Childhood memories … I heard a report on the radio recently that suggested that our brain constantly reforms our memories, so that years later what we think we remember so clearly is quite different from the actual event. Today, I saw it in action. When I was quite young, we used to come up to my Aunt Pearl’s cabin near a wide spot called Eckerman on M-123. As I drove along M-123 today, I saw a sign that said “Eckerman – 2 Miles,” and I started looking for the cabin. I never saw it, although a couple of spots looked familiar. I spent a lot of happy times in that cabin with family and friends, and I now have no clear idea of where it was located. Also, in my childhood memory, Tahquamenon Falls, Whitefish Point, and Grand Marais are all right next to each other. Not so much. It turns out that Whitefish Point is about a 2-hour drive north and slightly west from Mighty Mac; Tahquamenon Falls is some 20 miles from it; and Grand Marais is a good hour and 45 minutes from Whitefish Point by the main roads. We used to visit all of these places when we came up here — oh, and there was the little town of Strongs, home town to the first boy who asked me to marry him. He was 22 and I was 14. I met him the last summer I came up here before going away to the convent. He was in the Army and home on leave; he wrote me passionate letters after I went home, begging me to come and join him on base in Kentucky and get married. I still remember my mother telling me I had to decide whether I wanted that or wanted to go to the convent. I was incredulous and said, “I can’t believe you would really let me go and marry him!” She just shook her head and repeated that I had to decide what I wanted. In the end I thought about what life would be like with him — I had a friend just a few years older than me who had married very young and who already had several children by the time she was 20, and I didn’t think she seemed very happy — and chose the convent. Right choice for the time, I am very sure; but seeing the sign for Strongs today sure brought back some memories.
On the drive up M-123 and Whitefish Point Road, Lake Superior sneaked up on me — I came around a curve and there it was! The majesty and beauty and power are still remarkable. I walked on the beach at Whitefish Point, and listened to the waves and looked out across the water. And I walked over the dune and out to the water here at Grand Marais and gazed out over Lake Superior again. I have great memories of being here with my mother 30 and 40 and 50+ years ago, but I realized today that these places don’t hold such a strong pull for me, on my own and for themselves. It was nice to visit, and to mull over the memories of my mother; that said and done, I may not need to come back this way again.
That realization leaves me feeling vaguely disappointed. I have a sense of loss for a place that was so important to me when I was young but which seems to have lost its charm for me now. Ah well, The Little House In The Woods By The Lake has its own charms, and I am on my way to create new memories with the rest of this trip as well as to revisit new favorites in Wyoming. And I can’t wait to see my Brother Odd and the lovely Maria!
Much of tomorrow and the following two days will find me in what is, for me, uncharted territory — following a route that I haven’t taken before across the northern UP and on to Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana, then into Wyoming. The mild disappointment of today’s revelations will be shed as I leave the driveway of the North Shore Lodge, and my spirit will once more be ready for adventure. As for JD — he just loves to ride, and he is not fond of water.
I will still walk down to the beach again early tomorrow morning, and find the pieces of driftwood my daughters have asked for…and perhaps, then, just a little of the magic will be back.