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Take a walk in Blue Bell Woods listen to the sounds around you, of bird song and bees. Smell the flowers and the scent of Spring in the air. Every year is a new beginning and every day a blessing

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Monday, July 31, 2017

My Town......................


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We were married in England and all my children were born there. The last one born in my parents bed in their home, my home.
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Here I am pregnant with Justin at my mums house holding Jason.
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Traverse City is as much my town now as anyone's. My husband was born here and brought me here in 1971/2.
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His Great Grandfather came here from Germany, two brothers made the trip and were some of the first to settle here. One moved on to Canada. One settled in Suttons Bay where his parents and grandparents lived and grew up. His mum (her family were French) and dad married and moved into Traverse City, it was a small town then. All the Schaub's had big families,I mean Gerry is one of 18.
So when I came here I thought it was the back of beyond. I was used to living in London after being raised in a small farming village in Bedfordshire. We seemed way ahead of this place with diverse cultures, refugees from WW2 and so on. I came to love it here in Michigan because I love the woods and lakes and wild life. I did not like the town though not for a very long time.
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When we first came to Traverse City I had two babies and an almost 5 year old. We stayed a short time at my husbands parents and that for me was shocking. So different to how I had been used to living and how I was raised. I was an only child and he one of 18. We were certainly poorer than a great many that I came to know in the States but my home was comfy and quiet. To move into a strangers home that was packed to the seams with 3 children of my own and my husband gone to finish out his air force existence. I was stressed and alone to say the least. It's a blur. To cap it off Jason my 18 month old got sick, I was used to doctors coming to the house and had to rely on my in-laws here. It was not until Jason was having convulsions that they agreed to take me to the doctor, that in itself was a shock because it was snowing outside and we had to go to the doctors office. They put the baby in isolation as we were new in the country. He was in what looked like a cage and they were packing him in ice and inserting Asprin into his bowels. The could not find anything wrong, in fact we never did find anything wrong. Suffice it to say my first weeks here were hell. Imagine raising 18 kids here? I am sure the older ones left as soon as they could or as I came to find out got kicked out.
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I hated the way the town looked. I mean, I came from typical English villages and come here to wooden houses that looked like shacks with all the overhead wires and the dirty snow. The in-laws lived on Barlow st hardly the best part of town. The boys at home at the time were sleeping in an attic bedroom on bare mattresses. When it came to meal times it was grab what you could and hope you got something. His mum never sat down to dinner she served the dad and kept refilling dishes on the table, that were empty as soon as she filled them. First night my 3 sat hands in laps waiting patiently and by the time I realized it was every man for himself we barely ate. Next night I fought for our share. The boys were not nice to Laura either.
I was not at all happy. (The buffalo farm where now there is a mall)
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When Gerry got back after a couple of weeks or so we finally found a trailer we could rent while he built our first house.
He worked with his dad who was a builder. There again, getting used to a casual way of paying us was not easy. Between jobs no money came in. Also I was not told anything so it was stressful not knowing if there was work or not. Anyway I went stir crazy in the 2 bedroom trailer that was right outside Chef Pierre as it was then. The trucks coming and going all night and nothing to do during the day, I wondered what I had got myself into. No car (I didn't drive) No footpaths so I couldn't walk anywhere I felt like a prisoner. Had to wait to be taken to the store and all of that. Did the laundry in the sink and boiled cloth diapers on the stove.
We eventually had a new house built on a new subdivision that his dad was building, we got a car but I still didn't drive. I was still isolated because there was nowhere to walk.
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No footpaths that I was used to in England. The subdivision was built on old cherry orchards and now there is a strip mall and condos next to that. At that time though there were no shops no mall nothing but a buffalo farm up the road. My parents came to visit and brought my little cousin Mark.
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I was used to being able to wander where ever I wanted to go. I would go alone over the fields and walk down to the village shops any time I wanted during my childhood and beyond. I was used to freedom.
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Here I was stuck inside with 3 kids and nothing to do and no company. I think I was almost insane with homesickness. It was like a jail especially when winter came and the windows had icicles that looked like bars. I could not take the kids out in the pram because there was nowhere to go.
I eventually made a couple of friends, so my kids had some kids to play with. A little girl next door and 3 over the back, they would all play down in one of the holes that had been dug out for a basement. They had a great time. Eventually I got to know a couple of sister in laws but that was not the same as the friends I had always had at home. Everything was so different and I did not like it at all. People did not just pop in for tea (coffee) and had to drive everywhere. I was used to neighbours popping in and out all day and being able to go see my friends any time I wanted. This is Mrs Bird chatting over the front hedge on her way to the shops........a daily occurrence.
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Of all things it seemed backwards to me, meaning behind the times. talk about culture shock. When Gerry's in-laws saw me in my mini skirts they said "well no one will be able to criticize Janet anymore "(the youngest girl). No one wore dresses here back then, and it was all I wore. Jeans were for down on the farm. We always dressed to go anywhere especially if visiting. So everyone kept asking why was I all dressed up, I wasn't. Also my accent, that became annoying too, everyone would either pick on it, try to copy it or be fascinated to the point of not hearing what I said because they were listening to my "accent". All my homemaking ideas were frustrated because I could not get what I wanted, when we got furniture we went down to Grand Rapids where they made the stuff. There was not a lot of choice here in Traverse City at that time. Eventually we decided we wanted to live out in the countryside and bought 40 acres out near Maple City. We built a lovely house and enjoyed it for a short time.
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Gerry was by then partners with his dad. I could not get used to not having a regular paycheck. I worried a lot back then before I relied on the Lord. Our first house took ages to sell. We were panicking because the economy and building was slow and we had 2 mortgages. We sold 5 acres, that helped a bit but eventually we had to sell the house and build another so Gerry had work. That was a big mistake. Still I don't dwell on that. I did learn to drive and so could get out a bit but didn't go far at that point. We made some friends out that way, but moved closer to town. Blizzard of 78 in the next picture. Could not get out all weekend.
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Things had still not picked up a lot so again we built another house and moved again. I still wanted to go home to England, originally we never intended to live here. My parents kept telling us we were better of here in the States, and unfortunately we listend. After we put the last house on the market and it didn't sell in time we gave up on the idea of going back to England. That's when the house sold and we were stuck, we found the house we now live in and have been here ever since.
The town has grown around us. The building trade boomed again and so Gerry has had regular work. I do love this house and we have done a lot to it.
We had given up on the idea of ever moving back to England. With our kids grown up, and Grand kid's back in the area and then having Tristen in our lives, well the time never came again.
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The town has changed, no longer the sleepy town it once was. Some things are better but it has become so crowded, that Bay is being hemmed in with hotels and now they want to build up scale condos on some of the remaining water front. Pretty soon we wont see the Bay. It will not longer be our town. Just another tourist trap. Time to move on?
Now here we are about to retire (Gerry) and Tristen has moved on to live with his aunt, I find myself dreaming again. This town is no longer our town its a tourist hub, full of strangers now. I want to go home. I really really do. I want to end my days where I began.

5 comments:

A Brit in Tennessee said...

Ooh Janice, I feel I have walked in your shoes. The same struggles of being a young transplant in an unfamiliar place, learning how things work in the USA comparted to all those years in England.
When I look back, there were times I wondered where I found the strength to continue, I missed my family and homeland infinitely.
Someone asked me once, where does an expat get buried, it is a question I struggled with for a long time. I think someday I too will return to my homeland, wouldn't it be lovely, A little cottage within walking distance of shops and buses, and those familiar accents everywhere you turn. .....
Love your pictures, you are such a beautiful lady. I bet your parents missed you greatly, as did mine.
Hugs,
~Jo

Janice Kay Schaub said...

Some day I would love to hear your story.

NanaDiana said...

Oh- we have so much in common...not that I came from another country but from another part of the USA and was completely excluded by my husband's family. It's a long story and I was so homesick...and had little kids and was STUCK. My hubby also worked with his dad and he paid him peanuts. We bought our first house and had to sell it because we couldn't afford to keep it. I had a son and then 7 years later I had 3 kids in 4 years...and then my mother came to live with us with dementia. A horrible, horrible time and I wonder sometimes how I ever got through it---as I am sure you wonder the same thing. But, we are tough, aren't we? Survivors!!

God bless you, Janice. xo Diana

Magic Love Crow said...

What a thoughtful, moving post Janice! I love your wedding picture! I feel, if your soul is calling you home, than you should go! Big Hugs!

Cindy Adkins said...

Very interesting to read about your life, Janice. I can only imagine how lonely and unhappy you were when you first came here. You should write a book! Hugs!