Finding my true self on the shores of Lake Brighton

kids in michigan

I’m not one that you would call “outdoorsy” despite living in BFE. I cringe at the sight of a frog and scream when I see a snake slither across my path. And bugs, bug me.

However, last week my family and I drove a “long” three hours to Lake Brighton in Michigan and I only cringed once – when I was at the fancy pants golf course/marina (we’ll get to that later).

For the three hour drive, I sat like a sardine in a can between the twins in the backseat of our truck. I spared my oldest son from having to squish his 5’7 frame in the backseat. I also spared my husband and me the constant screaming, yelling and fighting that surely would have surfaced if all three kids sat side-by-side for three hours.

After spending an hour inside a grocery store and spending $200, we finally arrived at our cottage for the week. Walking up and down 47 steps, it took us an hour to unload the truck. It took us another hour to recuperate from the 10 trips up and down the 47 steps. Our cottage reminded me of a shoebox. In fact, by the end of the trip, that’s what we called it … our very own Shoebox, complete with one bathroom. Our family of five survived, because, by the grace of God, there was only one day where the sun didn’t shine, so most of our time was spent outside.

At our fingertips, we had access to a pontoon (for $100 extra per day); a paddleboat (free); and four other water-type crafts that scared me, so I avoided them like the plague. Our main form of transportation on the lake was the FREE paddleboat. Among the speedboats, pontoons and other fancy types of water transportation, we were the “Common Folk from Ohio” using our legs to paddle ourselves to and from the middle of the lake several times a day to catch fish. We also used the paddleboat to get to the beach at the fancy-pants marina/golf course. Only three people could sit on the paddleboat, so it took two trips (four if you wanna include the round-trips) to get all five of us to the beach. And even though we were allowed to be at the beach, we totally didn’t belong there if based on the looks we received as we sat in the grass on our beach towels while others reclined on the fancy chairs – bodies not touching the ground. We docked our paddleboat by dragging it up on shore. Others docked theirs by tying them up – the correct way.

At the beach, my kids played in the sand and chased each other around in the water while Seth and I laid on the towels spread on the grass. They made sand moats. They were normal kids among the “rich” of Lake Brighton. It was hilarious, and made me smile. A local boy wanted to help our kids with their moat – he walked over to them wearing name brand shoes; shorts; and a teal Polo shirt with the collar up. I wasn’t sure if he didn’t belong at the beach, or if we didn’t. But either way, as he approached Ethan, asking him if he needed “help” with his moat building, I saw the words running across Ethan’s face without him saying a single word. Ethan wanted to tell him to go away, but instead, he just replied, “Uh, no.” Still, the boy came over with a shovel in one hand and a pop can in another. It was as if two worlds were colliding … the Common Folk from Ohio vs. the Rich Boy from Lake Brighton … right before our eyes. We just rolled with it though and eventually paddle boated ourselves back to our Shoebox.

I realized after that experience that I could never belong to a fancy pants marina/golf course, because chances are pretty good I’d tell someone at some point to f-off.

As our weeklong vacation continued by our Shoebox, more hilarities ensued. Like the day we rented the pontoon and it took us eight times to dock it, because, “Melissa, I have NEVER done this before! Do YOU want to do it?” Uh, no thanks, you are doing a GREAT job Seth … (eye roll).

But as the hilarities continued, so did the family fun. We rode bikes around the island – it was the first time the twins road a bike for that distance and they did great. No one fell off, and no one broke a bone or got hit by a car. We rode slow enough to enjoy the beauty of the island and help a lost turtle get back to his grassy home (Seth picked up the turtle, I avoided it …). I even cooked dinners … tacos, spaghetti … it was a “Miracle on Lake Brighton” kind of week!

All of us fished, and all of us caught at least one fish during the week. For some members of my family, fishing was a natural talent. For others, mainly myself, it took until the last day until I finally caught a fish. By the end of the trip, we began calling George our “Fish Whisperer.” He would sit on the dock, toss a piece of bread into the water and using a net, gathered up a fish only to release it seconds later. I asked him if he was afraid of the fish biting his toes, and he told me, “Mom, they are just fish kisses.” We all enjoyed fishing so much that I actually bought an Ohio fishing license. Never in my life did I envision I’d spend $19 on a license to catch slimy fish, but I did.

During the days, our time was spent in or on the water as a family, but our evenings were devoted to our first born. Since the birth of the twins, it’s been hard for Seth and I to spend time with our oldest like we used to, so the nights were for him. We’d sit around and play cards, Scrabble and Sorry for three hours, eating Totinos Pizza (made pizza by pizza in our teeny, tiny oven). It was wonderful, and I will cherish this time spent with him forever.

Will we return to the Shoebox next year for our family vacation … probably not … but that’s only because there are so many other places to see and visit in the United States. I’m sure we can find another Shoebox to visit in another state next year.