When we got here, it seemed so quiet and slow. I marveled at the fact that I could not get through a day without hearing a Journey song on the radio. And we were quickly told that we had to choose between Clover Bar and Fricano’s.
One day early on, I asked someone where the nearest 7-11 was. Where I came from, this was a convenient store located on every corner, no matter which way you turned. The person I asked, though, replied, “What’s a 7-11?” Scenes from deliverance filled my head.
I also remember preparing for the first Detroit Red Wings game of the season. My husband ordered a pizza (from either Clover or Fricano’s), set up his cooler next to his chair, then started flipping through the channels. About the third time around, he began to panic. He started repeating, “It’s not on, it’s not on, it’s not on!”
We sat there stunned, staring at a high school sports recap. I’m not sure how long we were like that.
When I look back, it makes me laugh. We now have every sports channel known to man, and it didn’t take us long to discover Wesco and their amazing refillable popcorn bucket. I have finally programmed radio stations in my car (although I do catch a Journey song still now and then!). And I’ve gotten used to the slower pace, too, and we discovered there are indeed other places to eat.
Although we eventually settled in quite nicely, and we absolutely love it here, there is one thing that is still hard to get used to — the fact that our nearest family member is no less than three and a half hours away. That means no built-in babysitter, no Sunday family meals, missed birthdays and other events, and no hugs or kisses from the ones you love.
I know plenty of people who take nearby family for granted — but, for us, family visits are very special. This is especially true for our kids and their grandparents.
I never knew my grandmas. They both passed away before I was even born. I also lost both of my grandpas at a very young age. I was never able to experience the blessing of such a relationship, and I didn’t want my kids to miss out on their chance.
So, years ago, we decided to start a tradition. Every summer, they stay with one set of grandparents for up to a week. They take turns — staying with my parents one summer, then my husband’s parents the next, and so on.
Even now that they are older, my kids love it. And they’re not the only ones. It’s basically a win-win-win situation. The kids enjoy their quality time with their grandparents, the grandparents of course are all over it, and my husband and I? We enjoy things like — peace and quiet, not driving anyone anywhere at any time, and what has come to be known as our “annual date.”
We also have a full menu of things we like to eat that the kids don’t. The best part is, after that long of a time away, my kids actually act as though the miss me.
When it’s all over, we are immediately thrust right back into our normal routine of chaos, clutter, practices and modifications of meals, as if nothing has changed. But I know in my heart that it has.
Because, in just a single week, my kids have gained something that they will cherish for a lifetime — they have added to their precious collection of memories. And that, to me, is a beautiful thing.
I dedicate this article to Gary and Diana Betzold, and Karl and Kay Kalis. Here’s to many more years of summer fun!
— By Kelly Kalis, Tribune community columnist