September in Saugatuck

I had a fun confluence of events this past weekend that had me back in the Midwest. I was invited to speak in Chicago at a corporate retreat, and a cousin had a wedding Saturday night in Saugatuck, Michigan. So after my speech Saturday morning, I drove out on the Indiana toll road, taking an exit that led me past my old middle school, and drove up to my parents’ house right outside South Bend. Without my kids with me, it was like being in a strange time warp: here I am, changing for the wedding in my old bedroom, as if I had never left. The three of us drove up through some western Michigan backroads to the golf course where the wedding was being held.

The weather was absolutely lovely. There’s a certain slant to the light in mid-September. In late afternoon in the northern midwest, the sun is dappled, and the air is just barely warm. The green of the forest around us had a scent of its own. Sweet. Airy. Yet, as always in September, that sweetness is tinged with a melancholy sense of time passing, a promise of the coming cold.

Just a few observations from the weekend:

*I sat at a table with three of my father’s four siblings. They’re mostly pretty close in age (the three boys came in four years). While I’m sure this was overwhelming for my grandmother back in the late 1940s, I loved seeing them all laughing and enjoying each other’s company, and inflicting their stories on the groom’s youth pastor who had the misfortune to be assigned a seat with us. Sometimes when I feel a bit batty for having three kids close together, I picture them yukking it up at one of their kids’ weddings in 2070 and realize the folly of point-in-time analysis.

*On the other hand, seeing one of my cousins cart two fidgety children aged two and under out of the service reminded me why I didn’t bring my kids on this trip.

*Cake pops rule. I think all weddings should feature more cake pops and less fondant.

*My parents’ church is an evangelical congregation that has a ton of PhD students and academics — many in church history and theology (my father is a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures). This makes adult Sunday school class delightfully wonky. After a testimony about God being “safe” (as in, the importance of feeling safe in God) the first question whipped out a quote from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe about Aslan being not safe, but good.

*My parents had a 3-season porch built as an addition to their house. It’s already too cold to use in the mornings for breakfast, which makes one wonder about the definition of “3 seasons” in northern Indiana.

*My mom has gone locavore. Sunday lunch featured butternut squash soup made from a volunteer squash plant that (if I’m remembering correctly) emerged from the compost. The salad featured cherry tomatoes from her plot in the church garden. They are not yet raising their own chickens in that 3-season porch, but just give them time.

*Personal finance tip: my parents have put off taking Social Security until they’re 67. Wise move (especially since they’re still working). For the majority of people, the numbers come out in your favor by delaying until then. For years, local Social Security offices would encourage people to start taking payments at age 62, but this seems to have been following much the same sentiment that has people getting refund anticipation loans: hey I have money coming! I should get it now! Even though this is financially suboptimal, to say the least.

*A few folks expressed amazement that my husband took all three kids for the weekend. I’m not surprised at that sentiment, given how things have been until recently, but I think if I were a guy, I would find this amazement kind of insulting. It would be like saying of a woman, “wow, she drove that car 200 miles all by herself?” Um, yes. My husband turns out to be capable of feeding the children, changing them, dressing them, strapping them into car seats and taking them on a bit of a death march through every child-themed attraction in the mid-Atlantic region.  

Did you do anything fun this weekend?

Photo courtesy flickr user Josh Friedman Luxury Travel

8 thoughts on “September in Saugatuck

  1. “For years, local Social Security offices would encourage people to start taking payments at age 62”
    This was a mistake in wording in the materials from the main SS office. I can’t remember the details, but I went to a talk on it a couple of years ago. (They fixed it!) In terms of who should take early and who should delay, on AVERAGE it’s actuarially fair, so on average it shouldn’t matter in terms of overall payout (you can always save the additional income). You should delay if you think you’re going to live longer (if you’re female, if you’re high SES, if your relatives lived a long time). You shouldn’t delay if you’re in constant pain from your work every day and don’t have as high a life expectancy (male, smoke, relatives died young, etc.).
    Of course there’s also the decision to quit one’s job which has very strong financial consequences and inability to delay gratification which may make it more attractive to get a higher payout later. But in terms of the mechanics, it’s all about life-expectancy which is the better choice.

  2. Saugatuck is beautiful this time of year, indeed. For the past couple of years, we get together with a bunch of friends and spend a weekend in a quaint farmhouse there. We now all have kids but it makes it all the more fun, I think.

    Your comment about your husband taking the kids reminds me of that show “The Week Women Went.” I’ve only seen commercials, but I’m a little shocked at how incompetent some of those fathers seem. I have only one child, but I relish the thought of having an afternoon alone, and these days we get a lot of time together since my wife is taking classes after work. There will be a day when we have multiple children, and I’m anticipating the challenges and fun that will bring.

    And cake pops, yeah.

    1. @Him – apparently there are a lot of shows out this fall about men with kids. In many cases, incompetent men with kids who are props. Ugh.

  3. This is one of my favorite of your posts- I didn’t realize your father was a professor. I’ve lived in Midland and my sister lived in Ludington, so I remember Michigan falls.

    I think we also realize we’re blessed to have husbands who are willing to parent our children in our absence. I had a similar (less happy) trip to my grandmother’s funeral last winter. Other women at church were impressed that my husband took care of the kids for 4 days. I thought, “I do this all the time. It’s not a big accomplishment.”

    1. @Twin Mom – exactly. We take multiple kids, no big deal. I’m not sure why some people are ready to hand out father-of-the-year awards when a man does it!

  4. Yep, it is crazy what low expectations society seems to have for fathers. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in some weird 1950s time warp when people make comments like that.

    We had cake pops for a work function last week, and since I’m anti-frosting, it was pretty meh. Give me a good cupcake any day. But my daughter is totally on the side of the cake pop. I fear that I’m going to have to learn how to make them…

    1. @ARC – there’s this cake pop kit I’ve seen sold places. Maybe it’s “as seen on TV.” They are great for kids parties. Good size, not too much mess.

  5. your husband-amazement comment made me think of this recent moment:

    My husband and two toddlers dropped me off at my co-worker’s house so that she and I could carpool to a 3-day directors meeting. As her two girls played with my kids and the adults were all talking, my 4-year-old runs up to the dads and says, “Why do dads always have to stay with the kids? That’s not very fair.” We could only laugh! I hope the next generation has different expectations than we grew up with, but I’m not entirely sure it’ll happen.

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