MARTHA SEZ: ‘We took the Canadian route to Michigan’

My old friend Genny and I were packing my car for a road trip. Much like a clown car, a little Honda Fit can hold an astonishing amount when you fold the back seats down.

Think how much money we’re saving on luggage by driving to Michigan instead of flying! I marveled. None of this $25 a suitcase foolishness you run into with the airlines.

“That’s right, put in as much as you can,” I said as Genny loaded two beach chairs. “The more baggage we take, the more money we’ll save, and the more money we can spend at the cherry festival!”

Yes, it’s cherry festival time in Traverse City, Michigan. As a child, my mother traveled with her parents along the western coast of Michigan. Almost 100 years ago, my grandmother wrote in her memoirs, “… on out of Traverse City through beautiful country where many Indians were picking cherries.”

As Genny and I travel from New York to northern Michigan, my daughter Molly and family are on their own road trip, driving clear across America from California to Massachusetts. From sea to shining sea! Molly sends photographs of their progress through the states. It’s exciting.

Three days ago, I left Keene Valley in the early morning rain, guiltily saying good-bye to Jupiter, the elderly tuxedo cat. Guiltily, although I know he will be well cared for during my absence. I traveled through rain all the way to Albany, where Genny packed in her luggage and took the wheel, bound for Niagara Falls.

It’s an awful thing, but I am incapable of uttering or even thinking of the name Niagara Falls without thinking of “The Three Stooges.” “Slowly I turned …”

As I write, it’s my birthday. Over the years I have forgotten many things. It seems strange to me that “Niagara Falls! Slowly I turned” should be etched so inextricably into my memory. The little Fit motored along for hours through the traffic under pouring rain. At one point I offered to take over driving, but Genny told me she is more comfortable as driver than as passenger, which I considered very good news.

We took the Canadian route to Michigan. The rain was so heavy we didn’t even visit the falls, deciding to save the experience for the way home.

With my sister and younger brother (Jim, the baby brother of the family, is only 70) in my home town of Birmingham, near Detroit, I feel as if I’d never left. Still, a walk around town with Jim was disorienting because, while so much is familiar, much has changed. To paraphrase the Eagles, it’s NOT still the same old town it used to be.

As my sister Molly told me yesterday, you can’t buy a gallon of milk in town anymore. Peabody’s grocery and Mulholland’s Dry Goods and Notions have been replaced with shops like Allen Edmonds (no relation), Paper Source and Anthropologie.

As I type, I’m sitting in the dining room of my sister’s house, the same house I lived in when I was born. A day ago, the resident ghost knocked down a painting, which in turn sent several objects clattering off the top of a cupboard to the floor, and then overturned some spatulas in the kitchen. I might add that no one was in the vicinity in either case. My sister says the spirit is a friendly presence. We don’t know who she is. I do remember that many years ago Bill, my older brother, then a small boy, said that there was a ghost named Cakespeare who lived in the attic and sometimes came downstairs into our bedroom. It is better not to question these things, I find. My father’s side of the family has lived in this town for generations and who knows what the ancestors may be up to?

So my daughter, Molly, and her husband, Jim (we only have so many names in our family; people have to share), and their children, Emma and Jack, along with Pixie the dog and Lulu the cat, are due to arrive at their destination in Massachusetts today. Genny and I should be in Charlevoix, on Lake Michigan, in several hours.

We’ll come back through Birmingham and then through Canada, where we plan to see the falls this time, on our way home. We’re not allowed to bring cherries through Canada, so maybe we’ll mail some from Birmingham. There is really nothing like cherry pie. Have a good week!

(Martha Allen, of Keene Valley, has been writing for the Lake Placid News for over 20 years.)

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