Here I am, back in Northern Michigan. I’ve survived a Significant Snow Storm, two beautiful 60-ish days, a snow melt that buried my driveway bridge under about a foot of water, and the profound silence of a rooster-less morning.
I’m not passing judgment on any of these things: it’s good to be home, to see my friends, family and dog. I’m happy. But as I was sitting in a large Chamber of Commerce meeting today, I was looking at the faces of the men and women who were entering the room. They were white—pasty, unhealthy white. There were tension lines around their mouths. They were frowning.
And we listened to L. Brooks Patterson tell us about Michigan’s economy. Oh, he tried to be positive—he’s a salesman, for sure, and a wordsmith. He has a kind of gruff charm that’s appealing. But basically he said little to easy the pain that etched the faces around me: our state is hitched to the automobile, single-mindedly chained to a product which is not meeting consumer demand. Our schools are not teaching the next important world language, Mandarin Chinese. As a state, we are not working as a team to identify our economic possibilities—like medical manufacturing and health care research. And we need free broadband access in our cities.
Listening to LBP and watching the creases deepen around the mouths of my colleagues, I grew saddened. I thought about the smooth brown faces of my Bahamian friends, their ready smiles, and the economic success worries that are absent when nobody has any treasure except themselves and their loved ones. My mind wandered back to my last afternoon in Tarpum Bay when Brenda knocked on our door.
She was carrying a plastic bag filled with pedicure supplies. “You’re not going home without nice feet,” she told me, and set to work filling a bucket with warm soapy water and massaging my feet.
“Wait a minute,” Lynn whined. “Today is MY birthday, and SHE gets a pedicure?”
“Okay, Miss Lynn. You’re my friend too. You can have one next.”
Lynn, of course, then volunteered to do Miss Brenda’s toes as well, and so when it came time that evening to go out to dinner, we three women had such beautiful feet! Delighted with our gifts to each other, we celebrated Kervin and Brenda’s wedding anniversary, Lynn’s birthday, and my farewell. Our toes were magnificent! (And the conch fritters weren’t bad, either!)
Looking around me in the meeting room today, it all seemed so far away. Only two weeks ago, but such a long time and distance.