Friday, October 2, 2015
A Sentimental Journey
We are home again after a 24 hour trip to Grand Rapids and Cadillac. It was a sentimental journey in more than one way.
Laura was in Grand Rapids to speak at a conference of state policy think tanks. She arranged to stay an extra night so that she could visit her 100 year old grandmother. My own mother died at age 59; my dad remarried, and my Aunt Agnes became the only grandmother my children knew from my side of the family. Aunt Agnes thought she would never see Laura again; Laura was quite aware that this might be the last time she would see her grandmother. I had tears in my eyes as we anticipated the journey but also when Aunt Agnes who could not hear that Jim was saying grace before dinner burst in with a prayer herself--a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving and blessing.
But it was also a sentimental journey because I was returning to a place of my childhood. I was delighted to stay at the historic Pantlind Hotel, now known as the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. I remembered it as being old and beautiful even when I was a child. We were given a room with a view--a corner room on the 12th floor in the newer towers.
I took an early morning walk trying to reconcile my childhood memories with a rejuvenated downtown of restaurants, venues, and offices. I was totally confused. Where could the Wurzburg's and Herpolsheimer's and Steketee's Department Stores ever have been in this maze of new buildings? I knew they were all closed years ago but thought I might recognize the locations where we visited Santa Claus or rode the little Christmas train or shopped for special occasions. I suddenly realized that Monroe Street was not the Monroe Street of the 1950s. It is now called Monroe Center and I was so relieved to be re-oriented. Herpolsheimer's is now a police station; Steketee's is an office building with a plaque; and Wurzburg's was demolished with an Art Museum in its place.
I am quite sure I recognized the steps leading up to a piano studio where my best friend had her lessons. At age nine, we would take a bus downtown, she would have her lesson, we would shop at a dime store for nail polish and other frivolities, and take a bus home. I guess we were "free-range kids!"
The only recognizable shop from those days was Groskopf's, now owned by a fourth generation family member. When I began 7th grade with changing classes, my parents bought a beautiful blue leather zipper binder for me to keep my work organized. I wonder how long it lasted and whatever happened to it? It was a gift that symbolized a rite of passage.
Laura blogged about the trip as well--and called her blog "Make the Trip." I am so glad she did make the trip and that we also made the trip.