I have so many things to say about our month in Michigan, I don’t even know where to start. I’ll do my best
Point 1: Michigan in January is cold. (FYI).
Really, the cold didn’t get to me too much. We found some great indoor playspaces (including the one at the mall, where my kids would happily have spent every morning). But the ice and snow were an issue. I hated having to make the call about whether to cancel rehearsal if the roads were bad. We had a compressed rehearsal period (only four weeks), and we ended up missing two or three because of weather. I don’t envy school superintendents who have that responsibility every day. It’s stressful! I also enjoyed rehearsal so much that I got super cranky if I had to cancel it. I’m not a fan of driving in the ice and snow, but Scott, my production manager/music director/brilliant actor friend offered to do most of the driving, which was very kind of him.
Point 2: We love Michiganders!
Everywhere I went, I met lovely and kind people. People in stores smiled at my kids. Random strangers gave them stickers for no good reason. Scott’s brother spent an hour drawing them dinosaur pictures and letting them pick through his collection of animal figures. Parents at playgroups and story times made friendly conversation.
And then, there were all the people we knew from before, the friends we were reconnecting with. We’re building a second community there–nothing quite like our rich and encompassing Harrisonburg community, but a community, nonetheless. I enjoyed getting together with the first Linda who hosted me in 2009, when I came to do Julius Caesar. Many of the actors I worked with are ones that I met in my previous two productions there, and I was thrilled to see their names on the cast list this time. Our this-time and last-time hosts, Steve and Linda, were unfailingly patient and kind with us. Coming into their house felt like returning home. Their daughter Taleah, who was in Caesar, has a daughter Silas’ age and a son younger than Petra.
Linda watches the kids once a week, and mine would count down the days until their little friends would come over again. They were so sad when we said goodbye for the last time.
Point 3: There’s lots of fun stuff to do in West Michigan, even in the dead of winter (assuming the roads are clear).
It sounds kind of crazy, but there is a ton of stuff going on. If I hadn’t been with kids, there would have been even more to do (I can think of three plays that opened the same weekend as mine, for example). The kids and I went all over the place and had a blast. We visited a swim park in Holland, the Meijer Gardens, the mall, two libraries (frequently). Whenever the weather was remotely decent (above 20*, minimal wind), we went outside, for a hike or to visit a snowy playground. We checked out the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum as well as the Public Museum. We spent a couple afternoons at a nature education center. We weren’t bored, certainly.
Point 4: My family is awesome.
I have had so much support from my family in this endeavor. My mom drove up with us (THANK YOU MOM). JC flew up to spend the last week, see the show, and drive home. He was so sweet about it–the fact that he values what makes me happy and fulfilled means so much to me.
And my kids. Oh, my goodness.
The last time I did this, Silas was 15 months old when we got there, and I had just–maybe two days before I left–found out that I was pregnant with Stinky Pete the Pirate Princess. And we were there for eight weeks because we had to do two versions of the show. The show was great and I was happy to be working on it, but that trip was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. There were days I questioned whether any of my life plans were remotely possible. I wondered if that would be my last play ever. If it would just kill me.
Now, though, things are so different. My kids told me often that they missed JC and they missed our house and our cat and goats and dog, but they were happy. They were as well behaved as they ever are at home. When I left them with a sitter to go to rehearsal, they were just thrilled at having a new person to entertain them, not clingy or weird. They’ve given me confidence to try to find more work like this–maybe closer to home, but things where I would go rehearse a play and take them to explore a new city with me.
I tried to thank Silas for being so great, because this play meant so much to me. He looked at me sort of weirdly and said, “I thought we were just here because you wanted me and Petra to see Michigan.” It must be nice being the center of the universe! 🙂
I’m so grateful to everyone who helped me along with this trip. Rehearsal was hard, but good (more on that later), but the life and logistics side felt nearly easy. Amazing.