Thursday, June 18, 2009

Where It All Began in Michigan

My History began, as far back as I know and as far as I care to know, in Northern Michigan. I am talking about the maternal side of the family because my dad never knew his family very well. His mother did not marry his real dad and he then had 2 step fathers. The first step father, who he considered his dad, adopted him but his name had been changed also, so it really is mixed up. His mother hailed from here in Midland. My mother's parents both lived in Highland Township, which is somewhere near Cadillac. Their families lived across the road from one another and socialized all the time. Both families had several kids so I have a whole lot of great aunts and uncles, even though most of them have passed away. My grandpa and my grandma were married in the late 30's. I am not sure where they first lived but when my mother was born they lived in Mt. Pleasant. They had two boys before she was born. Their house sat where there is now a McDonalds so we always have to tell everyone that.

Sometime in the mid 40's my grandpa built a house in Averill, which is between Midland and Sanford. All of these towns are famous, Midland for being the birthplace of Dow Chemical, and Sanford and Averill, for being logging towns. I consider them famous because they had a real purpose. I am not sure why my grandparents did choose that particular place. I know my grandpa worked at Dow so maybe he had got a job and found the piece of ground, which is approximately 5 or 6 miles from Dow.

My grandpa was a handsome man, I thought. He had black hair, I think. I always saw him with gray hair. He was average height and build so he did not really stick out in the crowd as far as that goes. He was intelligent and serious. He was known for being very passionate about the welfare of our country, always talking about politics and things that I never understood. He was not afraid to speak up and at one time drove around with a giant sign on top of his car promoting someone. He even had a large sign in his yard: "Get us Out of the United Nations" I never understood it. He and my grandma had a very large garden that they tended for hours and hours during the summer. They had raspberries, strawberries, corn, radishes, green onions, lettuce; just about everything. Grandpa worked in the farming division of Dow, studying fertilizers or something. They owned a large chunk of land up there near where they grew up. They called it "The Woods". It had a cabin and a hunded acres where my grandpa spent so many hours that my poor grandma would have to call on the neighbors or start walking back in to call him home for dinner. He was never in a hurry at all.

My grandma is still alive but she is no longer in good health. She was on the go all the time. Not by car, though, because she didn't drive. She was too short. Actually I think she was just afraid to drive, but she only stood about 4'10. I always thought she was the world's best cook. Now when I look back I don't remember anything special about the food. It's just that a grandma is a grandma and everything they do is special. When not cooking or working in the garden, she could be found sitting in the livingroom watching her soaps. She never missed them for many many years. Sometimes they would change the programming schedule and put two of them on at the same time so she had a second tv going so she could watch both. If they went to the cabin they took a small tv with them and my grandpa hooked it up to the car battery. Usually she would be quietly crocheting or maybe snapping peas or something like that while watching the soaps. My cousins who are close to my age, and I often stayed with her and we always watched the soaps too. She loves her family. It is the most important thing ever for her. Her house was spotless. Nobody DARED put anything on top of the bureau or the (later) china cabinet. It was just not meant for that. She was sort of a stubborn lady and she had a thing against wearing sleeves. She probably wears them now that she has Alzheimers, but back then, no sleeves ever. She wore jackets when she had to but underneath was a sleeveless dress. I remember sometime back in the 80's that I had mentioned in a conversation with my mother and one of my grandpa's sisters, that grandma must have a whole barrel of sleeves. She had fiberpack and plastic barrells up in the attic and I always thought one of them must be full of sleeves. She would buy new dresses or blouses, or even second hand ones, and immediately cut the sleeves out. Being a sewer of quilts and doll clothes, I'm sure she must have saved them because some of my doll clothes I had when I was young were made from some pretty strange material. So to get on with the story, every so often my great aunt would bring up the subject. She would say,
"I keep thinking about all those sleeves." My mom and her brother cleaned out grandma's attic a few months back and they never found the barrell of sleeves. Darn.

Their house was a fun place. It had a front enclosed porch, a back enclosed porch, a stinky basement, and a fun fun attic. The attic was accessed by those pull-down stairs which were great fun when we were kids. The kitchen was sized for my grandma. It wasn't very big but it got the job done. When you walked in the back door the first thing you saw was the basement stairway with the door to it opening in over the stairs. When you turned on the light switch there it went "CLICK" . It was one of the old fashioned noisy type. It wasn't a big house or attic but the front part was all set up with a bed, and bookshelves were built into the wall with old issues of Popular Mechanics and National Geographics in them. We used to look at the National Geographics to see if we could find the "naked pygmies". My grandma had an old typewriter up there and if we got away with it, us kids would play with it. Usually grandma would give us the OK if "we were careful with it". She would go up there just to type the tiniest message, even put greeting cards in it to sign them with. The back part of the attic was the scary part. There really wasn't anything to be scared of but the floor was a few inches lower for some reason and it was not finished except for the gable end with a window. All along the sides were pieces of cardboard nailed up, hiding tons and tons of treasures, probably. Grandma doesn't know it, but someone else lives there now.

It was a very cozy neighborhood because across the road lived the Harmon family. Ida Harmon was my mom's best friend and she was my uncle Jack's best friend too. They got married. Then appeared my dad, Don Miller, living around the corner. It was a very tight- knit neighborhood.

My parents Don and Linda were married June 6, 1964 in Sanford.