Light of a mother's life


My daughter Kelly on the lookout of the oldest lighthouse in Michigan, Port Huron

During my annual dental checkup May 12 in Imlay City, the dentist referred me to a periodontist in Port Huron. An unsightly white growth had emerged under the gum above my right front tooth and needed his expert evaluation.

Having chipped my front left tooth at nine-years old, teenage orthodontics, and every molar in my mouth crowned, I’m no stranger to pain.

May 31 I drove north to I-69 to Port Huron where the GPS directed me in circles around downtown until I called the doctor’s office for directions.

I completed my new patient papers as a young woman wearing a white tee shirt, short bib-overalls, and sandals walked in. She signed in and sat before a window.

The sun highlighted her abundant roll of auburn hair secured on the top of her head. I recalled the young assistant with a topknot of black hair who works for our family doctor in Romeo, and couldn’t restrain my inquisitive nature. “Pardon me.”


“May I ask how you perfectly roll your hair on top of your head?”

She kicked her long, slender leg crossed over the other and smiled. “Oh, I’ve worn it like this so long I don’t think about it. My son loves to play with it. He calls it Slinky, like the boys did in high school, because of the way my hair separates and moves when I turn my head.”

“You have a son?” I asked incredulous.

“Yes. He’s two years old and the light of my life.”

I remembered that feeling with my firstborn. Second. Third.

The receptionist called my name. Within half an hour I left the surgical chair in minor discomfort and holding gauze under my lip. The young woman with the Slinky hair had left the waiting room.

Weeks later the periodontist called with good and unusual news. “The pathology examination of the gum tissue indicates tooth matter. I’ve never seen this before,” he said. “This should not happen again, but let me know if it does.”

Last Monday, August 8, I waited in Detroit Metro’s Delta arrivals terminal for my middle, California daughter. At last, she appeared with her beautiful smile. Orthodontics straightened her teeth as a teen, yet there’s not one crown in her mouth.

“Kelly, I’ve never seen your hair so long,” I said, and couldn’t help but touch her thick, wavy auburn strands.

We stopped at Ridley’s Bakery CafĂ© in Troy for a late lunch.

“Mom, are you still available for a Port Huron trip tomorrow?”

“Certainly. You must have your fresh water swim in Lake Huron.”

Kelly laughed when I told her about meeting the young mother with the Slinky hairdo in the periodontist office.

Dear Reader, my daughter didn’t brave the lake’s rowdy waves last Tuesday. Rather, we found several heart-shaped rocks along the beach for my collection. We visited the Thomas Edison Museum and climbed the ninety-two steps of Michigan’s oldest lighthouse.

Oh yes, no matter how old, children remain the light of their mother’s life.

The aroma of reunion


Lowell (Augie) Johnson, me, Marty Halaas

When April 2022 appeared on my calendar four months ago, I thought this a fine summer for another Lincoln High class reunion. The 55th, specifically.

            I emailed Marty, a neighbor I grew up with on Wagner Street in Warren. A retired teacher and assistant principal of the city’s Lincoln Junior High School, Marty masterfully directed our 50th class reunion in 2017. The event included a picnic at Stoney Creek a Friday in July, and a dinner dance the following night.

“Are you up to organizing a simple class reunion this summer? Perhaps a BYO food and drinks picnic?” I wrote Marty. 

            “We’re out west right now. I’ll get back to you in a few days,” he replied.

            Our 50th reunion’s attendance numbered in the eighties, many spouses joining our classmates. With over three hundred fellow graduates in 1967, we had fun identifying the matured faces compared to our 25th class reunion.

            Yet, I instantly recognized Al Newman’s smile in the picnic crowd. Al, my senior-year sweetheart, hit it off with my husband. Al’s wife answered my questions about his ongoing battle with Agent Orange consuming his body.

            “We could drive from Cheboygan to Detroit’s VA Medical Center and back on auto pilot,” she jested.

            We met the following morning for breakfast in Lake Orion before Al and Denise drove back home. “You’re welcome to come visit us in Cheboygan anytime, but I recommend the fall. It’s beautiful,” Al said.

Sadly, Mel and I attended Al’s funeral early last September before the colors emerged.

Perhaps Al’s passing prompted me to propose another class reunion to Marty. Or, did our mutual need to gather at picnic tables compel about thirty-five of our classmates and spouses to share the afternoon of August 4 together?

During the first boisterous thunderstorm of this summer in North Oakland County and Macomb Township, two by two and one by one, the hardy LHS folk found the Ridgewood campground. Exclamations, greetings, and bursts of laughter echoed under umbrellas and the pavilion.

Jane and me

Jane, also a friend from my Warren neighborhood, and her husband Michael, joined our table. Reminiscent of the 2017 picnic, we mentioned our missing classmate. “We have no guarantees for a long life,” Jane said.

Marty lit the grill for the gang who ordered hot dogs and hamburgers. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my chicken salad sandwich and Michigan’s fresh fruit, there’s nothing like the aroma of a charcoal barbeque to authorize a picnic.

And you would’ve thought the laughter and decibel level declined while we consumed our meal. Not so. Perhaps due to those amongst us who spent a small fortune on hearing aids refuse to wear them.

Dear Reader, as the sun broke through the clouds, a group of women formed a semi-circle of lawn chairs on the edge of the pavilion. A mix of spouses and LHS graduates, they caught up on life between class reunions.

“My wife and the other girls decided they want to repeat this every summer,” Marty said.

            “Count me in.”               

The patience of a Blackberry lily


The first Blackberry lily bloom in my garden. 

As Mel and I walked the Polly Ann Trail, Char and Dan Sutherby relaxed in lawn chairs by their home in downtown Leonard. Char waved. “Stop for a visit on your way back,” she hollered.

            I’d met Char several times during events sponsored by the Friends of the Addison Township Library. However, I didn’t know Char’s home was the green, block cement house I admired on our walks. And I’d never met her husband.

            Now was my chance for an up-close look of their two-story farmhouse and spacious gardens. The cool, sunny fall day offered the perfect climate for congenial conversation.

            At last, Char announced, “The house and gardens have become too much for us. We’ll be moving up north within the year.”

            “Well, I’m happy for you two, but sad for us,” I replied.

            “Before we leave, I’ll give you some Blackberry lily seeds. The roots are prolific, so plant the seed where you want the flowers to steal the show. They’re small, but mighty,” Char said.

            When the Sutherbys moved, Char handed a bag of dried Blackberry lily stems to a friend who relayed them to me. The black seeds clustered on the stem’s end resembled blackberries, thus the common name for Iris domestica.

            Following “full sun” directions, I invested twenty-some seeds in the garden along the southern side of our garage. I also toyed with chance and sowed ten seeds in the backyard lower garden in part shade.

            I offered the remaining seeds to friends and forgot the Blackberry lily until springtime when I scouted for sprouts. 

            Nada. My fellow gardeners who planted Char’s seeds reported the same disappointing news.

            Another quick search on the internet recalled Blackberry lily seeds sometimes take three years to germinate. Flora must possess an independent spirit to find her place in my gardens. If this wee, orange blossom with red spots also known as “leopard lily” refused to bloom, so be it.

            Two summers later in the midst of a sustained drought, I turned the southern corner of the garage. There, a darling dark orange bloom lifted her little, red speckled face upward. A Blackberry lily! No, two blooms and several buds!

            Now, my eyes and hands know every inch of that little garden, what blooms in spring, summer, and fall. What I’d guessed a dropped and sprouted gladioli bulb had formed perfectly fanned flags unlike that of a glad.


            My solitary Blackberry lily is a member of the Iris family. This endears Char’s gift to me as another friend’s hand-me down purple irises do in the same garden. Successive bloom cheers a gardener’s heart.

            And more good news. These little freckled petals need no fertilization or winter protection, and are drought tolerant.

            Oh, what a pleasure to find a self-sufficient guest in my garden!

Dear Reader, the architecture of the spent bloom forms a perfect spiral, which later develops into a seed pod.

Patiently, I wait to observe this miracle. To harvest and share Blackberry lily seeds as Char did.