Guilt Trip


I had been missing Northern Michigan fiercely. It’s hard to be away from home, and even my husband, West Texas boy that he is – he missed the Mitten, too. So, we planned a long weekend visit to my family in late August. Nothing special; just a weekend when we could find cheap flights. A little cooler weather to break the monotony of the unrelenting Houston heat and some time “Up North” to complete our summer.

Instead, Hurricane Harvey arrived the day after we left Texas.

Our flights were cancelled, time and again. Our dog-sitter bailed, needing to get out of town, and our neighbor stepped in to take care of the animals. We were all the way up north in Michigan with no way to get home.

There’s guilt, of course – about not being at home during a crisis. For being away from the cats and dog when they need us most (all of them cowards afraid of the most fleeting of summer drizzles, we could only imagine the chaos and panic during a tropical storm.) We felt guilty that we were safe and far away, when so many others weren’t. We felt worried sick that there was nothing we could do to get home. No planes – the airports were closed. No cars to rent – the roads were flooded.

Anyway, as everyone in Michigan told us, there are worse places to be stranded. Which is certainly accurate. My parents, of course, were overjoyed that we were safe and well away from the storm, and more than happy to have us stay in Michigan, well, forever. Meanwhile, we bit our nails and received a hundred work phone calls and watched the television constantly, seeing our neighborhood and the communities we work in get bombarded by water.

We made our best effort to enjoy our little vacation, despite our anxieties. Michigan was a little chillier than normal for late August, but unbelievably beautiful. I think we visited a winery (or three) every day up and down M-22, from the Old Mission Peninsula to Sutton’s Bay and Leleenau. And if not a winery, then a cidery, or in a pinch we just grabbed a wine-tasting somewhere. How else were we to forget our guilt and worries?

We went to the chilly beaches twice, and swam in the frigid lake water, ignoring the shivers down our backs and the chattering of our teeth. We dove for frisbees in the water and swam until our lungs were about to burst. It was a pleasant forced retreat; but forced, all the same.

Every day, we explored downtown Traverse City, or Leland, Empire, Glen Arbor and the tiny Northport. We became hurricane survivor celebrities during these excursions. Every time we revealed where we were from, we were greeted with kind remarks, free beer, French fries, wine-tastings on the house or a little extra in the glass. The gestures were kind, and we never felt anything but welcome – but Houston was always on our mind. It wasn’t Houston itself that we missed, not at all. We both would gladly pack up our lives and our animals and live in Michigan forever – but our pets were stuck down there, and the rest of our life was, too.

The airports were still closed, but the day came that we had to go back. Five days after we were originally scheduled to return, we landed in San Antonio and drove back to Houston.

From the moment we returned and straightened our house out, we looked at one another and realized we were back to missing Michigan.


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