A big wind moves Lake Huron wave after wave. They roll and crest white and break in the bay and push ice against ice so there is a constant roar. Our inland sea is angry with the way Mother Nature threatens its freedom.
“Hear that?” I ask Oogie. She is five and tiny and I am her everything.
“Yes, Daddy,” she says and holds my hand as we walk the bi-path at Bay View Park.
My wife, S.B., looks at us and smiles. She’s pretty and bright-eyed and put together so well and so naturally that she looks like she belongs everywhere. Times Square. Navy Pier. Northern California. Iowa. Portland, Oregon. And here—our hometown—Alpena, Michigan. She is the sun, the moon, the stars I cannot see as we walk under the orange lights and I wish for all of us to keep this time. This moment. So we never part.
The lake howls.
“Sounds a little scary, doesn’t it?” I say to her.
“Not really,” she says, but that’s my S.B. She’s unafraid and graceful and somehow loves me unconditionally. At my best and my worst. In my past and into the days we’ve yet to know. Sometimes, I’m sure we’ve done this all before.
The air is cold as it blows over the big rocks along the shoreline. And the sound of the December surf is frightening.
“I’m not scared,” Oogie shouts. She releases my hand and takes off running after her brother, Little Man. He is older and braver and smarter and faster and stronger than all of us and he is climbing the hill near the band shell. He flops down into the snow, calls for his sister to come join him. He’s eight and on top of the world.
S.B. stops to watch. I keep walking. Move away from the sounds and my selfish wishes until I’m near my favorite tree—a twisted elm—and its stark, gnarly presence is exactly what I need to forget that I’m perpetually tired and stressed and stretched too thin and that I am fortunate to have this simple moment with my wife and kids.