Rosali at the Black Box
Nothing helps diminish the winter blues like an evening in the cozy confines of the Black Box.The club-like atmosphere is an ideal place to settle in with perhaps an adult beverage or two and listen to the latest musical offerings served up by the Dogwood folks.
Saturday at 7:30pm Rosali, an accomplished Philadelphia based singer/songwriter who hails from the wonderfulness that is Newaygo County will be sharing her musical talents and we at N3 World Headquarters are looking forward to what is shaping up to be a compelling evening of music. Here’s a little more info.
No Soup For You?
Only if you don’t go.
Have you been to Amore Trattoria Italiana the exceptional eatery located on the east side of Alpine just before the congestion that is Alpine Avenue really kicks in?
If so you are aware of the delectable items that burst from their kitchen and have wondered perhaps as many of us have, “how do they make that wonderful soup?”
Well Saturday beginning at 2pm they will be holding a free cooking demo featuring, of course, soup.
The bar opens at 1:30pm in case you like wine with your soup demos and it’s on a first come basis
The Indoor Olympics?
The Driftwood in Croton is well aware of the restlessness that often accompanies winter. For some the pursuit of outdoor activities like snowshoeing ice fishing, skating, or skiing helps fulfill the need for sporting activity.
For others who might not be so thrilled about spending time in the Great Outdoors?
They are offering the first annual Winter Games with shuffleboard, cornhole, and pool providing a venue for the competitive juices to get flowing.
From what we understand registrations were closed Wednesday but if you want to see the games and perhaps be able to say 20 years from now you were at the first one, they start at 10am.
Yes on Saturday, January 11 from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm your young hockey wannabees can give the sport a try.This event is geared toward kids ages 4 to 9ish and all required gear will be provided or you can bring your own helmet, skates, and gloves. Register today at ramshockey.org or contact Holly at email@example.com for more information.
Cedar Rock Sports Plex 4758 Cornfield Road in Cedar Springs.
Other Saturday Sounds
David Lampmen will be entertaining folks at Newaygo Brewery’s Acoustic Lunch from Noon to 4pm, Sportsman’s Bar will have Outlaw Express juicing up the joint beginning at 9pm, and Backwoods Crazy is on tap at the Moose Lodge Steak Fry starting at 8pm
And should the idea of Sunday Brunch appeal to you give Brew Works in Fremont a try. Beyond some of the usual breakfast fare you’ll find Mac & Cheese, Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and more.
"Rosali's concert at the Dogwood for Saturday, January 11 has been re-scheduled for Friday, January 17 at 7:30 p.m. "
Rosali will perform in the Dogwood Black Box on Saturday, January 11 at 7:30 p.m. As a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, she incorporates diverse musical styles from free improv, garage rock, country, pop, to folk-infused song-craft.
Rosali Middleman was raised in Newaygo County and is now based in Philadelphia. Through songwriting and performances, she shares resonant emotions and the authenticity of being, unveiling herself to connect with broad audiences. Rosali’s songwriting realizes life as rich and alluring melodies within the framework of traditional popular songwriting.
Tickets are $12.50 and are available through the Dogwood Center Box Office, NCCA-Artsplace in downtown Fremont, or on-line at www.dogwoodcenter.com. For information, phone 231.924.8885. The Dogwood Center is located one mile east of downtown Fremont.
Looking for things to do? Want to see what is happening hereabouts that might pique your interest?
We at N3WH are here for you.
Get a Clue!
Attention Thespians and Thespian wannabes!
If you have never been involved in community theater I implore you to give it a try.
Because it’s fun, it pushes you out of your comfort zone, there is a deeper appreciation for the whole CT process, you meet interesting people, and it is a new year so should you have a resolution of taking more risks this is a great opportunity to make good on at least one of those annual promises to self.
Did we mention the part about being fun?
And should you choose to audition or just show up to see what it’s all about,get involved in some of the backstage stuff because everyone works as a team in these things and LionHeart has some fine folks around who will welcome your assistance and do their part to help mentor newcomers to the floorboards.
Auditions for the play Clue are this week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 6:30-9:00pm at 77 South Front Street in Grant so drop in and see how the process works then if intrigued give it a stab. It’s Community Theater not Broadway so you don’t have to be a Tony winner to take part.They are looking to cast 10 adults (5 male, 5 female), with rehearsals beginning January 27th and performances the weekends of March 20th and 27th.
And please as a favor to the staff of N3 World Headquarters read Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Who Am I This Time?” before you go.
Oh and perusal scripts are available at:
https://broadwaylicensing.com/shows/plays/clue/ (click Read for Free) and copies will also be available at the Grant, Newaygo and Fremont area libraries.
The January Series Begins!
For those of us who have made it a habit to attend these gems whenever possible this is the best thing about January because, well, because there’s not a lot of great things about January anyway and it’s inside and free and never disappointing and you can get lunch for a mere fin if you call a day ahead (24 hour notice please) to reserve it.
It kicks off Wednesday with Calvin U. Volleyball coach Amber Warners.
Coach Warners has built an amazingly successful program with an incredible record of 541-87, meaning in 18 years she has lost less times than the Detroit Tigers did last season
Off the court, Dr. Warners has connected her love of volleyball with her degree in sports psychology. She has created a technology to help players develop their game. The device captures a player’s thoughts out loud and also allows them to receive feedback during practice.
If you have never been to the speaker series please give it a try. As we said, of all the ones we’ve attended over the years we have never come away disappointed(and not just because they are free, although we dearly love free) and often are enriched by the messages delivered, the knowledge dispensed,and the awareness that comes with listening to interesting people talk about interesting things.
Dogwood Black Box 12:30-1:30pm. For more info on the whole series head to
Moms Supporting Moms
The Newaygo Library does some very cool stuff. Their reading programs the various activities, and as we recently found out you can check out stuff like video cameras there.
They also have a Mom to Mom support group that will be meeting this Thursday at 11am to hear Tina McDonald speak on postpartum depression and her journey to recovery.
Is it the so called ‘Baby Blues’ or perhaps a bit deeper when an uncomfortable sadness visits after the birth of a child? Ms. McDonald will explore this with this message: “You are not alone and you do not have to walk through it alone.”
The group provides an opportunity for pregnant moms or moms of littles to share their story in a safe and nurturing setting.
Newaygo Brewing Co has been doing some interesting stuff on Thursdays with their Social Nights, a chance to hang out with some folks and either listen to some vinyl, take on some trivia or, like this week, compete with others in a little Bar Bingo with Kiana.
7-9:30pm. Downtown Newaygo. Good brews, good food, good times and good people.
There you go folks. A few tidbits of what’s happening in our parts. We’ll be back later this week with some weekend diversions.
And as always…
Got an activity you think people should know about? Send us an email at info@nearnorthnow.
Book Review: The Dutch House
By Alexis Mercer
One of the aspects of reading fiction novels I enjoy most is how each plot line, character, and story is in one way or another woven into my mind.
Books have the power to take the reader to places she has never been; get to know characters who may be fictional, but are born from a living, breathing, human’s creative mind and therefore hold in them pieces of soul and breath; teach lessons; or invoke raw emotions. Every once in a while a book does all of those things.
The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett, is a novel that though I read quickly to find out what would happen to the main characters Danny and Maeve, has slowly settled into my mind bit by bit, carefully chosen word by carefully chosen word.
It is not a happy story. It is quite tragic actually. Many times I found my mind screaming “just knock it OFF and get your shit together.” But perhaps that is what made the characters so real and the story so compelling.
Like many of Patchett’s novels, this is a tale of intricate emotions, complex characters and a story line that keeps the reader invested until the last word – and then some.
Cyril Conroy is a man who built himself up from nothing with a real estate investment that turned into an empire. With his newfound fortune, Cyril buys a house outside of Philadelphia that sits on a large amount of land with huge windows and detailed Dutch woodwork throughout to surprise his wife. Only she hates the house.
Danny, the narrator, and his older sister Maeve grow up in the Dutch House with a stepmother and their father Cyril after their mother’s departure. It is when the siblings are kicked out of the house that the two are thrown into a poverty they never knew and how they deal with their circumstances for the remainder of their lives.
Themes of forgiveness, fortitude, the meaning of family, and love all find their way to the surface of this novel. From the surface, though, they dig themselves deep into the reader’s mind – tumble around, linger, and ask to be considered in a new way.
Books are just printed words in a certain order. But the best books, like The Dutch House, are printed words that come alive in the reader’s mind and change her forever.
8th Annual FFA event draws near
Fremont – The eighth annual Fremont FFA Alumni & Friends Euchre Fun Night is fast approaching and you don’t want to miss out on this fun event that benefits the Fremont FFA program.
The event will be held on Saturday, January 25, 2020 in the Fremont High School Cafeteria with dinner being served at 5:30pm sharp followed by card playing. In addition, the evening will include door prizes, table snacks, a 50/50 raffle and the top teams will be recognized.
Pre-registration by January 20 is strongly encouraged; it is first-come, first-served and is limited to 56 teams. Registration is $30 per team. Registration is available online at http://www.signmeup.com/133331 or by mailing a check made payable to Fremont FFA Alumni to 727 Beebe Ave, Fremont, MI 49412.
All proceeds will go to the Fremont FFA Alumni & Friends. This group supports the Fremont FFA Chapter and its members. The profits will go towards conferences, conventions, leadership training, classroom materials and other items needed for agriculture education, inside and out of the classroom.
Sponsorship opportunities are still available. For $75 per table, you can have your name or business displayed on one of the card tables. Other sponsorship levels are also available. For further details on becoming a sponsor please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (616) 634-5200.
The event planning committee is excited to be partnering with returning caterer, Smokin’ Good Time BBQ, featuring pit master Mark Westcott.
For more information about this event, please email email@example.com or call (616) 634-5200.
FFA Alumni play a very important part in keeping agricultural education and FFA programs in our local schools. FFA relies on its alumni to garner support for FFA from their local communities, raise funds for chapter activities and scholarships, assist at FFA leadership camps and conferences, and much more. The Fremont FFA Alumni & Friends is one of the over 1,500 active Alumni affiliates within the National FFA Alumni Association.
With the recent release of the epic World War I movie “1917” there has been a heightened interest in what was called The Great War.
It was also known as the War to End All Wars but that apparently was a bit of an optimistic misnomer.
For the month of January, the Fremont Area District Library will showcase a poster exhibit from the Smithsonian, titled WWI: Lessons and Legacies exploring the history of the war and its lasting impact on American life.
Sparked by the assassination of one man, the war eventually included the forces of the world's major industrial powers (over 18 countries in all) and ended with the loss of millions of lives.
WWI gave rise to significant and enduring changes in America. Wartime technologies and medical advances resulted in new industries and novel ways to both fight disease and treat disability. The critical roles that women and minorities played in the war led to the right to vote for women and a raised consciousness of civil rights issues throughout society.
From the Great Migration to the 1918 flu pandemic and from the unionization movement to women's suffrage, World War I led to pivotal changes in America's culture, technology, economy, and role in the world.
The library will also be showing these WWI movies in the Community Room on Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m.
One Woman, One Vote – Jan. 8th (NR; 120 min)
Suffragette – Jan. 15th (PG-13; 107 min)
In Love and War – Jan. 22nd (PG-13; 113 min)
War Horse – Jan. 29th (PG-13; 146 min)
Book Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
By Alexis Mercer
As promised in my book review of Murder on the Orient Express, I have read more Agatha Christie mysteries. Two, in fact. I started my plunge into learning more about the best selling author of all time with her first published novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. While this book was indeed entertaining, I found myself slightly disappointed after having truly enjoyed and been enthralled with Murder on the Orient Express. But I forged on and read another: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. In this book my love for Christie’s writing was renewed.
Only after having finished the book did I learn that this is known as the novel that “changed Agatha Christie’s career” (agathachristie.com). Her fourth novel, it is entertaining and suspenseful to the very end.
In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, the town doctor visits the home of Ackroyd, his patient and also friend, but later that evening after returning home, gets a call back to the house to attend to the murdered man. The reader learns that Roger Ackroyd was dating a woman who had poisoned her husband a year ago and had since been blackmailed by an anonymous person. She, the love of Ackroyd’s life, had recently taken her own life with a drug overdose.
Hercule Poirot is called out of retirement, being the neighbor of the doctor, by Ackroyd’s niece, to solve his murder. Everyone in the house that evening is a suspect, and even a few others who were not in the house but who were acquainted with Ackroyd. Poirot follows his distinct style of detecting the truth; taking no one’s word as truth until it can be proven without doubt. It is through this meticulous and thorough process that Poirot does come up with the truth about who murdered Ackroyd, but not without twists and turns along the way.
Immediately upon finishing this book, I ordered two more of Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries. I can read them concurrently with other novels and not be distracted or have a hard time following along. They are a wonderful go-to book to have waiting if I have recently read something heavy or difficult.
The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to the seeker after it.
A visit to Market 41
We get it. You’re cruising along figuring there’s ample time to get those items for your giftees and suddenly the final days have crept up on you and here you sit empty handed with presents unprocured and the spectre of Christmas yet to come looming over your already busy schedule.
What’s more is you haven’t a clue as to what to get. The time to contemplate has long since past. You need ideas and you need them NOW!
Well, if truth be told (a curious saying since it implies without the preface one is less than truthful) we at SWK have walked in your belated boots before. We feel your procrastinatory pain.
And we’re here to help.
On Monday from 10am-5pm get yourself down to Market 41 in downtown Newaygo.
A. You are out of time.
B. They got stuff galore and
C. They are indeed local.
M-41 is a unique shopping experience with some things old, some things new, some things artful, some things practical, some things vintage and some things just plain fun.
The shop with over 75 vendors who each display their wares in a most creative manner is located at 41 State St,(hence the name of the store we assume) the classic building that has recently undergone a facelift of epic proportions (while leaving the City Drug sign intact a nice nod to Newaygo’s past).
We offer a few photos highlighting some of the opportunities available at M-41 and if you score some needed gifts but still have a few stockings to stuff?
Try the New Ewe for your fabric focused friends, grab some gift certs at the Riverstop Cafe, forage for some fishing finds at Parsley’s, or jump on some jerky at Jerkies.
Then browse the eclectic inventory of North Woods General Store.
If you do all this and still come away in need of more?
You’re on your own friends.
The staff of SWK still has some serious shopping to do.
Photos by Lil DeLaat
For the past couple of years we have asked folks from around the community to send in their Christmas memories.We received some great new ones this year and also really liked the ones that came to us last year as well so we decided to blend the two together because even if you might have read them before it is, after all, Christmas and most people have seen It’s A Wonderful Life and/or A Christmas Story multiple times so…
Some are short, some are long, some are in between but we love these stories and hope they will touch a bit of the Christmas spirit in your heart.
You’ll find a bevy of them here and more offerings on our Pulse Page
A Crossman Pump Action
By Scott VanSingel
"It was Christmas 1989. I was 10 years old at the time and had been begging my father for probably a year or more for a BB gun, very similar to the movie "A Christmas Story." While he wasn't afraid of me shooting my eye out, he continued to tell me I was too young. In the weeks before Christmas I noticed a rectangular box underneath the Christmas tree and began to have hope that it might actually be my desired gift, and not a cleverly packaged sweater.
On Christmas morning I finally was able to open the box and much to my delight it contained a Crossman pump action BB gun. I promptly put this gun to use shooting soda cans. Over the coming years I harvested several squirrels and rabbits which ended up on the family dinner table. To this day that BB gun remains my favorite Christmas present. It has long since been retired and replaced by a Mossberg .410, but still hangs on the wall in my basement. My daughter will be 10 next Christmas and I hope I will be lucky enough for her to ask for a similar gift."
Never a Christmas Like That One
By Carla Roberts
Two little girls about 3 and 4 came running down the stairs from their room to find the living room literally filled with toys and presents. They squealed with delight and began exploring. There was a pink kitchen sink and stove, baby doll carriage, baby doll highchair, dolls, doll clothes and on and on. Two of everything, where last night there was only a tree with a few presents. My sister and I were both in awe of the abundance and we knew for sure there was a Santa Claus because our parents could never have afforded all that stuff. We played with these toys throughout our childhood. There was never another Christmas quite like that one and the joy of that day has sustained me through some Christmas Days that were not as abundant. That is the very first Christmas that I can recall.
By Chris Wren
Waking up Christmas morning brings happiness and joy to me that is very special and deep in family tradition. I love the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day football, but nothing beats Christmas morning.
I will never forget Christmas morning when I was eight years old and running downstairs to the biggest present I had ever seen. As I tore into the wrapping paper I knew that my efforts of pestering my parents for months paid off and the G.I. Joe aircraft carrier was in fact under the tree. I shook with excitement and may even have fainted for a moment it was a great present but more importantly solidified how special Christmas morning can be. It wasn’t the present but sharing the moment with my family.
Knowing that my dad had as much fun as I did watching me open a present and being with the family truly resonated from that day forward. Over thirty years later, I still wake up with the same excitement and happiness that I had that day. My wife can confirm that we don’t usually make it past 6 am before I am up excited to get the morning going. The weeks of shaking presents, decorating the house and preparing for the morning is my favorite time of the year.
This year will be the most special Christmas morning yet for me as I will for the first time get to wake up with a son of my own. I don’t foresee a G.I. Joe aircraft carrier this year, but the love and happiness that my dad created for me will be replicated. Continuing the family tradition for Christmas morning is exciting and I am looking forward to seeing the happiness on my son’s face when he opens his presents and is surrounded by love, even though he will probably be more excited for the box the present comes in. Getting the coffee going, cooking a big breakfast and spending the morning with those who I love is the perfect tradition I will continue as my parents did with me.
This year I may not make it past 5 am.
The Time I Caught “Santa”
By Noah Graff
As a child I always questioned the fictional characters parents told their children about. Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. Not that I didn’t believe them, I was just curious why I never saw them. Christmas 2007 was approaching and I was six years old. At the time Christmas was my favorite holiday, so the suspense was building. This Christmas was different though. I was determined to catch Santa, even if I had to sacrifice not getting any presents that year.
I had a plan. Every night around midnight my parents would check if I was asleep. I was going to watch my alarm until 12 and pretend like I was sleeping when they checked. Soon enough, I heard my door creek then close slowly. Yes! The plan worked so far. Now I was going to stay up a little longer to be sure my parents were asleep.
Around 1:30, I knew it was time. I slowly rolled out of my bed and tiptoed to the door. When I turned the knob, I started to have second thoughts. But I wanted to find out the truth. Very steady, I turned the knob the whole way and opened the door. I crept into the hallway, trying not to make the floor creek. I planned on hiding behind the couch facing our tree until Santa arrived. Almost to the living room, I heard shuffling. Was it Santa? The only way to find out was to look around the corner. As I peeked around the wall I saw a figure. It was very dark so I could just make out the silhouette. I examined the man, quickly realizing it wasn’t the Santa I saw in pictures.
Still convinced it was Santa, I contemplated my next move. Do I say something? Do I wait and watch? Do I tackle him and expose his identity like a Scooby-Doo episode? I chose to watch him a little longer. As I made out the shape of the man it began to look more familiar. Santa wasn’t as fat as I remembered and actually rather fit. Moments later another being walked into the living room. Not far from me, I realized it was my mom! Surprised, a slight gasp slipped out of my mouth. My mom turned my way and saw that it was me. She told me to come out and I realized Santa was my dad. I had found out the truth.
Every day after that I would question my parents on everything. And until all my friends found out Santa wasn’t really, it took everything not to tell them the truth.
By Marianne Boerigter
If you are of at least a certain age, you remember them too; the slides and the slide projector. Almost every family had slides. There was always that one person in the family who could actually run the projector correctly, without them all looking backwards or upside down.
At Thanksgiving, a few of us in my family were talking about old family photos, and of course, slides came up. My sister said she had the slides our parents had taken, and I remembered I had a small case of slides from our grandparents. Later that weekend, I started googling how to best transfer slides to a more usable digital format so maybe all of us in the family could have copies. I came upon a "film to digital converter" gadget and hit the "order now" button.
The next day I pulled that case of slides from our grandparents out of the back of the my closet and found twelve Kodak slide trays with 30 slides in each. I took out the first tray and started holding up each slide to the light…..hmmm. Beautiful fall trees, geese, and people I had absolutely no idea who they were.
The second tray had much more promise. A piece of tape on the side said "Kids". Sure enough, slides from the late 50's and 60's of our family, Christmas, birthdays, and brand new cars with the proud owners standing next to them. Being the youngest in the family, many of them were from before me or when I was a very young. My brother and sisters, mom and dad and grandparents looking so young, smiling and happy. Yes, these are the ones I needed to work on to convert and share.
My new converter gadget worked wonderfully. I quickly get through the 30 slides in the "Kids" tray and went on to the next tray. My grandparents' house, and few more family shots, and then……hmmm. Beautiful fall trees, geese, and more people I had absolutely no idea who they are. Grandpa apparently really liked the trees in their fall colors.
Next tray reads "Holland Tulip Time Floats". Really? No, there can't really be 30 slides of 1961 Tulip Time floats in there, right? Oh yes, there was. Next tray, "Flowers". Yep, roses, tulips, peonies, and flowering bushes with no clue where they were located. More un-labeled trays produced about 20 more slides that were recognizable for location at least or the people in them. Out of 360 slides, 50 of them I converted. But I have to say, they are the best 50 photos around because they all capture a special time for our family.
This holiday season I encourage you to pull out some old photo albums or even the dreaded slide projector and take some time to remember. I imagine you will find some that give you that warm feeling of family and good times. Share some with your friends and family and spread love, laughter and memories. Happy Holidays!
By Ken DeLaat
While we rejoice and celebrate the season there are always folks who are experiencing loss during these days and no other time magnifies those feelings like the holidays.
“This year, Christmas just is what it is”, she said softly.
Garnishing the strength within and the resolve of having made strides toward change and determined to use those tools gained in the process, she came to the only place you can go and remain honest with yourself and others.
I can’t feel any better than this right now.
No amount of pretending will make it go away.
I’m too tired to take care of all of you.
Now, please, don’t attempt to wrest a Rockwell moment out of the ashes of my Christmas of loss.
Enjoy and rejoice and revel and don’t feel obligated to take care of me.
Just show me you care by acknowledging me, loving me, and leaving me be as I desire.
I’m not gone nor am I forever changed.
I’ll be happy again at my time and pace.
I’ll come back to you.
But this year, please, Christmas just is what it is.
By James Kelly
How do you make sense of a white Christmas, dashing through the snow on an open sleigh, and Frosty the Snowman when it’s 90 degrees on Christmas day? When Christmases past were filed with memories of singing Christmas carols on Christmas eve in the local park while enjoying a picnic with your friends and family, or playing “Marco Polo” for hours in the pool with your cousins on Christmas day?
Well, you adapt!
Sing it with me now…
”Six white boomers, snow white boomers,
Racing Santa Clause through the blazing sun.
Six white boomers, snow white boomers,
On his Australian run.”
While there may be a lack of reindeer in Australia, there is no shortage of kangaroos (boomers) that could easily provide the power needed to haul around Santa and his stash of goodies. Add a couple more verses and before you know it you will have a kids Christmas classic that doesn’t cause confusion, but one that actually adds to the festive season in a meaningful and relatable way.
“Pretty soon old Santa began to feel the heat,
Took his fur lined boots off to cool his feet,
Into one popped Joey, feeling quite okay,
While those old man Kangaroos kept pulling on the sleigh”
So for a taste of Christmas on the other side of the world consider a quick Google search for “Six White Boomers’. I’d recommend the version performed by Rolf Harris, the man you might of once heard sing that other Aussie classic, “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport”.
Wherever you find yourself on Christmas day, I encourage you to sing a song that bought you some joy as a child. I’m confident the joy will return almost immediately.
By Brett Zuver
The Holiday Season is always one that brings cascading memories and a sense of wonder and amazement for all, young and old, to life once more. Quite often the memories are measured in quiet and private thoughts, maybe with a smile that was meant for nobody in particular-perhaps even for someone who is no longer with us, a memory. The warm smell of Christmas cookies that instantly transports you back countless years, hearing a favorite Christmas song that reminds you of a special time or a special someone, fulfilling long-lasting family traditions or beginning new ones, and most importantly, taking time to connect, or even reconnect, with loved ones on a level where they truly understand how important they really are to you. These are the things that make this time of year special.
Personally, I am in the stage of life where I am different things to different people. I am a husband, a father, a co-worker, a peer, a friend, a mentor, a learner, an employee, and countless other things to countless other people. For me, finding time to reflect and make sure that I am giving all that I can to everyone who needs me is the most satisfying part of waking up every day. There are times that I fall short, there are times that I wish I could have done better, and times where I am proud of how things have worked out. For me, this time of the year magnifies many of my relationships and gives me a much stronger lens to examine how I have done in deepening these relationships that matter the most. There will always be emails to answer and phone calls to return, those will never run out. Making sure the people I care about, whether or not I see them every day, know that I fully value and appreciate them is, to me, the most enjoyable part of this time of year.
Every time I hear, “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole I am instantly taken back to a certain day at my grandparent’s lake house up North on Burt Lake. They lived there for several years when I was young and one day in particular stands out for me. My mother, father, brother and I were there for a few days with my grandparents and my uncle’s family. His family had four children, Cathy, Renee, Robert, and Suzie, all of whom ranged in age from a couple years older than me to a couple years younger. We always had a blast every time we would get together, lots of laughter and adventures, to say the least. We were visiting for the Zuver family Christmas, it was a weekend in mid-December, and it was bitterly cold outside.
To me, this was a magical place. There was a lake that looked as big as the ocean where we could always find Petoskey stones and catch fish right off the dock. We would go for rides on my Grandpa Zuver’s pontoon boat, which was something I had never done before. They lived in the woods just up the hill from the lake and were surrounded by a cast of characters who lived nearby that always made the visit something to remember. Uncle Esko and Aunt Carol lived in a little house behind them, Mr. Oloffson lived in a beautiful home right on the lake and had a small fishing pond right next to his house. He would always smoke a pipe and referred to me as, “Bart”, even though he knew my name was Brett. He would smile every time he would call me that. The road cut through the woods still had the biggest tree I had ever seen growing right up in the middle of the dirt road, our car could barely fit around either side.
There were neighbors down the road that actually had a big one-horse open sleigh! We would pile in as many of us as we could and ride with them occasionally when there was enough snow on the ground. I remember the smell of cinnamon rolls in my grantparent’s house and a combination of old wood and gasoline smells in their unattached garage where they kept their snowmobiles.
This particular day started with a good breakfast and then soon a plan was hatched-my father, my uncle, and all of the kids were going to head out into the woods and find the perfect Christmas tree to cut down and bring back so we could all spend the afternoon together decorating it. Although it was cold, it was something we were charged with and none of us wanted to disappoint!
I remember the snow being at least knee-deep and even walking was a challenge. We marched in line, being led by my father and uncle, trying to step in the deep white footprints that were left by them so we would not lose a boot or get too much snow up our pant legs. We weaved in and out of the forest, along the edges of some barren fields and then back into the woods again until we found the perfect tree. There was a light, soft snow falling. Big, fat flakes, that almost looked like goose feathers landing all around us but not making a sound. By this time my face, hands, and feet were freezing but I would not have missed this for the world!
It took my dad and uncle longer that we thought it would to cut down our prized Christmas tree but they were successful. Now we had to get it back to my grandparent’s house. At that time it seemed like we had walked 10 miles uphill in a blizzard to find the perfect tree, in reality, it was probably more like a quarter to half a mile, but I took smaller steps back then.
All of the kids took turns helping Dad and Uncle Bob drag the tree through the woods and fields. The snow did cause a bit of an obstacle as we did this and I remember more than one of us complaining about getting poked by the fresh pine needles on our wrist or through our home-made knitted mittens. After some time we were able to fight through all of the elements and challenges and succeed in delivering what we had promised to our grandparents.
There was a roaring fire burning in the red fireplace when we got home and hot chocolate with marshmallows for anyone who needed it. I took my hot chocolate straight, no marshmallows. Music was playing on the record player and my mom, aunt, and grandparents had prepared a table full of crafts for us to use to make home-made Christmas ornaments. There was construction paper cut into strips to make a chain, paper, markers, glue, glitter, and almost anything else we would need to make one of a kind creations to make the tree perfect. They had brought a box of ornaments with them as well and we spent the next few hours creating masterpieces and decorating the tree together.
This was a time of no cell phones, no texting, no tweeting, no Instagramming selfies in front of the tree, the television was not even on…it was just genuine human family interaction and connections, all working together to create a one of a kind symbol of our family together for this fleeting weekend. All the while, quiet music continued to play on the record player. I do not remember listening with any interest at that time, but every time I now hear Nat King Cole’s voice begin to sing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose”, I am instantly taken back to that day, that afternoon, that moment, where I felt like things would be like that forever, but, as we know, change is the one constant we have in life. To me it was the perfect day.
I recently came upon an old picture that I had never seen before that was taken that day. I also have no memory of it being taken. It was of our group, arriving back to the house successfully with our Christmas tree. We were all standing in a cluster, everyone smiling and seeming like there was no other place on earth that they would rather be with the exception of one person, me. I looked almost angry and bothered that I was outside with everyone, I was freezing and tired. Everyone else had a look of amazement, happiness, and anticipation on their faces. I looked like I wanted to be anywhere but there, completely disinterested and agitated.
When I saw that picture, I was dumbfounded. How could one of my favorite memories of my childhood be captured with me looking like I wanted to beat something or someone up? I felt embarrassed when I saw the picture, confused. As I think back to that day, and especially that picture, I sincerely hope that my actions did not mirror my body language. I would be devastated if, in actuality, I complained the entire walk, distanced myself from trimming and decorating the tree, and generally made things miserable for others to even be around me on that day.
That was the last time we were all together for Christmas.
There is nothing I can do about that long lost day now, however, moving forward I can focus even sharper than ever on making sure I am fully present in the moment and can stay upbeat and positive with everyone, no matter the situation. After all, we are never guaranteed tomorrow, we need to make the most of today. I sincerely hope that all of your Christmas wishes come true and that you get to spend time with the ones you love the most.
The Newaygo County Museum will continue our speaker series with Ned Hughes, Chair of the Newaygo Conservation District Board. He will be presenting “The Star of Bethlehem”. Did you ever wonder what the Wise Men really saw on that night some 2000 years ago? What did the sky look like, who were these men, why did they come and from where did they come? All of these questions and more will be answered! Please join us at the Museum on Thursday, December 19 at 6:30 pm.
Ned Hughes is a retired health care chief executive officer with 35+ years’ experience in the health care sector. He has a Bachelor’s degree in management and marketing from the University of Cincinnati, and a Masters’ Degree in Health and Hospital Administration from Xavier University. He is a Life Fellow in the American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE) and a Rotarian.
Ned served as Chairman of the Board of the Michigan Center for Rural Health, Past Chairman of the Michigan Rural Health Association, and Past Chairman of the Board of United Way of Newaygo County. He has served in various capacities on the Michigan Health and Hospital Association Board and Executive Committee.
He is currently a Director on the Newaygo Conservation District Board and currently chairs that organization. He is also Vice Chair of Region 4 of the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts and chairs the Newaygo County Community Collaborative Steering Committee.
Ned has lived in Newaygo County since 1985 with his wife Linda. He has two children and four grandchildren. He oversees the Kropscott Farm Environmental Center including the SF Wessling Observatory, and in his spare time loves to star gaze, kayak and fish.
Please join us at the Museum on Thursday, December 19th at 6:30 pm for this forty-minute presentation, an ongoing part of our yearround Heritage Speaker series, which will be followed by a time of questions and answers. The Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center is at 12 Quarterline in downtown Newaygo. Doors are scheduled to open at 6:00 p.m. Admission is free.
Donations are matched at 50 percent by the Fremont Area Community Foundation, which provides core operational support for the organization.
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