Sunday, March 30, 2014

from indiana to michigan, or, what if there were birds flying around inside the airport?

Dear Mom,

You wouldn’t believe the amount of snow on the ground, it being the end of March and all, but we just keep getting more, the last round falling Thursday night, the night I was to fly home from Fort Wayne. I made it as far as Detroit, where I volunteered to wait it out and fly the next day as the flight that night was overbooked. When they made the announcement, I stepped right up. I wasn’t keen on flying into a snowstorm, then driving home through a snowstorm in the dark.

It can get a little funky walking through the Detroit airport.

The airline put me up in a motel where I got a free hot breakfast. I made my own waffles with this fun make-your-own-waffle set-up that some of these motels have. There’s a machine that squirts batter into a cup or gravy boat that you then pour into a hot waffle iron. You close the lid, it beeps, you flip the iron and watch the seconds count down to zero, voilĂ , it’s done! Perfect!

Lots of trees inside the motel, but no birds.

I flew to Escanaba, was ferried up to Sawyer International (where I pushed six inches of wet, heavy snow off the van), and from there drove to pick up Elliott from the pet lodge so we arrived home together. It was a sunny day and the road was clear except for a few big puddles. Everything at the cabin was fine. And the airline even gave me a $400 voucher good on my next flight anywhere. Who knew a simple trip from Indiana to Michigan could be so much fun?

Uh oh. Just a saw a big coyote trotting across the field. I let Elliott in—he was smashed up against the door! Smart boy.

You would like the Detroit airport. There’s a really neat fountain and, believe it or not, birds flying around. Little wrens. They seem to live up in the ceiling and come down to sit in the potted trees that are here and there. And they hop around on the floor. Saw some drinking from the fountain.

One birdie in the fountain.

Somewhere north of Traverse City we flew across Lake Michigan. I looked down and saw long trails of ice on the water.

Do you know why I was in Fort Wayne? I’m sure Penny and Jennifer told you, but I’ll recap. I flew to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago in order to drive to Indiana with Louis and his dog, Finn. Yes, I just drove to California and back earlier this year, but it was so much fun that when Louis said hey, you want to do it again because I have to go to Fort Wayne and hopefully get up there to the U.P. for a bit, I said, well, yes, that sounds like fun. And it was fun. Louis did most of the driving, but I got to do some, too, and Finn has some proprietary issues with the passenger side window—thinks he should be able to open it and stick his head out anytime he likes—but we worked that out so all was well. (Yes, I showed him who was boss. Ha!)

Oh! You would have liked all the sandhill cranes we saw in Nebraska. There were thousands of them, in gaggles or flocks or whatever they travel in, snacking away in stubby, dry corn fields and in the air winging their way to yet another corn field or perhaps to a creek or river for a drink. They weren’t as loud or boisterous as those whooping cranes we knew back in Springfield—you know, the ones that would come over to the house to play bridge, to puff on their cigarettes, to sip their drinks, to laugh uproariously—but they were quite impressive, nonetheless.

As you know (if you remember), we stopped in Aledo. I found Grandma’s house—directed Louis right to it without realizing I could—and when I first saw the house, I knew it was it, but then I wasn’t so sure because it has changed so—new siding, a little addition here, a little subtraction there—but when we got out to walk around, I felt sure again. Of course it was different when looking for Grandma’s grave. I don’t know why we couldn’t find it, knowing now how it is supposed to be on a hill with a big monument and all. (Too bad you didn’t mention that when we were on the phone.) I’m glad you all found it so funny, me not finding Grandma’s grave. While talking to you and my sweet sisters I was hanging out the truck window because the reception was bad; I thought if I hung out the window it might be better, kind of like the old days when people would shout into the phone when talking long distance. “CAN YOU HEAR ME?! CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW!?” It was a cold and very grey afternoon, and Louis was still steering us around the cemetery, God bless him. No doubt Finn was peeved that I was hogging the window. I suppose I’ll always remember you coming on the line, chuckling a bit—and I’m pretty sure there’s laughter and chatter in the background—and when I ask if you know what’s going on, if you know where I am, you say something like “You can’t find Grandma’s grave,” and then more chuckling. I may go back to Aledo this summer to find that grave, clear up the mystery.

Where Grandma lived.

Did you hear I visited cousin Pete? That was an outcome of not finding the grave, so kismet. He has a pet turtle—a red-eared slider, I think—named Speedy. It’s as big as Mr. Muldoon, who you may recall as Jennifer’s turtle (or tortoise) that ran away that one summer day so long ago.

Oh! I told Louis the “Sweetie Pie/Rita Pie” story. I don’t remember why. I know it’s one of your favorites to tell, but somehow I ended up telling it. Such things happen on cross-country trips, I suppose.

I met Louis’ mother. She was just a little girl when she came to America and spoke only Italian, and she told some wonderful stories about that. I’m sure you’d like her—she’s kind of independent and tough, like you, but, also like you, sweet and loving. (Now, does it sound like I’m buttering you up? Heavens, why would I do that?)

So there’s still about two feet of snow on the ground. It’s getting a little soft, but when I walked to the river yesterday the snowshoes sank only an inch or two. The sunshine was bright and the temperature got close to 50 degrees. Lovely! There are teeny tiny buds on the trees, and chickadees are stopping by, looking for seed. In Fort Wayne, bright green daffodil tips were poking up through the dirt and Finn was chasing chipmunks and geese. He reminds me so much of Buster—small dog, big personality, such joie de vivre. But, like Buster, he’s also very much his own self.

The fountain at the Detroit airport.

Well, I’m working on two candle orders, one for the food co-op in Marquette and one for a shop downstate. And settling back in after my time away. I hope you are well. Thank Penny for me, for reading this to you. Did you celebrate with Jennifer on her birthday? Do you remember how old she is? My gosh, hard to believe, I know. We’re probably all old enough now to start forgetting.

Much love to you,



  1. So cool to see you found your Grandma's house. I remember the drawing of it you posted awhile back. As for your Grandma's grave, have you searched Not quite the same as being there, but there's a pretty good chance someone has taken a photo of the graves in that cemetery. ~ P

    1. Thanks for the tip -- I found the grave online! Where so much of life seems to be ...

    2. Glad you found it! Crazy, huh? I'm in to genealogy and I've found so many things online that would normally take me countless hours of travel in real life. ~ P

    3. And now I'm emailing with a new-found third cousin 17 times removed or something like that, and have just received a picture of my great-grandmother on the Treloar side (my mother's father's family). All thanks to find-a-grave! And you!

  2. Yippy-Skippy!!! That is sooo neat! Hope you find some more great family info! ~ P