Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Widow's Vacation in Saugatuck


This woman has been on vacation! Yes, a genuine, long-overdue vacation where I packed my bags, put the dog in a kennel and took off for some R & R. I didn’t go far. My niece and I checked into a Bed and Breakfast in my favorite tourist town along Lake Michigan. I’ve been going to Saugatuck since my teens but I’ve never stayed overnight unless you count the times in my late twenties when my husband and I brought sleeping bags over to the beach and fell asleep under the stars. Those were the good old days when we were carefree and didn’t worry about getting caught with our pants down. Literally. (Raise your hand if you think I’ve shared too much information here.)

Our B & B had nine bedrooms with private baths and it was the oldest continuous use residence in town. My room had its original horsehair plaster walls and polished plank flooring with square, blacksmith-made nails and it was named after Susan B. Anthony. She stayed in the same house 136 years ago while she was in town to help organize a local Temperance Union and to give a speech on woman’s suffrage. The local newspaper of the era said “she succeeded in closing six of the fourteen saloons” and “that was a testament to her persuasiveness and organizational skills.” My niece and I tried to find a bar to have a drink in one evening and we only found two open, neither one enticing enough to draw us inside. Susan would be proud that we choose, instead, the only other business open that late---a chocolate and ice cream shop.

We packed a lot into our vacation. After a leisurely breakfast each morning, seated on miss-matched oak chairs at a long farmhouse-style table, we’d take off to do things like: walk the beach, drive the shoreline of Lake Michigan, visit a neighboring town, and browse a few antique venues. We also walked along the marina, strolled a few residential blocks with gardens you can’t truly enjoy just driving by, and we even visited the place at the shore where we spread some of Don's ashes. One night we went to a summer stock production of First Date, a musical that was so funny I had tears running down my cheeks; another night we went to an outdoor concert in the park where we perfected the fine art of people watching. One afternoon we toured a restored 1920s, twenty-five room mansion with a third floor ballroom that was built by the inventor of comptometers, the first commercially successful mechanical calculator. His story was fascinating. Where the lumber industry clear-cut the woods along the lake, he managed to restore the land, stabilizing the shifting dunes with carefully chosen vegetation and now the property is a deep woods again. I wouldn’t have thought that was even possible.

Our Meals: When we first got to town we had lunch at a store-front restaurant with Andy Warhol style murals of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean on the walls. The next day we ate at the oldest structure in the county, originally built as a hotel for traders and people in the lumber industry. I lost my ‘fish tacos virginity' at another place across from where the ferry operates. But my favorite meal of all was when we decided to have dessert instead of lunch at a large pie factory-restaurant. It’s out in the boondocks---in the middle of apple orchards, wine vineyards and blueberry farms. They’d taken a page out of a near-by winery's book and had a pie sampler tray on the menu---various, warm pies served in squatty jelly jars with vanilla bean ice cream on the side. Then there was the day we had ice cream cones for lunch. Yup, I was a bad influence on my niece. But so was she on me. Did I mention her stop to purchase a couple of bottles of wine?

Saugatuck is a town with a history rooted in boat building and lumbering and it’s often called the Art Coast of Michigan because of its 100 year old, 115 acres art colony with ties to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The town is a mecca for people from Chicago who spend the summers or boat over on the weekends. A high energy town with a wintertime population of around 1,000 that swells to 3,000 in the summers. My niece and I wondered if my great-great grandfather could have lived in town during its boom town days when he was known to have made his living following the lumber industry around this part of the state. We romanticized him living in our B & B when it was a boarding house for lumberjacks or eating at the hotel where we had dinner. Using our imaginations doesn’t make it fact, though the idea could be an interesting, family genealogy ball to chase for a tenacious researcher.

However, we did get a heavy dose of family history while we were on vacation. Sorting boxes in the basement the week before our trip, I had found six cassette tapes made of my mom and dad talking---circa the early 1970s through 1984. My niece and I listened to half of them in the evenings while drinking wine and munching popcorn. It still blows my mind that tapes made thirty and forty years ago could so clearly bring my parents back into focus. At one point we laughed so hard I actually thought I’d pass out from lack of oxygen; I could feel my face turning red. I suppose you had to be there to understand the humor in hearing my folks say long good-byes to their two dogs. They were dropping them off for me to babysit while they spent the winter in Florida. My niece started prompting them to include me (their daughter) in their “good-byes” and I started prompting them to say “I love you.” The tape ended with me singing a 'lullaby' to the dogs, which reminds me I should erase that embarrassing section. 

It was a vacation filled with quality time and memorable moments with one of my favorite people in the world. I crossed a few things off my Bucket List but believe it or not, there are still things on my ‘Saugatuck To-Do List’---like take the chain ferry across the river, ride the paddle boat, visit the art colony, walk the entire length of the boardwalk and I can’t believe we forgot to go to the kitchen gadgets store! I love that place. But for the bonus point of vacationing, when I picked Levi the Mighty Schnauzer up from the kennel it was reported that he had a wonderful time playing with a puppy during the puppy's daycare/socialization sessions and taking part in group obedience classes at night where he was pronounced to be "well behaved and sweet." Levi came home as tired and happy as I did.  ©
Main Street, Saugatuck

Our Bed and Breakfast
The Susan B. Anthony Room

The Felt Mansion

The Marina
The pier in the distance, Lake Michigan. The photo at the top was taken looking in the other direction.


This is an elaborate set of brand new steps and wheelchair ramps at a county park leading down to the beach. Don would have loved it!

















18 comments:

  1. Yay! What a wonderful vacation, that heady mix of nostalgia and exploration! I love that your niece and you groove together, two peas in a pod almost. I love the story of you and Don camping on the beach (giggle). I picture two snuggly bunnies gazing at the starry sky on that beach. How cool! I'm putting THAT on my bucket list. LOL

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    1. Before the trip I worried we'd run out of things to talk about....we'd never spent that much time together before, But we didn't. It was so comfortable and natural, like I used to feel with Don. Nothing was off the table to talk about. She's a neat person and being around someone who knows your history (and you know there's) in itself is relaxing for me..

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  2. I love that area and that town! Your vacation just proves, you don't have to drive hundreds of miles or fly thousands of miles to have a wonderful, fun filled and relaxing vacation. I am SO glad you got to do this!

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    1. I know! Don and I used to say that when we listened to my niece and her husband talk about Saugatuck, it was like they were talking about a different town than we love/loved.There is so much to do there.

      And the weather was so cooperative. It rained twice but only at night. I'm still pitching myself that my busy niece took so much time out of her life to do something so special for me.

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  3. That really sounds very lovely. And thank you for sharing your vacation: this is a part of the world I have never been to and I appreciate the tour!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Saugatuck is probably as close to Nantucket I will ever get though it's likely only 1/25 of what Nantucket is like---at least in my head. That would be my dream vacation. Although the first time I was out East it nearly killed because I didn't know, back then, that I am allergic to shell fish. I've had a mild fear of the coastline and its islands every since. LOL I was out there once with Don in the 80s and it was actually hard to find things on the menus to eat.

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  4. Lovely! What a great adventure and social activity! Family friendly, too! GOOD FOR YOU! I didn't mind waiting for a blog now that I know this.

    I'd like to visit Nantucket also ... but probably never will. Probably not even Saugatuck. Sounds fun!

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    1. It was a great adventure to vacation with someone other than Don. I've only done that once before, back in my mid 20s and that wasn't the best experience. Being with family is different, though. Great!

      You've got your house in Maui to split your time between. It would be HARD to plan something on the opposite coast when you've got paradise so close half the year.

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  5. What a delightful vacation. The Saugatuck Chamber of Commerce should send you a thank you note. You've made me want to visit. Some of these little towns have so much to offer. It's perfect that Levi had a grand time, too. It's only fair. :) Nothing wrong with dessert instead of lunch once in awhile. I'm so glad you had a good time.

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    1. Thank you. And it was perfect that Levi had a good time, too. I would have felt bad if I thought he suffered in my absence. I still have a glow on my face.

      The pie factory we went to supplies a lot of restaurants with frozen pies they can then bake as needed. We swung around there on the way home and my niece bought a couple of pies to take home and I bought two slices. The berries were so fresh and tasty!

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  6. OK. You just described what for me would be the PERFECT vacation! So happy for you to have had this special time with your niece. I loved every single thing about this post -- especially the "pants down" reference -- made me smile -- and was also reminded me that my maternal grandfather was from Michigan and worked in the timber industry there as a young man -- I'll have to look at the notes my mom made when she was doing genealogy years ago. Thanks for this tour of Saugatuk.

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    1. Now my imagination is picturing our grandfathers as having known each other and that's why I feel a strong connection to you and your blog. Let me know if you find out if he had ties to Saugatuck!

      It's weird in a way but the county just finished building an elaborate wheelchair ramp down to the beach. I wish I could have taken Don down there again.

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  7. Congratulations on getting away for a real, honest-to-goodness vacation. It sounds like it was delightful. I am a big Susan B. Anthony fan. She came to women's rights from the temperance movement, but it's very interesting that she was still doing temperance work in 1869. (Did I compute that date correctly?) -Jean

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    1. I'm a big fan of Susan's, too. When my niece was looking for B & B's and saw the history of that house, she knew it was the perfect place for us to go.The inn keeper said that Ms. Anthony was in Grand Rapids (a sizable town even back in those days) giving a suffrage speech when the owner of the house heard she was in the state. So she went over to G.R. and begged Ms Anthony to make a detour to Saugatuck before going back home. She agreed and spent a week there helping the local women organize and have a temperance parade down main street. That was in 1879. It was really neat eating in the same kitchen as Susan and sitting on the same porch while enjoying my morning coffee.The inn had a lot of local history books for guests and reprints of the news coverage. She got a full page of the paper back then! Her name came up a few times when we poured wine in my room. LOL

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  8. Reading this makes me want to do it all over again! Thank YOU for the lovely get away vacation. We still need to ride the chain ferry, among other things...so can't wait for our next trip to Saugatuck. The peaches I bought were AMAZING (and gone).
    Love,
    Your niece

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    1. No, thank you! The trip wouldn't have happened without your organization and prompting. My peaches were great, too. They got ripe so fast I mashed them for shortcake and are now in my freezer. Your green tomatoes were good, too, and I loved them fried with the panko.

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  9. To me, that is the vacation that would love. I just want to sit and enjoy the lake, do some fishing ( throw the fish back into the water for someone else to enjoy fishing ) the food and friendship with others. That's real life. It's also nice that you had some wine. Ha,ha,ha, you boozers. Enjoy.
    Have a wonderful day Jean. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. That would be my kind of fishing, Paul. No fish to clean and cook.

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