Photo: Michael Deemer/Shutterstock

13 Memories You Have if You Grew Up in Michigan

by Cathy Brown Jan 31, 2018

1. Canada meant alcohol.

Whether you crossed from Detroit to Windsor or through Sault St. Marie up north, your 19-year-old self couldn’t believe how easy it could be to just walk into a party store and come out with beer.

2. Bringing up the idea of buying a Volvo or a Mazda once.

Then you learned. Oh, the frustration when you tried to explain to your Detroit born-and-raised dad how most of the parts in his Ford were actually made overseas and he just wouldn’t listen to logic. You had to hear about ‘Built Ford Tough’ and all that jazz until he was practically blue in the face. You still to this day feel slightly guilty every time you eye a Volkswagen.

3. The indisputable awesomeness of moon boots.

And, let’s not forget, your Yooper mom probably made you stick your feet into bread bags first before you could slip into those little gems when she sent you out to shovel the ten feet of overnight snow. Am I right?

4. Snow day superstition rituals.

You had your very own snow-day superstitions and you weren’t afraid to use them! You might have thrown ice cubes out the window before bed. Wore a colored sock on your left foot but not your right. Did your special snow dance. Put a spoon under your pillow.

Ahhh, the waiting of ten grueling minutes while the WZZM 13 announcer listed off, in alphabetical order, the 300 schools in the region closed that day (bastards on the lakeshore in Holland always seemed to get out of school, stupid lake effect!) — and the relief when your school was finally called. Back to bed, feeling super empowered that your night-before tricks worked their magic, then up again at noon to go build tunneled snow forts or make grandiose plans to sled off the roof.

On your unlucky days you somehow got stuck shoveling the driveway. All. Day. Long.

5. Ah, so many Michigan sports moments…

Whether you remember the Piston’s Vinnie Johnson sinking that 18-foot jumper with 0.7 seconds left in the 1990 NBA Championship Final; or you recall Barry Sanders inspiring actual hope in you for the Lions (it was finally going to be their year, you just KNEW it!); or when your heart broke at the news of Vladimir Konstantinov’s 1997 accident that left him paralyzed just six days after he helped the Red Wings take the Stanley Cup, it’s guaranteed that every Michigander has some sports memory that they carry with them.

6. Fitting a Halloween costume over a snowmobile suit.

Unless you wanted to hit up the lame indoor trick-or-treating at the local Grace Bible Church, you had to somehow coordinate gloves, a winter hat, a scarf, and snow boots into the creative vision, whether you were a princess or a pirate. Because no matter how beautiful the autumn had been, come Halloween night, freezing rain or snow always seemed to fall like clockwork.

7. Taking back pop cans for money.

Notice they certainly weren’t called ‘soda’ cans — this is Michigan we are talking about. Whether you needed money to put a few bucks of gas in your car or wanted to hit Boyne or Crystal on Saturday, all you had to do was go around and collect all the cans lying around in the house/garage/car and turn them in for their 10-cent deposit. How simple money-making was for you back then! And remember how out-of-this-world modern it seemed when Meijer and Kroger’s first got the automated machines to stick your pop cans into?

8. Vacations to Cedar Point or Mackinaw Island.

Your family or a friend’s family, who you tagged along with, went to one of those two places practically every single summer. Who needed exotic, expensive vacations when there was endless Rocky Road fudge and acres of rollercoasters within such close reach?

9. Raking a gigantic pile of crunchy, rainbow-colored leaves and jumping into them.

Your parents pulled this one off well. They took you to Quality Farm and Fleet and let you pick out the adorable kid-sized rake that looked like it was made for you. They did not tell you that you would voluntarily be putting in hours of child-labor yard work; they told you it would be fun. And it was. That shit never got old. And when you finally went inside, there was nothing better than Robinette’s sugar-coated cider donuts washed down with apple cider.

10. Eating icicles.

Whether you lived in Heritage Hill in G.R. or an old farmhouse in Kalkaska, all you had to do was open the window, crack one off the old overhang, and you basically had a free popsicle any time you wanted. Kid heaven.

11. Going ‘Up North’ to the cottage.

Whether the cottage was a crumbling shit shack in Marquette or a 12-bedroom mansion in T.C., whether it was yours, your cousin’s, or your friend’s cousin’s, there was always a place “Up North” to head to for tubing, euchre playing, shooting potato guns, and eating way too many s’mores by the campfire at night. Tradition dictated that there should be a stop somewhere on the road trip up there for a Blue Moon or Superman ice cream cone.

12. Opening day of deer season.

Kinda hoping dad would come home with a 12 point from Alpena so he wouldn’t be bitching and sulking until next year’s season, but kinda hoping he wouldn’t. The deer parts in the freezer were slightly fascinating but mostly creepy, and no matter what they said, venison did not taste the same as hamburger.

13. Racing down sand dunes.

No matter that you inevitably fell and somersaulted out of control most of the way down, filling your every orifice with sand and not being able to get it all out for days, running down the gorgeous Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes with Lake Michigan stretching for miles ahead of you was like a childhood rite of passage.

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