When my sons mentioned they couldn’t remember a trip we had taken to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore when they were younger, I thought, “Sleeping Bear, here we come!” This gorgeous slice of our Great Lakes State sweeps regularly into my thoughts. On a not-so-great day I can recall undulating sugary dunes, waving emerald-green beach grass, and pretty stones whose unique patterns gleam beneath the dancing Lake Michigan surf, and I instantly feel content.
As my sons have both graduated college and are going in new directions, it was the perfect time to head to Sleeping Bear — and this time, they’d remember the trip and maybe learn the most important final lesson as they venture into the world: that many of the best things in life, like Mother Nature’s magnificent beauty and the love of a family, are absolutely free.
I discovered something for myself, too. As much as we were enjoying our little trip away from home, the very essence of “home” constantly swirled about me. A whisper here, a gentle tug there — the summery, lilting spirit clarified for me that home isn’t the place in which you hang your hat. It’s not really that brick Colonial in Troy, and it’s not always a thing; rather, home is more of a feeling.
I felt right at “home,” in fact, the minute I started researching lodging options. I had my sights sets on staying in tiny Glen Arbor, and eventually scrolled to a screen that showed a photo of a small, two-story inn smack dab on iconic M-22, the route that winds amid some of Michigan’s most splendid scenery. As I clicked on various photos, a couple of wooden Adirondack chairs on the lawn seemed to call my name; I imagined sitting there at night with my husband and looking out to a summer moon while we sipped on a Michigan wine. The old-fashioned hydrangeas out front, mingling with white irises and other plants, also caught my attention, as did the individual doors leading right to the outside. (I could hear my own Mom saying on long-ago roadtrips, “Look for signs that say ‘vacancy!’ ”) Click! Reserve! We’d be right at home at the M-22 Inn in Glen Arbor.
I booked one room with two queens and a cot. We’d experience togetherness at its finest!!
Upon our arrival, we immediately spotted the Adirondack chairs, hauled our unwieldy cooler (a total embarrassment to my sons as teens) with breakfast and lunch fixings into room 102, stored some food in a teeny refrigerator, grabbed ice from an outdoor freezer, and cracked the windows to hear and smell summer.
We sauntered off to dinner at the inviting Good Harbor Grill — fish straight from local waters, asparagus just plucked from area fields, wines produced right in the region, friendly service. We felt so at home there, we dined at the small eatery three times that weekend! At night, my husband and I slid into those Adirondack chairs, toasting to a sliver of a moon, while our sons lounged on the beds, chatting. Both mornings, we stumbled around in the room grabbing the boxes of cereal and cereal bowls and spoons I’d packed, and feeling right at home again as the little in-room coffee pot made a familiar drip-drip sound.
The sensation of “home” utterly stirred my soul as we walked a few steps into town one morning to pick up some groceries. With just a couple of intersections and a handful of shops, an ice cream/hot dog hut, a few restaurants, and a welcoming grocery store, I could feel my younger self emerge, ready to explore. Spending my early years in a tiny town in Connecticut, the smallness of Glen Arbor felt just right. I was at home, again!
That cozy familiarity hovered over me during our walk back, and followed us into our motel room, where we made simple sandwiches for a picnic lunch. Would we picnic in the woods or lakeside? Not sure. Spontaneity would lure us to just the right spot. Following a long hike, we drove until a country road called my husband to the crest of a dune, where he parked our car and we toted our packs down to the water’s edge. As my sons spread our old blankets over the sand, I recalled childhood picnics — my parents would always find the most scenic, out-of-the-way locales.
While piping plovers and terns chirped and dallied around us, we savored our PB&Js and chatted about some of the trails that nearly killed my husband and me that morning, laughed at our non-chic blankets, and looked out to glistening Lake Michigan. I felt as happy as I’d ever felt.
On this short getaway, I realized that home is, indeed, wherever heart, soul, and the family meet.