When I announced in my New York area synagogue that I was marrying a man from Michigan, people rolled their eyes. “Good luck,” my friends wished me, shaking their heads. “You won’t survive one winter there.”
Well, it’s been six winters now, and as I flood my Facebook friends with pictures of beautiful Michigan days, I try not to rub their snow-filled New York noses in my bliss. Yes, Michigan took some getting used to, but I was surprised to learn that living in Michigan has some exclusive benefits. Here are some of the things I’ve learned as a Michigander:
1. Why walk when you can drive to walk? In New York, I walked all over town. I love walking. In cities, I walk to window shop and people watch. In the burbs, I looked at all the beautiful mansions I would never own, imagining what they were like inside.
Fast forward to Michigan—land of the automobile—if you want to walk, you drive to your walking destination. But I will not be deterred. In fact, I have discovered some beautiful places that I can drive to, including the Detroit Zoo (just two miles away!), the tony city of Birmingham, rolling hills and trails in Kensington Park, and a northerly stroll up Lasher Road. All my walking routes offer both exercise and beautiful scenery to enjoy, albeit more solitude than I’m used to. Come on, Michiganders—get out of your cars and WALK!
2. Winter in Michigan is a snow globe! While New York gets its monumental Nor’easter snow, ice, and cold, Michigan has just enough snow and ice accumulations to go cross-country skiing, a sport I never knew of in New York. My husband has the amazing ability to look out the window on even the greyest of days and proclaim, “What a beautiful day!” My New York black and white attitude insists that cold is cold, grey is grey, and ice and snow should melt in the hot sun the day after a storm.
That said, after moving to Michigan, I learned to find peace on a frozen lake. There was the indescribable beauty of wind blowing gusts of snow across a frigid lake as I shifted my legs back and forth, traversing waters I swam in just a few short months ago. If you haven’t walked on a frozen lake, I highly recommend the experience.
3. It’s all about that lake. Michigan is lake country. Kayaking and boating on the lake, jumping in the water that ranges from icy to warm on any given day in July, and fishing is worth every nasty skeeter bite I sustain each summer. It is a lot easier to get to pristine places in Michigan than it is in New York. While New York has its beautiful summer vacation places—the Adirondacks, Finger Lakes, Saratoga—Michigan raises the bar with its Upper Peninsula, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and quaint places like Holland, all just a short drive “up north.”
4. Kosher specialties begin at home. With kosher restaurants, take out, and brands available in stores, New York wins when it comes to availability of kosher food. Yes, we have one dedicated kosher food shop, a butcher, some bakers, and a few kosher restaurants, but Michigan has some growing to do when it comes to the kosher food arena.
On the upside, what I have discovered living in the Oak Park and Southfield areas, are a number of cottage industry food businesses, run by women from the privacy of their own homes. These women supplement their income by making amazing homemade kugels, traditional kosher foods, cheesecakes, pies, fresh made pizza dough, cookie dough, dips, challahs, beautifully decorated cupcakes, and delicious cookies, selling purely through word of mouth and Facebook. While the selections might be somewhat limited, the quality and the authenticity of the homemade food is certainly better than most take-out in New York. So once again, Michigan’s got a very satisfying solution.
5. The people are nice. Yes, I know that sounds like a good thing, and most of the time it is, except when a busy mom is trying to breeze in and out of Target or the grocery store. I found myself so distracted by the incessant chit chat of the checkout line that twice I’ve left my purse behind. On one of my first Michigan dates with the man who is now my husband, a cashier winked as she informed me that the watermelon in my cart is an aphrodisiac, but warned that too much of it can cause diarrhea. TMI on a first date, I’m afraid.
The good news is that when I did leave my purse behind, people were so nice I immediately received a phone call and got my bag back completely intact. So I’ve learned that nice is not a bad thing at all.
So in the end, for this old New Yorker, while it has been a learning experience, Michigan has come up with some sweet surprises that I never expected when I moved here.