23 September 2010
Today I’m flying to Lansing, Michigan. My hometown actually. Although I left when I was 5 (although still spent summers there for years after) so there is some question whether that really makes me a Michigander or not. Nicholas says that I seem to use my Michigander status when it is convenient. “Oh, really, I’m from Michigan, too!” But then to the next person I say, “I lived in Washington, DC, too!” “I grew up in Kansas, too!” “I lived in Florida, too!” “Oh, I lived in Russia!” You get the idea. Well, today I’m claiming to be a Michigander. And, much to the disappointment of the flight attendant, no I’m not related to any Ritchies in Louisiana. (Much to Nicholas’ happiness since he thinks Louisiana coffee is rather loser-esque).
But being from somewhere is something different than just having lived somewhere. I loved Florida but I wasn’t a Floridian in my core and I never exactly fit in. And I didn’t really feel the need to fully fit in either since it wasn’t fully me in my core. So some places I have only lived. And some I am from. I am a Michigander. And I am a Kansan (I have little red ruby slippers to prove it, as well as ruby dress shoes and casual shoes as any good Kansas should – you never know when you will need to click them). But anyway.
So I’m on a plane to Michigan but it is actually heading up to Michigan to get staged for Asia. Sometimes this flight goes to Dubai as well. And because of that, I’m riding serious first class. Not just bumped up to a little bit bigger seats like regular first class. But business elite in my own little pod. Not bad. I have decided, Susan Powell., that I do have faith in this airline afterall. It is amazing how one nice trip deletes the bad memories of the 4 previous extreme frustrations on this airline.
I’m heading to Michigan for a conference in Grand Rapids on economic policy. I can hardly wait. I love this organization (Acton) and I love Grand Rapids and every time I see the river there I remember getting too adventurous while feeding ducks and falling in when I was 3 (my first memory of the feeling of embarrassment).
Nicholas and I have been reading up on the topics of this conference and philosophizing about it for months now. Super exciting to be heading there. I’m then heading up to northern Michigan where I’m going to see my very dear relatives. Northern Michigan was my place. It where my family immigrated to after touching American Shore at Ellis Island. And for 64 years my grandparents had a cottage there. It is where I learned to roll over, fish, make minnow paste, shoot, make people out of rocks and acorns, photography, drive, everything. Pretty much all family memories happened here. It was our sanctuary, refuge, escape, happy place. We had to sell it last year to pay for my grandparents’ medical expenses. Soon after that my grandma died (when Nicholas and I were in Venice on our honeymoon). My grandpa is really ill now and is expected to die any day. It is weird to return to my family’s happy place when things have changed so much. I told Nicholas yesterday that I’m not sure if I’m ready to return by myself. It takes a strange amount of courage to return to a land that was my family’s paradise on earth but now many aspects of what made it paradisiacal are gone. I’m not sure if I’m ready to go there. It is a lonely going. But it was already scheduled before Nicholas had to cancel his trip because of work. So I’m going alone.
But when I venture to the north after Grand Rapids, I will be going to family. My wonderful Michigander family. And to see them I can hardly wait! I am asking God to meet me here in a special way. I have been feeling lately as if I really am desperately in need of something. Some serious refueling.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~* 1 October 2010*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
If you cracked open a core section of your soul you might find an acorn. Or a palm tree. Or an igloo. Or perhaps a wheat field. In everyone’s soul there is a little pocket called “home” and, inside, there rests the pieces of where one grew up. Those things that resonate comfort and identity.
After living half a decade in Florida, not my home, I think the pocket of homeness was starting to get lost in my soul. I was surrounded by people that were palm tree people. In their hearts palm trees and ocean and mangoes comforted them. But that wasn’t in my home pocket. My home pocket has pine trees and lakes and picking blueberries. And, although I grew to love the tropical weather, that wasn’t my home home. And while I absolutely loved the curly tailed lizards of South Florida, squirrels, toads, and minnows were my growing up friends.
This morning I returned home from home. I mean, I returned back to where we are living from where I grew up. I spent a week in Michigan, where I lived when little, the place where I spent my summers at my grandparents’ lake cottage, and the place my ancestors came to from Ellis Island.
At one point I told Nicholas that just hearing the accents was comforting. Those were the original sounds I heard when I was born (not that I remember the day I was born lol, but those are the accents of my childhood) and it just is nice to hear them.
And seeing birch trees! And woods! And acorns!!!!! (Acorns are definitely some of the best little things ever). And hearing seagulls! And Christmas tree farms! And pumpkin patches! And lake water!!!! (I could never understand why someone would want to go to all that work to have a boat on sea water when they could have a canoe on a lake). One evening I walked through some Narnia-like woods. It just filled my soul with the sweetest feeling.
And the greatest treasure of all – spending time with my relatives. Hearing my great aunt and uncle share their stories and seeing their deeply rooted love for each other and the Lord. And spending time with my extended family. Just delighting in good fellowship and God’s faithfulness throughout generations.
The last night I was there we all passed around a box of lovely little scrolls of paper my aunt had written on with her beautiful handwriting and rolled with purple ribbon. We each took one and read the Scripture passage written on it. On mine was written Psalm 100:5: “For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” This week indeed I was reminded of God’s faithfulness to my family over the years.
I really needed this. I needed to be reminded of the worth of my heritage. I feel like it got squashed a bit these past years. Not that many people purposefully tore apart my heritage. But somehow in the livingness of living in a different culture, it got squashed.
There is something about being known. About being around family that remind you of who you are, where you have come from, and how God has been so grand to you and your family in the past, present, and will be in the future. And being strengthened and affirmed in your values. And seeing my covenant God working in the lives of my family from generation to generation. We all need this every so often.
God really met me here this past week. It came at the perfect time. I’m so grateful for God’s tender care! And, I’m grateful that my suitcases made it back to me even with all the plane drama on the way home, because hidden inside are some of the little pieces of my Michigan soul that I can hardly wait to show Nicholas!