I spent yesterday evening on Lake Michigan with my father, mother, and adorable dog. I could tell they were excited to have me there; I guess having their only daughter gone several summers in a row will do that to two proud parents.
At one point, while sitting next to my dad (he likes company while he’s steering), the conversation veered toward the special place the Great Lakes occupies in our respective hearts. For him, it has always been a constant source of fun, relaxation, and contentment. He confessed that he had always considered moving to Florida and getting a boat down there (Michigan winters are that rough, people), but it just wouldn’t feel right. Lake Michigan is, as the locals like to say, “unsalted and shark-free,” a place where you can enjoy beautiful beaches, big waves, long piers, and all the perks of the ocean without any of the drawbacks. He likes that he doesn’t have to worry about the salt ruining the boat, running ashore on coral reefs or shallow water, hurricanes, pirates, or any of the bigger and more unpredictable conflicts the ocean could remorselessly hurl his way. My dad was born and raised in West Michigan; he has never lived more than an hour from Grand Haven, the best beach town in the world. He knows he has been spoiled with it, but he also knows he doesn’t realize how much.
I am so much like him. I was born and raised in Grand Rapids as well, one hour from the beach. I felt the same way, until these last two summers I spent in Costa Rica and Scandinavia. I explained to him my frustration with how long it took me to realize that there is no better place to spend a summer than Michigan. My dad has been around a bit, but I am definitely the traveler of the family. I am always planning my next trip. My relatives joke that whenever they see me, I either just got back from somewhere or am just about to leave for somewhere. In this, my dad and I are very different; he loves the Great Lakes because he has never been too far away from them. I love them because I have.
Michigan is special; the people, the lakes, the weather, the way every perfect summer evening must end with a barbecue, a bonfire, s’mores, and some cold beers. Summer just doesn’t feel right without them. For me, Michigan is HOMES and home. The Great Lakes have always represented safety, security, and the perfect backdrop to every idyllic summer moment.
“Then,” he asked, “why do you always leave?”
“Because there are so many other places to see.”