I’d always worked outside the home since my marriage. Money was usually tight, we had child support to pay and a mortgage and food – you know, life. In 1987 we bought a home in Michigan that we could actually afford to pay for with only my husband’s salary. It was lovely. It was on the East Side of Detroit, one street over from Grosse Pointe Woods. But still, it was Detroit.
We lived there for 5 years – until I started hearing gunfire on the street where we lived and when the businesses on Cadieux started getting robbed. I had an 11-year-old who couldn’t ride his bike down the street without getting harassed about his shoes ……. time to move.
We left Detroit and moved to the suburbs, St. Clair Shores, to be exact. The house was pretty old and was a cottage back in the day when there were cable cars to bring Detroiters to the Lake for the summer. It was enormously beautiful – although quirky. My kitchen was horribly small and had a phony brick wall and dark paneling. Something had to be done, and was. I painted it. The cabinets got a white lick of paint ……… Dad told me after I’d finished that I should have sanded them to make the paint stick on formica. Cool. I just kept the can of paint under the sink and touched it up – every day.
I painted the paneling pink. Yes I did. And then I bought some Souelaido wallpaper – some with a blue background with pink and yellow flowers and some in yellow with pink flowers. I put it up.
I found an old workbench at an estate sale and I brought it home. I painted the legs and skirt green and sanded down the top. It was out of pure wood – no odd formica or anything. I sealed the top with urethane and it became my kitchen island.
I already had a Hoosier Cabinet – golly wish I still had that! It was white and still had the bin for flour. I used it to store things and also as a work area. There was no room to eat in the kitchen, so we ate in the dining room – the room that sold the house to me with two walls of latticed windows looking out over the garden and back porch and apple trees …….
In 1995 we took out the pool that was on the second lot of our home. It needed a liner and it was just too much work. Although I loved having it …… it was time for it to go. In 1997 I took a Certified Master Gardening class through Michigan State Extension Co-op and there began my adventures in gardening.
There was a lot of sand under the pool and my husband and son wheeled off a lot of it. One day I told them to stop – after all the soil was mostly clay and a little sand wouldn’t hurt it at all. I built that garden. I found a fountain at an estate sale that was so heavy we could barely get it in the Jeep. Luckily my husband had the wheelbarrow and we moved it into place in the garden. He made it work too ……. nice water pumping through it and it was lovely.
I spent a lot of time on my knees in 1997. I put down brick pavers that had been around my fake fireplace …… now they had a new home. I planted so many plants and trees and roses and bulbs I thought I might squeal in ecstasy. I’d told Mom that we wouldn’t be staying when my husband retired and so I wondered if I should do this. She said “Do it anyway.”
I had planting boxes around the deck of the back porch which I filled with annuals. I had a garden off the back deck that was in the first lot that the house sat on where I planted flowers from seed and thousands of vegetables. Well it felt like thousands!
I had two apple trees at the back of the first lot and I put in a white shade garden there. In the main garden, which was closed off from the other part by a fence, I put in a bench, a compost bin that you turned with a big crank and a potato growing bin. I planted an almond tree, a Japanese maple, old heirloom roses and every plant available from White Flower Farm. I haunted the nurseries in St. Clair Shores and found a couple where I had to go daily. I found echinacea purpurea that I planted in the 4 x 8 spot to the left of the entry to the main garden.
Sad to say, we did leave in 2000. I’ve often regretted that move. I loved the house more than my husband or son did. They felt it was too small. I thought it about right for us. We had a vision of being in the country at peace, but it wasn’t to be. The place we moved to was unwelcoming and hostile. Who’d have thought that? I had lived in many states and towns and never found hostility anywhere – until then.
Now I’m back in the states, my husband is gone and it’s just my son and I. We love our home although there isn’t the scope to make a huge garden here since we have little land. And frankly I’d rather do other things now. But that garden in Michigan? The new owners had told me they were planning to leave everything the same – they loved the house and the yard. They didn’t. Somehow they tore out my huge garden and replaced it with grass. I could have cried when I heard that. All of my trees are gone – the ones the original owner planted 34 years before we bought the place. It’s all different. They took out the balcony from which you could see Lake St. Clair and put in tiny windows ……… it’s not my house any longer.
So things move on ……… but wherever I go – I make it mine.