The idea of place keeps coming up. I never realized it before, but I have ordered my life around a certain geography, a certain space. In my case, that would be my hometown of Omer, Michigan – Michigan’s smallest city.* It expands to include my grandmother’s house (my current home), the canoe livery, my parents’ home (my home from ages 3-18), and the nearby city of Standish. If I expanded my personal concept of place further, I would include Bay City, the nearest city of any size – the city where I spent a good share of my 20s – and Saginaw, home to both Saginaw Valley State University and Delta College, where I was recently a student. There are several others not mentioned here, but currently, those I did name create much of my world.
Although I recognize the fact that the places mentioned above – and more – have helped to shape who I am today, none are nearly as important as the people, family and friends, who inhabit those spaces. They, too, exist in a certain space in one’s life. When a loved one passes away, those spaces can loom large. Instead of filling those spaces, our lives expand to make new room for others as they come into their lives.
If I were asked to list my memories of the places I listed above, I wouldn’t know where to start. I would be quickly overwhelmed. Not only would those memories be tied to those spaces, they would certainly be tied to family and friends as well. For example, each day as I ready myself for the day ahead, I think of Grandma when I look in the mirror. As a child and teenager, I spent many hours waiting for her to “put on her face” before heading out on our next adventure. I love and remember those little routines and moments that make up and take up so much of our lives.
I am blessed to have the ability to carve out a space for myself in various places so strongly associated with my childhood. As a writer who ultimately plans to write creative non-fiction centered around her early life, including childhood, there is no place I’d rather be. That isn’t to say that I don’t dream.
I often fantasize about packing up and starting over on the west side of Michigan, near Grand Rapids, or in my wilder days, Austin, Texas. The Grand Rapids area makes sense. My sister and her family live in a small town called Hopkins, which happens to be situated between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. My sister, her husband, and their two boys enjoy the best of all worlds. They live in a small town and can take advantage of all it has to offer. The benefits of suburban and even urban areas are still near. Add in the facts that I have a lot of family on that side of the state and western Michigan is growing like crazy, I must give it serious consideration.
Then there is Austin. I don’t know if I have ever fallen more deeply in love with a specific place. Even though I only lived in Austin for six months back in 2002, those experiences left a huge hole in my heart. In Austin, there were plenty of tech jobs to pursue at the time. When not working, I had endless opportunities to check out live music venues and crazy art installations with friends.
Oh, and did I have great friends! For the first time in my life, I felt as though my life had come together. It took everything within me to drive home to Michigan to finish my degrees at Michigan State. I had no choice. I can still see the heavy fog and sleet – and feel the tears rolling down my cheeks as I left on that drab December day.
Even though I daydream about moving to Austin every now and then, it won’t happen. I am too tied to Michigan – by birth, and by the people and places I love. As much as I adore Texas – all of it – that is another story entirely. The reality is that I am not going anywhere. I am as much a part of my family, Omer, and the Rifle River as they are a part of me. It is now time to claim the space for myself.
* Yes, I realize that technically Lake Angelus has a smaller population, but it is in Oakland county, near Detroit. It is close to and surrounded by Metro Detroit. There is no comparison.