My granddaughter, now almost 9, had been here about six years ago; and my grandson, newly turned 6, had never been up to Michigan. My son grew up in Michigan and was excited to show his children around the Tri-Cities and share with them all his home state has to offer.
I kept my fingers crossed and said some prayers that our weather would cooperate during their visit, as they were leaving a long stretch of triple-digit weather in Texas. The projection was for moderate temps for the week here, so I was hopeful for at least one good day at the beach.
On the first day after their arrival, we bravely set out for the beach. Grand Haven State Park had the red flag up, and so we just walked the pier, giggled as the waves splashed little sprays of water at us and eyed the calm waters north of the fisherman’s pier.
Determined to have them at least get their toes in the water, we drove over to the north pier and watched them lower down to the beach off the pier. I thought once their toes hit the water that they would be in a quick retreat. Instead, the magnetism of the water drew them in and that’s all she wrote. They were hooked!
The next day, our pursuit of swimming holes led us to try out North Shore Beach. That was the charm. For the next four days, somewhere in our activities we worked in a trip to North Shore Beach. They donned swim goggles and life preservers, dove in and out of waves, and built sandcastles.
The sand and surf had them. The last activity they chose to do before they packed up for home was swimming at the beach.
Woven in between these sandy days at the beach were a few adventures with the pirates that had come to visit our area. My grandson got into the pirate genre when he went to the Cayman Islands with his maternal grandparents. The activities at the library plus the Pirate Festival got his juices flowing as he played pirate games and got his own airbrushed tattoo. My granddaughters were spellbound by the theatrical group that put on some sword fight demonstrations and a lady who handmade “dragonscale” jewelry.
Upon leaving the festival, we walked down through Grand Haven, where I realized what a great group of merchants we have here. My Texas granddaughter chose to get a kite for her special souvenir and my Texas grandson chose a set of toys that included a boat. There is a constant wind that blows in their part of Texas and there aren’t many trees, so the kite will probably work out great and the boat might even find a water-filled stream or horse trough to float in, as they recently have had quite a rainfall.
Among our outings were visits to their great-grandfather’s farm, where they got to pick fruit and English walnuts and hear about their dad’s adventures riding his motocross bike through the fields and rows of fruit trees. He used to go target shooting in the gravel pit on the farm with his father.
We visited one of the old barns on the farm filled with apple-picking conveyer belts, scales, hand-hewn posts and beams. They climbed right up into the cab of the gigantic John Deere tractor and posed for pictures. With smiles all around and lots of show-and-tell items, we headed home that day — and, of course, back to the beach!
Another mini-adventure was picking blueberries. My son’s first job was picking blueberries and he wanted to be sure his children found out what that was all about. We found a U-pick and, given the rain and sunshine we’ve had, the blueberries were plump and ready for the picking. We picked 18 pounds of berries in about 20 minutes and no one had purple hands at the end.
I got the fixings for freezer jam and the next day we all slathered our bread with the yummy jam. They seemed to prefer this over eating them fresh. Oh, that day ended at the beach also — surprise, surprise!
As they unpack their souvenirs, DSs, books and crayons, hopefully a little soft, beautiful sand will fall out of their bags and remind them of the five wonderful days they had enjoying the best that Michigan has to offer — it’s wonderful beaches and the big lake. My souvenir will be memories of having my son and grandchildren enjoying their beach adventures.
Thank you, Grand Haven — “just like Key West, but colder.”
— By Janice Beuschel, Tribune community columnist