Grape Country, Mattawan Michigan
The last week of September I took off for Michigan and 11 grueling hours on the road. Let me just tell you, I am not a good long-haul driver. I get into a car with firm resolutions to be awake for a long while and an hour down the road I'm staring cross-eyed at trucks that could crush me. Somehow my brain just cannot grasp the fact that it must keep me awake, for which I like to blame my childhood. We went on all kinds of road trips then and it was understood that sleeping was a good thing. One got into the car and slept as much as possible until Point B. Hence, I'm a bad driver for long road trips, especially alone.
Welcome to Pure Michigan.
My ostensible reason for going was to hang out with family visiting my immediate family, and to pick grapes, but I was really going to be part of a massive surprise for my mom's 60th birthday. We kept up the farce pretty well, by shopping, going on walks, getting bitten by mosquitoes (mosquitoes discourage one from thinking too much), talking casually about Saturday plans, and grape picking. The grape picking was one of my favorite days, but the secrecy was pretty fun overall. We'd have conversations like this:
Me: hey Mom, I have a taste for Paul's chicken, think we could go to the lake on Saturday and make some? (venue was in the direction of L. MI and we were trying to make sure mom didn't start cooking food for this day)
Mom: that's a good idea. I don't have much chicken though.
Me: Oh! Well MJ knows of a good price for chicken, and she and I will get it to do our part in feeding everybody.
Mom: Ok, that sounds good.
If there hadn't been so much commotion and canning and relativing around the house she might've gotten suspicious, but as it was we kept so busy picking grapes, shopping and canning that she never suspected a thing.
I love Michigan, but this last time tried my patience because as beautiful as it was outside the mosquitos drove. me. insane. To be completely happy I have to go out, and that I couldn't do most of the time because of the droves. I think that's why grape picking was so much fun. We had something to do, and the mosquitoes were not hanging out around the grapes for some reason. Maybe because of the rain, see it sweeping across the vineyard?
We picked grapes like the fast and furious. Those first sprinkles felt ominous.
My mom was so surprised. The first of the siblings to appear was my second oldest sister, husband, and co from Oklahoma. They all stood on the porch and sang happy birthday to mom after sneaking in the lane with lights off, which was successful because she didn't hear them right away. When we did bring it to her attention she did wasn't at all sure it was in her best interest to go check because, who sings on porches at 10 at night? Pranksters? Unprecedented behavior!
We persuaded her to go look, my sister was there to hug her, and my goodness you could've knocked my strong mother over with a feather. We smiled for a couple hours straight, I think, until my oldest sister and husband arrived for another round of hugs.. so it began.
From the first people to arrive her suspicions were alert and on the ready so none of the rest were as shocking a surprise, though welcome! We finally ended up telling her that she was going to see some of her siblings too, because you know, too many surprises are as undesirable as never being surprised. The party was a success, and I have a very bad photo to commemorate it. Thankfully there were more cameras at the party than just my phone.
But there she is folks, my mother! She's German to the core, with an accent to boot. She can do practically anything she's set her mind to, from woodworking, to homeschooling, to building beautiful gardens, to making quilts, to attacking the plumbing, and having kids. She's not one to slide through life easily, because she has an avid curiosity and a strong opinion. It's gotten her into trouble all her life, but there's hardly anyone on this earth I respect more for coming through the fire of physical illness and relationship stresses the way she has. It goes without saying nobody's perfect, but that very thing about mom is the one of the strengths I lean on in life. She knew she wasn't perfect, she said it straight out, which basically meant our little props of excuses for not living life the right way were knocked out from under us. Biologically I wouldn't be here without mom, but you can be sure it was her prayers that actually raised me, along with a killer shoofly pie.