Every year the week before 4th of July, our motley city-kid crew descends on my cousin’s farm. As we pull into their tree-lined drive we might as well be slipping through the back of the wardrobe and into Narnia. Before we’re even parked, our kids spill out racing to meet their cousins and pull bikes from the garage for a spin around the circle drive.
The 160 acres in rural Michigan is the closest thing to heaven on Earth. My cousin and her husband raise goats and cows. Along with the herds they tend, their property is home to a goofy chocolate lab named Yeti who always has something half chewed in her mouth, and lots of wild geese, deer, rabbits, turtles, fish, all kinds of birds, and, of course, their three kids. There is a lake to kayak on and swim in, a trampoline and a basement for them to blast Weird Al’s “Amish Paradise” on repeat without driving the rest of the house nuts.
Mostly, the kids get to spend time with their cousins and I get to spend time with mine. Our summer meetups go back farther than I can even remember, long before we had six kids between us. Without fail, my mom and dad would ship me back for a few weeks before school started back up for a new year. We’d share the bottom bunk and play in the neighboring corn fields. Drive a beater car around the property listening to John Cougar on the tape deck that eventually bit the dust leaving us to rely on the mercy of whatever radio station came in out there.
Before the sun got too high we’d slide down the muddy banks of the creek to play in the woods; keeping our ears open for the sound of the horn reminding us if we didn’t hightail it home we’d be late for dinner and in so much trouble we might as well stay in the forest forever. Sometimes my uncle would convince us to ride a tandem bike or take us into town in the back of his white pickup where we’d stop to rent movies and get a treat at the party store.
To say I have fond memories of my Michigan summers is an understatement. Now my kids get their own set. Instead of an old car there’s a golf cart used to coax naughty goats back to the pen. The stream’s been replaced by a pontoon on the lake with six lines in the water. Their stories will be different but the sentiment the same. Time spent together for the sake of sharing space and good company.