Family Circles

The six Joliat kids form a tight circle, but the four girls tighten it even more- into a knot of sorts. We all have different rhythms and responsibilities, but at heart we are one for all, all for one.  Each autumn we try to migrate to New Buffalo for a retreat of sorts- time to hang out, drink wine, eat too much, and craft some sort of jewelry for a souvenir.  And so last Thursday Judy and I set out from Chicago to intersect with Marie and Jennifer.   We never have big plans:  no spa activities, wine tastings or gourmet dining.  Our expectations are modest; all we really want is to remind ourselves that we are lucky to share roots and to still be kicking.  I can say we accomplished our goals admirably.  

The Detroit girls called us as they approached, and we merged at The Stray Dog was for burgers and an oversized nacho.  Bless its heart, this restaurant maintains late hours and an all year presence.  They do not flee with the snowfall like Redamaks!  Their Maui burger is epic. Their logo merchandise is the "must have" souvenir, with its black dog on the front, and the command SIT !  STAY!  on the back. (Sure, they may have borrowed the icon from The Black Dog at Martha's Vineyard, but the SIT! STAY! is theirs alone)  They could make a fortune selling them on the internet, but they are not that ambitious.  You have to go there to get one.  So we did.  
After lugging up the clothes and cooler to the condo, smart girls would have gone to bed.  But we blabbed until 3 or so, solving exactly NOTHING, and disagreeing only in the most civil of ways.  Friday found us at the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlet Mall in Michigan City, where a new Ann Taylor Loft store seduced us into buying items for a life we (no- I) do not have.  Then off we went for our sunset photo shoot.  We figured we would get one sunny evening together- ( I had been there for Thursday's, but Judy was working and the Detroiters were en route- too bad, because it was spectacular) so we headed to the deck, wine in one hand and camera with self-timer in the other.  However, we got to talking, the wind started blowing, another girls' weekend merged with ours momentarily....and our photo shoot was a bit of a bust.  There was another chance Saturday...
We headed to Casey's for a close to home dinner, and it was swell.  Someone at the bar by us was having flatulence issues, and that gave us a motivation to move along.  Also, a folk singer was setting up:  we hightailed it out before we were tempted to sing along.  We hadn't had enough to drink to embarrass ourselves, but it could have happened.....
Saturday sent us into New Buffalo for a very short shopping trip, and then our crafting was to begin.  I generally do the pre-work, so that the activity is merely stringing.  This year, I had seen the saying "a forest is in an acorn" and I was determined to make it into something.  We hail from Royal Oak, and grew up with a giant oak tree in our yard, and we have always felt tied to the notion of strong roots and mighty arms.  So I bought stamping blanks and stamps, and pounded the saying onto discs and spirals. ( I have a funny story about antiquing these discs with liver of sulphur- PU, what a smell- I will tell in my next blog post)  I found beautiful blown glass acorns on, and decided that these things would be combined on a beaded chain with a pendant into which I embedded photos of our past- Mom and Dad, a map with Royal Oak starred, the church we were married at - you get it.  All we had to do is sit and string stuff together.  We also found time to repair old jewelry, and make a few Halloween bracelets.  I failed to photograph the finished projects, but they are pretty cool.  I will complete mine and include it in my next blog just so you can see that we are serious about having a memento.  
We took a jewelry break to try another photo shoot in the negligible sunset, this time wearing our matching robes- a party favor from me.  (I got my robe last year, and it hugged me through knee surgery.  I wanted my sisters to have the same comfort.) Len Walters, of WBBM radio fame, and his wife were out enjoying the end of the day:  I am sure they thought we were nuts, perched on a deck in robes.  We tend to lose our sense of embarrassment when we are together.  There is safety in numbers.
We continued our break at Stop 50 Wood Fired Pizza in Michiana, and that was the perfect "last meal" for us.  The Dunes Summer Theater was closing its season with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the restaurant was full of costumed audience participants.  It was surreal and fun to see that much skin in Michiana.  We stayed at the one drink minimum so we could complete our projects, and then we packed it in.  All our clutter was stowed to enable us to spend Sunday morning solving any remaining problems in the world.  
I hate Sunday, when we straighten out our messes, do laundry and pack up to leave.  Against the odds, the sun had shined far more than we had been expecting.  We fiddled in the parking lot, aiming for last pictures, mostly just trying to extend the time together.  But reality beckoned:  Judy was headed for Denver at 7, Jenny teaches a full day kindergarten and needed to prepare, and Marie had plenty of stuff to do Monday before her work week kicked in.  We look for the day when we can steal a longer span of time- maybe when (if) Jenny retires.  Judy can work anywhere, Marie can flex her days, and of course, I am a bum.  If God allows, we will manage to grab a full 4 or 5 days sometime in the future.  In the meantime- we were all pretty tickled with out getaway. 
I managed to come home with a miserable sinus infection, and I am hoping that I did not share the wealth.  I am almost afraid to contact the sisters, fearing that my plague has sidelined them as it has me.  But you know what?  It was worth it. 
 If you have ever taken  a getaway to Harbor Country- are there little places that I may have missed?  The best burger you ever ate, or the best store?  A remarkable view?  Please, let me know so I will not get into a rut with the sisters.  We are too young to let that happen.  I am smiling as I type that. 


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  • every blog about your sisters makes me yearn for one. having 2 brothers and both younger, those type of bonds were never formed and once you lose both parents, you long for siblings to commiserate with. thanks for letting us "orphans" live vicariously through you.

  • So fun to read about you and your family. I have been a fan since you and Steve came to Chicago. We do not have a place in Michigan but visit that area often. One place we like to go for special occasions is the Heston Bar. Just a little southeast of New Buffalo, a small little place but great food. I also go on a retreat every January at the Harbor Grand and we always have a Saturday evening meal at "Brewsters". They are very accommodating for a party of 12. Another great place to visit is Buchanan, MI. There is a place called "Sweeties" where they make popcorn as good as Garrets. Know the owner. They provide popcorn to all the casinos in the area.

  • Janet, I always enjoy your writing. Thanks so much for sharing your life with us. I, too, am one of six children. We, too, had two boys and four girls. What is the birth order of your siblings?

  • Janet, being the youngest of 9 and having 4 sisters myself, i can really relate to this. we all get together at our parent's summer home on Magician Lake, Michigan. If you ever are near St. Joe, you must go to Silver Beach Pizza on lake Michgian. It is in an old train station and is just too much for woods, garlic cheezy bread and a cold schooner of beer, yum! Can't wait to open the cottage again in the spring to get back there!

  • Have you ever gone to Red Arrow Roadhouse? They are open all year long as well. Great food and fun atmosphere. My mom lives in Bridgman and that is one place we really enjoy.
    Enjoy your columns!

  • Are those robes you bought for your sisters as thick, plush and comfy as they look? Where did you get them? Think they would make great Christmas gifts. Thanks!

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