Every year at Christmas, as my plane descends on Detroit Metro airport and the houses and tips of the trees begin to take shape, I can feel my chest tighten and my heart well up, as warm tears spring to the corners of my eyes. I'm home.
To be honest, I don't think I fully realized how much I love Michigan until I left. With the job market as it was when I graduated from Michigan State, I was forced to take a job out of state. But it wasn't until I had been gone for a few years that I realized how much I truly love it.
I grew up in Livonia, in the Metro Detroit area, where most of my friends and family are from. As a child, my parents would take my sister and I to our cottage in Silver Lake, near Lake Michigan. We spent every summer there as far back as I can remember. There are photos of my sister and I as babies, bundled up in the boat, playing on the Sand Dunes, (even eating the sand at times, a fact that I don't like to admit.) We lived and breathed Silver Lake; it shaped who we are.
We spent our days beached at the Dunes, water skiing, playing volleyball, and making sandcastles. Once we were a bit older, a group of us even hiked over the Dunes from Silver Lake to Lake Michigan, far on the other side. I remember what an enormous adventure it felt like, making the long hike in the heat, especially when you had walked far enough away from Silver Lake that you couldn't see our parents, or even the lake. We walked in the heat, trying to avoid the sharp dune grass, making up stories along the way of how we had run away. When we ascended that final hill, you could just barely see Lake Michigan, a beautiful mirage in the distance. The sand was coarser on that side of the Dunes; I still remember the swishing sound it made between our toes as we walked carefully around the lighthouses.
After a few minutes of playing in Lake Michigan, we would make the long journey back to our parents, the adventures of the day tucked deep in our minds. They would always ask how the walk was, but they would never know the impact it really had on us.
Spending summers at Silver Lake brought us kids closer together. We weren't family, but we became as close as brothers and sisters. Now years have gone by, and we’re mostly grown. Some of us are married, some of us have children of our own, and some of us live out of state, but all of us have started our own traditions of returning to Silver Lake in one way or another. New York has taken me in as one of its own now, but Michigan will always be my home.
My sister and I at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes :)