Monday, February 9, 2009

Day 9: South Haven

I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but when I was born, my parents lived in a little town on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan called South Haven. South Haven is mostly a resort town; it has about 12,000 year-round residents and in the summer, there are about 60,000 people in town at any given time. At the time that I was born, there were fewer year-round residents than that, by far. The town has grown a lot.

My parents were year-round residents. My mother was the youngest kid in her family; she didn't know much of anything about babies when I was born and she felt incredibly isolated most of the year in South Haven. She made friends with a woman around the corner who already had about seven kids and who seemed to know everything about raising them; her name was Mary Jo and my mother made her my godmother.

I remember her being middle-aged almost all my life. Her youngest kid was maybe 12 or 13 when I was born. I remember that she always had a pack of cigarettes and a beer in a tall styrofoam cup. As I got older and learned to drive, I would park at her house when I went to South Haven in the summers--parking was expensive and hard to find, and they lived close to the beach. She crocheted. Max sleeps with the afghan she made me for a wedding gift.

Mary Jo died of cancer last week in Port Charlotte, Florida. She is survived by her husband Donn, her seven children, and her ten grandchildren. She is a part of most of my early memories, and she will be deeply missed by everyone who knew her, including me.

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