, it is easy to confuse them.  This could be the car we were in that time we broke down in Ann Arbor and had to stay at the flea bag motel.  Or, it could be the car we were in the time we were all set to go, with all the luggage and everyone in the car, and mom threw the keys on the dashboard to run back inside to get something...only to have the keys go down the air conditioner vent into God Knows Where.  You may have noticed, they now make air conditioning vents on dash boards so they have these screen-type things.  There's a reason for that.

Good times and station wagons just run together.  Our experience with them probably wasn't worse than the train delays of the 1890s, or getting the car stuck in the sand at the Kingsley cut-off in the '50s .  But it was still pretty memorable.  I'll be sure to tell my kids about the station wagons of the '80s.

As for us in the Naught-ies, with any luck, we'll be off tomorrow without any mishaps of the ancestral variety.  The missuz lacks my genetic predisposition toward calamity, so I'm optimistic.  But I'm also aware of how fun calamity can be.  Several years later, the once-awful is usually really hysterical. 

So for the car trip, calamity is on the agenda, and so is shouting "Kaaaaaaaaaalkaska," in a nasal Northern Michigan train engineer's voice when we get to Kalkaska.  Even though it's been a hundred years since we've had to go through Kalkaska by train, we always shout "Kaaaaaaaaaalkaska" when we get to Kalkaska.  Because when you get to Kalkaska, you know it won't be long before you see the lake. 

And here at NBS, please don't expect any updates for the next week and a half.  I had harbored illusions of writing posts in advance, and having them programmed to appear each day.  Since being a litigator means you have to work twice as much one week to take off the next, this didn't happen.  Please do come back to NBS though, after August 13.  Peace out!


Sounds great hope you're having fun

Anonymous   ·  August 8, 2007 11:24 AM

The writing around here has been great recently

Anonymous   ·  August 14, 2007 07:22 PM