Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's July 2021 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.
Look, kids, the sand dunes!”
“Dude, that’s dope.”
“Don’t call your father dude. And is dope bad?”
“No, it’s sick.”
“Dope is sick, or the dunes are sick? And what the hell is sick? Wait a minute, is someone gonna throw up?”
“Sick is lit, dad. Gucci? Helllloooo?”
“You know it drives me crazy when you use words I don’t understand.”
“OMG, don’t be so salty.”
“So salty’s bad, right?”
“Daaaad, why can’t you be more woke, you know, like Julie’s dad? He’s the GOAT.”
“Honey, I’ll try, but this is difficult for me. And when did Julie’s dad get a goat?
sigh, mumbling under breath…
“You’re such a Karen.”
And so goes the average family conversation en route to beautiful northern Michigan this summer. To say that’s a stereotype is obvious; to say it’s spot-freaking-on is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, your honor. Face it — if your kids are old enough for iPhones, and you’ve taken a vacay in the last couple of years, then this exact exchange sounds familiar, if not verbatim. While an ongoing battle at home, it’s nothing like what takes place within the confines of the Griswold Family Truckster, heading north to a puckered landscape braced for tourist impact.
The conversational gap between parents and their teenaged-ish kids has always been there, but things have progressed faster than a proton in a particle accelerator with the advent of modern technology, specifically, cell phones and instant access to all things internet. Kids are smarter these days simply because they type fast, google, and regurgitate. “iPhone” used to mean, “I-am-on-the-rotary-phone,” and Instagram was a Polaroid camera. Disdain for our parents occurred when dad wore black socks with shorts and tennis shoes to watch us play a baseball game. Now, we’re greeted with contempt if we dare to use one of their slang words in a pitiful attempt to fit in. We’re useless, rotting bodies relegated to voice texting because it’s faster than our one good index finger can type on a screen too small to see in the first place.
Locking the family in a moving vehicle for hours at a time equates to gas on a fire — and not “cool” fire, but a fiery explosion in a spectacular crash because dad drove off an embankment in what the police would surely classify as “swerving to avoid a deer” though they knew better.
But as utterly hopeless as it seems, some constants still exist: Kids need their folks, and northern Michigan rocks. We provide them with memories from trips to the beach, fishing, water skiing, putt-putt golf, and eating nine metric tons of ice cream, and they’re reluctantly reminded that mom and dad aren’t as dumb as they thought. Our neck of the woods has that way about it. It disarms even the most pretentious teenager to pause and appreciate the blue water and cherry orchards rolling by out the window, to look up from their electronics, to be the blue dot. All the hip lingo in their modern dictionary falls short to describe what this place has going for it, and for a brief moment, they know it.
With everything that’s been lost lately, family time is a premium. Few opportunities compare to a trek up north, where kids and parents are offered a blessed reverie from their conversational chasm amidst the vast dunes and sparkling water of this area. Parents exchange their geek hat for the cool one they donned during those precious pre-double-digit years, when moms and dads were still kings and queens of their little worlds.
And for a brief time in the grip of a warm summer getaway, everything’s fine. And ice. And fire. And dope. I mean, you know what I mean. #sick