1. Seeing Santa Claus land on the Schmidt's roof when I was 4 yrs old. -- and Yes he did!
2. Playing baseball in the lot between our home and the Schmidts and Moravys. And ice skating on the water filled, frozen rink Dad created every winter in the same empty lot.
3. Watching and waiting for a converted hearse/trailer to arrive at Lake Margrethe signifying the arrival of a funny old grandpa and a grandma that spoke with an accent even when she said, "Oh, Joe!"
4. Knowing camping parties did not really begin until the converted BUS arrived, loaded with the O'Brien cousins and the best Aunt and Uncle a girl could ask for. And benefitting from Aunt Phyllis' S'more knowledge and techniques perfected during her years as a Girl Scout leader & mom-extraordinaire.
5. Collecting eggs at Aunt Marie's farm while they were still soft! And having warm manure squish between my toes.
6. Planting thousands of tree seedlings at the 4D. And running and running in the fields at The 40, exploring what seemed at the time to be comparable to the Amazon and seeing & hearing all the wildlife -- including the giant, nasty ant hill.
7. Receiving a great education at Sacred Heart Academy in a class with over 40 kids and one dedicated teacher.
8. Riding our single speed, banana seat bikes out to The 40 on the gravel shoulder without fancy water bottles or camelbacks, or multiple speeds, or cabled brakes and being blissfully happy and safe in the humid heat of Michigan summers.
9. Playing badminton at Grandpa Joe's Columbiaville Lake cottage with grandparents, aunts and uncles that made me believe the world was my oyster and that we were better than that 'other' Irish family, the Kennedys...:
- Debonair Uncle Tom and his magnificantly beautiful wife, Aunt Gayle
- Sister Michaelette, aka Aunt Eileen, who knew how to have fun even in full nun attire
- Uncle Mike, who used to hold me and read the newspaper to me until I fell asleep and his mysteriously foreign and beautiful wife, Aunt Doris
- Grandpa Joe who was more focused on keeping his cigar lit and playing penny poker
- Grandma Anne who was more focused, thankfully, on making perfect stuffed cabbages
- Tall and rascally Uncle Neil who was always trying to get one over on my Dad and his brothers
- Peacemaker Aunt Phyllis who I thought was the original WonderWoman
- and cousins and siblings who made everything more fun, including fishing with loooooong, bamboo poles off of Grandpa's dock.
10. Learning the marvels of reading: endless books, maps, and sheet music.