Or you can go to Walmart and buy new hair clippies and wear them all at the same time. With a dress that is buttoned inside out and shows your princess panties when you run. You can do that on Sugar Island.
And you can walk to the store and buy a makeup cell phone for your souvenir and spend a lovely afternoon helping your mother remember why she stopped wearing makeup after the blue eyeshadow incident of 1988.
All in the same day.
If you’re Grant, all the fresh air and lack of sleep make your lips even curlier. And you can sit around with crap on your face and make Grandpa proud by being the best eight year old catcher ever and building great fires with birch bark and a lighter and doing other dangerous stuff you can only do if you visit Sugar Island.
The one thing you can’t do if you visit Sugar Island anymore is take the boat to Richard’s Landing to the only decent restaurant around. You can look at Canada off in the distance. See it? But you can’t go there because you’re not allowed unless you pay a lot of money and jump through a lot of hoops and if you have four kids that will seem like too much trouble despite the lure of good food, so you’ll just make spaghetti and stay in America.
And you get to ride in front of all your neighbors who, on the mainland are serious people, but on the island are not.
Then you can eat a potluck dinner with three hundred strangers who quickly become like family. Afterward, if you’re on Sugar Island you can lay a blanket down and watch the best firework show in tarnation, thanks to Grandpa. He and his minions set off hundreds of them with names like “Imminent Danger” and “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “American Intensity”.
The next morning, your brother in law Al, will have a hole in his leg from firework shrapnel and the beach will look like this:
While you’re taking pictures of said beach, neighbors will roll up on their four wheeler and tell you to come to breakfast cause Tam’s making pampcakes and she has lots. And you’ll pile into the bed of the pickup in your pjs and with really bad breath and head over, wiping the fur off your teeth with the cuff of your sweatshirt and while you’re doing that you’ll thank God for the millionth time that no one cares what you look like on Sugar Island.
The neighbors cottage, aside from being just about the most charming place around, once belonged to Jimmy Hoffa. While you are eating your pampcakes with whipped cream and fourth of july sprinkles and made-to-order eggies, you can look up and still see the cigar smoke stains on the mahogany ceiling above where Hoffa’s bar used to sit.
Mr. Hoffa was supposed to be on the island when he disappeared, so this place and the woods surrounding it have been combed many times over looking for his body. It hasn’t been found. But if you’re on Sugar Island on the day after the fourth of July, you can eat at Maple Lodge (www.maplelodge.blogspot.com.) in your pjs and listen to the lore and wish your dad who loves history was there too.
Afterward, you might lay in the hammock and rock with your babies and whisper a breath prayer for this place and these people and this gift.
Then you might walk down the dock and see where past visitors have signed their names and left a quote in the dock boards.
Even Great Grandma DeWitt.
And lots of other people.
If you visit Sugar Island, you can spend really good time with your in-laws and remember why you loved them in the first place, beyond giving birth to your favorite person in the world, I mean. It’s because your mother in law is the most unassuming, down-to-earth creature and she makes you feel very comfortable in your own skin. It’s because when your in-laws get the chance to just sit and watch your kids play in the water and make believe with their cousins, their eyes sparkle and you know they are in love. It’s because your mother in law says stuff like, “cucumbers are dumb” and you realize it’s true, you just would never have thought of saying it out loud and certainly not when you are trying to get your child to eat his vegetables. But grandmothers can do that. They are allowed.
They are also allowed (but just barely) to take your kids to the Walmart in the Soo and buy them a new polyester basketball outfit so you can stop washing the orange one they got last time and just throw it away. They are allowed to echo the kids asking for “just a little longer?” as bedtime nears and to be the last face you see in the rear view mirror as you head back home.
If you ever go to Sugar Island, be sure to go over the fourth of July because we’ll be there. We wouldn’t miss it for the world.