We were almost home, less than a mile from turning onto our block a couple weeks ago.
My son had already fallen asleep in the back seat, leaving his older sister, Harper, to talk freely.
As we got closer to our turn, Harper had a question.
“Daddy?” she asked.
“Yeah?” I said.
“This is Michigan?”
She motioned to a farm and its many horses on the south side of the road.
“And that’s Michigan?”
I wasn’t really sure where this conversation was going, but she gestured again, this time to the subdivision where we live.
“And that’s Michigan?”
And then she made a grand gesture with her arms, spreading them as wide as she could.
“And this is all Michigan?”
“Yeah, why baby?”
By this point, I’d already slowed the vehicle and looked in her direction.
“I’m gonna miss Michigan a little bit,” she said.
I felt a lump form in my throat, finally in tune with what my 3-year-old was saying, and I responded.
“Can I tell you something, honey? I’m gonna miss Michigan, too,” I said. And I will — greatly.
It’s been an incredible five years, professionally and personally, since my wife and I moved here in October 2014, but it has come time to say goodbye to Traverse City and northern Michigan.
You’ve allowed me to tell your stories, welcoming me into your lives at some of your greatest and most challenging times. Those stories have always somehow been tied to sports, but they’ve been about your lives.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: as a storyteller, I have no stories to tell without you. Your openness and honesty is appreciated, because without his or her subjects, a writer is nothing.
And as you’ve told me about your lives, I’ve been living mine.
Both of my children are native Michiganders. They have loved the trips to my home state of Wisconsin to see grandmas and grandpas, but on an every-day level they’ve grown up to this point just like most of you.
This community welcomed me and my family as each one came along, and as thankful as I am for sharing your stories, I’m even more thankful for sharing your space, your state — the one I know you love as much as I love mine.
I have met and built relationships with so many wonderful people over the years, I truly could fill this entire sports section mentioning everyone who deserves my thanks.
It is tough to say goodbye. Michigan has been great to my family, but it’s time to go home.
Madison has a nice ring to it and a couple of beautiful lakes to help ease the newfound distance from Lake Michigan.
We’re looking forward to joining family and friends we haven’t seen enough since leaving Wisconsin more than seven years ago and all the opportunities ahead. My last day at the Record-Eagle is Friday, Sept. 6.
Thank you for making us at home while we were away from ours.
Goodbye, dear Mitten.