This is the house I lived in when I was born.
And this is the house I lived in when I went back to that place for three months, four years ago. It was my first little house all on my own.
I revisited that place because my first job - in a time when first jobs were not easy to find - was offered to me there. It was a long, slow, lonely summer. But I learned a lot.
And I revisited a lot of old places, like this playground across the street from my first home with my parents in Oscoda. On the old air force base, which is a retirement community now. I used to swing for hours. I loved the motion and how free I felt there.
The "woods", or little patch of trees behind the playground look smaller now, as things almost always do when you go back to them after lots of time has passed. I remember running through them looking for - and often finding - adventure, even if it was just make believe.
One day, I went on a date with a boy who thought I was pretty to a place called Dinosaur Gardens in a town called Ossineke. Some names of places up there, you can only pronounce well if you're from there.
I don't feel like I'm from there. I was born there by chance. I could have been born in another country or anywhere else in this one... But this is where I started.
I didn't like the boy very much, and he only liked me because he thought I looked like a famous actress and he was getting over a girl he'd been engaged to. After the dinosaurs, we ate Chinese food - the most delicious Chinese food I've still had in my whole life - and we played putt-putt golf and went to see a movie. All of the typical things you're supposed to do on a first (and in that case, only) date.
I worked Sunday-Thursday, and woke up most of those days at 1 p.m. like a zombie. I went to work at the newspaper at 2 p.m., and laid out pages in an outdated version of Quark until dinner time when I drove the short distance back home for dinner, and went back to work until the paper was finished usually by 11:30 or so.
When I came home, I could never sleep. So I watched DVDs from Netflix, played my ukulele, painted pictures and wrote stories. I also cooked, because I was learning to cook. Mostly, every few days I made a casserole or a big one-pot dish that I could keep in the fridge and nibble on until it was gone.
I wore sweatshirts all summer, and drank hot tea and only went to the beach mid-day on days off when the sun was high in the sky. Lake Huron felt big. In some ways, that summer was deflating, but it was also a breath of fresh air in a place I may never go back to.
I'm glad I have these memories now.