2010.08.18 Bring my children home; I'll meet them Up North

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

I don’t think I am ever going to get used to the idea of my kids not living in close proximity...i.e. just down the block or even across town...or, my first choice—back in their old rooms. I’d like to go back to the days when people stayed put. It’s not like I don’t have a full life already, but even when they were younger and summer vacation neared its end, I lamented their return to school.

I just like to see them, to hug them, to exchange a knowing glance across the table. Technological marvels such as cell phones, e-mail, Skype and Facebook blunt the pain of distance, but, of course, there is nothing like sharing the same physical space.

So, we take every opportunity we can to visit with our kids, such as meeting Ben and Sarah in her neck of the woods since Ben could only get away for half a week.

A couple days before we went Up North to visit them and Sarah’s parents, they had all been in Petoskey and Carp Lake, up near the Mackinac Bridge.

Several times Sarah referred to something that had occurred when they were there—and she used the expression Up North.

“I thought we were Up North!” I said, and David echoed the same.

We were at her family’s cottage in Elk Rapids, north of Traverse City, and with a stop for forgotten toiletries, an El Azteco take-out of six enchilada dinners, and a quick lunch, we’d been on the road for at least five hours—surely long enough to be Up North!

It’s all relative of course—just where Up North begins and ends—but three days up in that territory sure makes me wish I was a year-round resident. Even though I came back sunburned from stupidity—I didn’t even drape a shirt over my shoulders—I so enjoyed our short jaunt visiting delightful people, swimming in the amazingly tepid waters of Little Traverse Bay, viewing an art fair, and sailing on an absolutely perfect day.

But, then, I always want to live wherever I’m visiting—or where I’m hearing wonderful things about.

Take Philadelphia, for example. Through the wonders of Facebook—specifically Sarah Hoadley’s page—I learned about a chocolate store so wonderful I was ready to pack up my belongings and set sail. Or, at least yell, “Road trip!”

“Naked Chocolate Café”...doesn’t the name just make you want to live right around the corner from it? And if you go to the website, you’ll really see what I mean.

I don’t post much on Facebook, but I do check in almost daily to see what’s up here and there. It’s where I read Molly McDowell’s great-sounding recipe for zucchini muffins (post that again, Molly!) and where I learned Michelle Begnoche is returning to Michigan to accept a job with the Michigan Film Office. Is this the start of a new trend, I wonder? Are 20-something ex-Michiganders working their way back to Michigan?

The job market doesn’t look like it will be expanding any time soon to lure Ben and Sarah back to Michigan. And, I’ve resigned myself to the idea that when it does, Up North holds many more attractions than Down South on the Ohio Border—sailing, jet skiing, swimming in a Great Lake and its bays, hunting Petoskey stones, fishing, art fairs—and that’s just the summer fun.

So, I think the strategy now is to convince all my children to pool their resources together to acquire a cottage. They can follow the example of my friend Kate.

Twenty-some years ago, Kate had the land—just outside of Benzonia—but not the house. So, she put an ad in the paper asking if anybody had a house they wanted to get rid of. Somebody did and, for $6,500, she moved it to her land. You can read all about it on page 119 of The Ultimate Cheapskate’s latest book, “The Cheapskate Next Door: The surprising secrets of Americans living happily below their means.”

Start writing that ad, guys.

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