For most spring break is that time of year where you pack your bags, load the station wagon, and head down south to the dirty finger known as Florida. The family basks in solar rays, beach hangs, and poolside drinks alongside drunk coeds and the neighbors from home because half your hometown followed you to the goddamn sunshine state.
My family was different. We didn’t go to Florida for spring break. Hell, we barely traveled over 30 miles away from home for spring break. That first week of April for me typically meant staying up late, sleeping in, maybe a trip to the mall, and some sleepovers with a pal or two. Oh, and lots of video rentals. The closest I got to water was Lake Manitou in Rochester, Indiana at my grandma’s house. It was still too early in the season to have their pontoon in the lake, so I’d stand on the retaining wall and take in the pungent smell of Lake Manitou. It was a mixture of fish, puddle water, and the odor that emanated from our sump pump hole in the basement at home.
I never really desired leaving home for a long period of time, and since I’m of the pale skin variety the idea of chilling on a Florida beach for a week just never appealed to me. When I was 11-years old we did go to Florida in the summer. My dad rented a house and we stayed in Englewood, FL. It was an okay vacation, though the drive down with four of us in a 1984 Honda Accord left little to be desired. The thing I remember most about the couple beach trips was how hot the sand was under my feet. Like, I thought the bottoms of my feet had to have been burned. Turned out, it was just the tops of my feet that burned. My torso was safe thanks to the Twisted Sister t-shirt mom bought me for my “beach attire”. The other thing I remember was my parents leaving my brother and I at the house alone so they could drive an hour to Venice, FL. My dad’s eardrum burst on a dive into a community pool, and Venice was the closest doctor’s office where they could see him. Family vacations, amirite?
I always preferred day trips on Spring Break. I liked getting away for a few hours, but then having the luxury of my bed, my couch, my TV, and my VCR waiting for me at home. My mom and I did a lot of things over spring breaks, as my dad typically never had those weeks off. We’d go to the Glenbrook Mall and shop for clothes, then hit up the Apple Orchard for lunch. I’d always end up leaving that mall with a new shirt, some shoes, and a cassette from Musicland. As I said before, we’ also go to my grandma’s house. We may not have been out perusing the lake, but she had cable and I could watch MTV or a movie while mom and grandma visited and smoked in the kitchen. As I got older renting movies from Video World and making frozen pizzas at midnight was a solid spring break evening.
Now that I’m the adult with kids I’ve passed my spring break tradition down to my own brood. I mean, if they have a friend who’s family wants to haul them to Fort Lauderdale or Tampa for a sun-soaked adventure more power to them. But none of them have friends like that. And this may not be the case for my girls, but my son is an absolute homebody. A spring break spent sleeping in and doing a whole lot of nothing is just what he craves. He loves home and soaking in quiet time, just like his old man. I can’t complain.
Our spring break is next week, and I can’t get it off work(much like my own dad back in the day.) So I took the Friday before off in the hopes that my wife and son and I could go do something. Initially the plan was to get up early and make the 4 1/2 hour trek east to Cleveland to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A hotel stay was brought up, and I kind of soured on the idea. We decided that would be a summer trip. So what ended up happening was my wife worked, and instead is taking a day off next week so her and our 18-year old can go shopping for prom dresses. Today was just my son and I. We drove up north to New Buffalo, Michigan for some lunch and a beach excursion.
Lunch was at a place called Ghost Isle Brewery. We were going to eat at the famous hamburger place Redamak’s. We ate at Redamak’s a couple years ago on our last New Buffalo trip, but this time we wanted something different. It was a great pub burger and fries, with an appetizer called a Trainwreck. The Trainwreck was fries with shredded pork, cheese, and gravy served over them. It was sort of like Poutine, I guess. Very good. And of course I had to sample one of their IPAs. I was not disappointed.
We found our way after lunch to the public access site to the beach. Despite it being the first week of April there were still a decent amount of people meandering with their kids in winter coats, gawking at the magnificence of Lake Michigan.
No matter how many times I see it, I’ll always be in awe of that body of water. I’ve been enamored with that lake since I first saw it as a little kid driving along Lakeshore Drive to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. I feel like I can take my time with the lake up in Michigan, as opposed to the hustle and bustle of the Windy City. I always feel at home in Michigan. There’s a sense of calm up there that I don’t get in my Midwest bubble of Northeast Indiana. Going up there today with my son was a nice escape from the static buzz of work, school, responsibilities, and the reality of the everyday boogie. Climbing the dunes and feeling my heart nearly pounding out of my chest was both exhilarating and exhausting, but something I think my son and I both needed.
We made it home by 5pm and are currently looking forward to a movie and chicken tacos.
It’s not that I don’t look forward to spring break, I just really appreciate the break part of it. The break from the busy and the static of other humans. A trip to stare out into the vastness of a large body of water and do some existential drifting is my kind of break. The conversations and music listening in the van between my son and I are all the excitement I need. You can have the SPF 30. I’ll take Deftones on US 31N.