Michigan Mementos

From the Petoskey stones in her jewelry to the photographs in her house, Lynn Petrak describes how keepsakes of Michigan help her survive the cold winter months. Hear more on how she carries these mementos from Living in Michigan all year-round on Pure Michigan Connect!

I am trudging across a city street on a day with subzero wind chills and not a speck of sunlight. As I pull my hat down over my ears to keep warm, I brush my hand against my earrings, with their smooth stone and gritty glass, and actually smile.

A bit of Michigan shoreline does that to you.

On days that are seemingly light-years away from sunny beaches, I like to wear the earrings that I bought at an outdoor Michigan craft fair a few years ago. A local artisan fashioned them from sky-blue beach glass and Petoskey stones, and the jewelry is as pretty as it is comforting to me.

I have bits and pieces of Michigan all over my home, in fact. I like to think they keep me connected to my parents’ summer home on Hamlin Lake in Ludington, a stretch of spectacular dunes, clear water and clean air in central Western Michigan. 2011 marks our family’s 40th summer in Ludington and the 14th summer I’ve shared the experience with my own four children.

We may only spend two weeks on our beloved lake and at the jewel that is the Ludington State Park, but they are the highlight of our year. Given the special place that Hamlin Lake, Ludington and Michigan hold in our hearts, we bring back reminders of our trip every year, to sustain us through the long winter and spring.

In addition to my earrings, I often wear a necklace with a Petoskey pendant that my son gave me a few years ago. I once bought a watch made from dune sand.

Each of my three sons has a Petoskey stone on their desk. My sons and daughter also have t-shirts from Redamaks in New Buffalo, where we always stop for burgers on our trip to the cottage.

Last year, I bought a framed map of Hamlin Lake that now hangs in our TV room, underneath a wooden sign reading, “Memories are Made in Michigan” and next to a picture of a lakeside sunset snapped by my photographer sister. She has taken hundreds of pictures of our favorite Michigan places and people over the years, and I’ve used many of them in scrapbooks and frames. Photos of the area also grace my house, courtesy of two stunning coffee table books by Ludington photographer Todd Reed and his son, Brad.

Looking around our house, one can see Michigan mementoes in almost every room, from the vintage resort postcards on the mantle to the lighthouse and carferry ornaments that hang on our Christmas tree to the jar of Lake Michigan rocks in my children’s bathroom.

As with those rocks that line so many stretches of the Great Lakes, each year brings a new opportunity to find a keepsake that is Pure Michigan.  On the bitterest days of an urban winter, those keepsakes are like sand in my shoes after a long day at the beach: a reminder of where I’ve walked and where I joyfully will return.

Lynn Petrak has spent every summer since she was two years old on Hamlin Lake, in Ludington Michigan and plans to retire there with her husband, who is an avid fly fisherman. A writer in La Grange, Illinois and a mom of four, she’ll always have room for more Michigan mementoes.

5 thoughts on “Michigan Mementos

  1. We have lived in many of the Great Lakes states and visited lots of places around the world, but there’s no place that compares with West Michigan. When our kids were younger our vacations always found us at the Homestead in Glen Arbor or at a cottage on Lake Charlevoix. We lived for a time in North Muskegon and now think fondly of our quick trips to the beach there.

    After retiring and selling our home in Northville, we’ve elected to live the gypsy life, moving every 3-4 months to rented, furnished condos in beautiful places across the US. However, we return every winter to a rented condo in Ludington where we overlook the marina, channel and Lake Michigan sunset. Some think we’re crazy to winter here, but Ludington’s beauty is not restricted to summer months. And we’ve been fortunate to meet and become friends with other “crazies” who can’t get enough of Ludington. Great cross country skiing, snow shoeing and good indoor exercise places too. To top it off, wonderful restaurants (Blu Moon, Redolencia, James Street, PM Steamers), the best pizza in the world (Chuck Wagon), good music when Mike Lenich and his pal play or we take in the Hart concert and folk series and the West Michigan Symphony in Muskegon.

    Every time I return here I paraphrase the line from Field of Dreams – “Is this heaven? No it’s West Michigan!”

  2. You have Ludington for two weeks… my family has it 24/7/365. A beautiful place to live, but hard on lack of employment. My sister and her children do basic jobs to stay there. As for my parents, Mom is in a Ludington nursing home, Dad has a place for the rest of time: the cemetery across the road from Lake Michigan. He and his father-in-law could get up and go fishing.

    Gotta get back there! My husband wanted his old stomping grounds in PA.

  3. A beautiful article about one of our favorite places! Brings back memories of all the times we have shared in MI together, Lynn!

  4. Hi, Lynn. I don’t know you, but I feel like we are kin because of our love for Michigan. I nodded as I read your beautiful essay, since I have many Michigan mementos in my house. My framed map of the Leelanau Peninsula has a place of honor in my dining room, since we are there most often! I have different prints throughout the house and am often found with a piece of beach glass in my pocket as a reminder.

    Thank you so much for sharing your Michigan thoughts! I truly enjoyed reading them.

    Karen Dubrinsky
    Huntington Woods, MI

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