The last day of my first year as a school librarian is coming to an end which means that over 60 days lie ahead of me before I walk back into this building. Life has not rolled out for me in a way that I can lounge through those days, I have more bills than I do funding. I live in a garage apartment. Not a cute apartment above a garage or a little mother-in-law house which is referred to as a garage apartment, but literally in a garage that was turned into an apartment. My bedroom is a two-door garage, sealed with a concrete floor. I have molded the space into a colorful mini-museum of my loves and am thankful to live in a vibrant, safe neighborhood, but this isn’t exactly where I thought I would be at 51. I have had many painful nights of reflection and adjustment to be at peace with my living space. The space isn’t designed to keep out the extreme heat and humidity of a Houston spring, let alone a Houston summer. It is May and the air conditioner is chugging with difficulty while the air, save the two feet around the unit continues to pulse with heat. My love of Houston has weakened this year as the air quality continuously drops and a dark, ugly smog lay over the cityscape more days than not. The thought of being at home all summer in this combination of allergy-laden, heavy, and hot air is soul-breaking. Lucky for me, tomorrow I begin a journey like none other I have undertaken. I will travel 1300 miles from the deep south to the upper shores of America with three cats to live in a camper for the summer, working at a boutique in a community that holds some of the best memories of my youth.
It is 2023. My 27-year marriage has dissolved, and I have spent the last five years fighting depression, have had two illnesses that caused me to be hospitalized and have surgery and have changed careers, including two jobs and three moves. My life has been in a blender. Thankfully, that blender included an unexpected trip that set my summer adventure in motion.
My friend offered to have me stay with her in Door County, Wisconsin for a week. I flew from the humid, sameness of Houston to the crisp air and kaleidoscopic leaves of the American Midwest. An idyllic area lovingly referred to as the Cape Cod of the Midwest, Door County featured prominently in my youth with endless weekend trips, holidays, and celebrations. When I was 20 years old and months away from marrying, I arranged for my husband-to-be and I to work at a hotel in Door County, WI. I would be a maid, and he would tend to the yard. We both wanted to find a way to spend more time there and didn’t have the means to do so. It was a romantic vision of a way to begin our life together which wasn’t meant to be. Reality hit us fast and hard when we realized that we couldn’t even afford to get there and back and needed to find “real” jobs immediately When my kids were born, we continued the traditions with them until our move to Texas in 2007. Since that time I had only been black to DC one time. Returning last fall reignited the unbridled desire I had as a younger woman to have more time there. Not just vacation time- but actual living time.
As my friend and I drove up and down the peninsula, we wandered into a store called Castle Imports, and my friend began talking to the store owner, Amy. She shared that her main frustration and complaint with owning a shop in Door County was that she struggled to get reliable, and effective summer help. She wished she knew a teacher who would want to live in and work in Door County all summer. Our conversation lengthened and deepened, and when I left with a hug and her email, I was quite sure that I would see Amy again. After months of back-and-forth messages it was agreed that I would be her summer employee and all three of my cats, Rose, Gatsby, and Daisy would be joining me.
On Saturday, May 27th that adventure begins! I hope to hit all of the lighthouses, read, read, read, see several plays, volunteer at the Door Shakespeare Theatre, visit several beaches, Door County Brewing Co., and more. Follow my journeys with me here and on Instagram if you wish!
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” William Shakespeare