As I have said before, I have a love/hate relationship with Labor Day. I am always happy to put the canoe livery to rest until next year, and yet, summer always seems to go by way too quickly. I only made it out on the river once this summer (our annual company trip) … so far. While there is a part of me that wishes we always had summer weather here in Michigan, I know better. As a lifelong Michigander, I definitely need the change of seasons. Both times I lived in Texas, I missed it. In my soul. It never felt natural to hang out on patios in December, needing only light jackets. Where was the crisp fall weather, the smell of burning leaves, visits to apply orchards? It just didn’t seem right.
I came home today to see all of the canoe livery buses and mini buses parked in my backyard, safe from any flooding. The store is condensed and ready for us to close in a month or so. All of the picnic tables are stacked, put away until spring arrives yet again. Just a few weeks ago, we were packed at both locations and had several hundred people go down the river on Saturday morning. Now, we have the place all to ourselves once again. It always catches me by surprise how quickly we go from beyond busy to ready to close up for the year.
I can’t imagine the canoe livery not being a part of my life. I thought about it earlier this summer, and I realized that it truly was my first home. Until I was three years old, my parents, my sister Erica, and I lived in a mobile home at our main location in Omer. It was located where our large pole barn is now. I’ve literally watched my parents build their business my entire life. My brother and sister saw much of it as well; however, I am just enough older to have witnessed a bit more than either one of them. It is interesting, and frankly, I’m not sure it could have been done today – at least not in the same way. I remember my dad making annual spring trips to Minnesota to purchase more canoes, the original three buses purchased after my parents married in 1977 (they made the best forts when not in use!), and the tiny walkup store we had prior to our current store in Omer.
So many of my childhood memories are tied up with the canoe livery. One of my first memories is of playing the card game war with Grandma Reid in the old store. Another early memory is of Grandma and Mom playing two-handed Euchre, snacking on MadeRite cheese popcorn, waiting for people to come off the river. I would spend hours playing in the river and by the dock, not getting out of the water until I was completely waterlogged, trying to ignore my goosebumps. I distinctly remember being excited when the calendar changed to March and April – and yet being SO disappointed that it wasn’t nearly warm enough to go swimming in the river. I can’t think of a better way to grow up.
I love the fact my niece and nephew are growing up right near the canoe livery. They visit me at the store several times a week. I can’t begin to describe the nostalgia I feel watching them play. They are fish, and there are many times I have had to warm them up after they have spent a little too much time in the river. I have to remind them to put on shoes in the store constantly – reliving the time I found a bee with my bare foot at age 6. One day this past summer, my niece decided that she wanted to take a shower in the showerhouse at the campground, nevermind that she could take a shower in her home (a two minute walk at most). What cracked me up most is the fact that I remember doing the exact same thing at her age. It was a production. The forts, the pooling of money to purchase items in the store, leaving bikes in all the wrong places – sigh. So fun. I’m glad I’m in a position to spoil them a little bit. I hope that they enjoy every minute.
Until next year!