Our Frugal Funeral Trip to Michigan
Thursday, May 30, 2013
It was a nice trip - but a sad occasion. My mother-in-law died suddenly and we found we were bound to Upper Michigan for a week for the funeral. My husband got the time off as bereavement - so that helped...) We flew no-frills SW Airlines, which allows you to carry more bags without cost than other airlines. And there is no food on the plane, but we made sure to eat well before we departed, and had plenty of water with us from the airport. (They make you abandon your water bottles at security, so have a disposable...)This is probably old hat to anyone who travels a lot - but I somehow hadn't flown in years, so it was fairly new to me. Also remembered to wear slip-off shoes with pants stockings (and jeans) to help go through the check point. I was also glad I had a book to read - because there was no in-flight movie or music! Also, I marked the bags with gold-colored ribbons, so we could identify them when they came out on the turntable.
(Hubby had run out to our local Goodwill to buy our luggage - 4 bags for about $20! and they were perfectly nice....)
Once there, we rented a car with a discount from SouthWest - They tried to sell us insurance that was more than the daily rental costs - but we have coverage on our auto insurance, so we passed that by! Wheelie luggage of the sort we had made it easier to go through the airport without renting a chart - and we had packed fairly light - leaving room for anything we took back. So, all in all, we didn't incur any airline fees beyond normal. Southwest had no designated seating, and we had gotten our tickets late (and there is no accounting for bereavement nowadays) - so we were the LAST on the plane - but on the way back we remembered to confirm EARLY and then got in the middle of the plane. (And on the way back, we took one of the bags as a carryon - because it had breakable things in it...)
Once there, we stayed at our mother-in-law's old place along with hubby's brother Peter, and we were glad that we could be with him at this hard time. There was some planning for the funeral - but my mother-in-law had planned most of it out beforehand - so all was left was to get the lilacs she loved from local bushes (and somewhat force them to bloom by putting them in warm water...) and putting up her art work on easels in the vestibule of the church - One of her daughters put together a big photo collage of her life and family - and there was also a book of family photos to look at. Both very nice ideas, Afterwards the people in the church had a nice hot lunch for us, too.
I found a place to wear my bargain thriftshop black Chico's jacket top, over a long-sleeved black tee, and with soft pants. - Everything traveled very well, and nothing needed ironing! I had run across a natural pearl necklace at a steal price at the local Goodwill the day before (I always check out the thrift stores, etc.) and I wore it to the funeral - not telling anyone when I was complimented on it that I had just acquired it that way! I don't think they knew at Goodwill that it was real - but it was handknotted and had the right sheen and texture and weight. It was worth at least several times what I paid for it. Who would think about finding pearls in Upper Michigan? And my hair held up nicely - expensive haircuts do have their value, as they grow out so nicely.
The service was very nice and simple - and her musical daughter and her husband and friends played 2 gospel hymns - which made the service more personal and memorable. The night before all the children (with children and step-children, they numbered seven, plus THEIR children and spouses - ) we had a BBQ with discount steaks and homemade salad and local pies and lots of beer - and listened to the bluegrass group rehearse over the evening. We all talked, and my husband caught up with everyone, as he hadn't been home in too long.
The rest of the time hubby and his brother caught up with old friends - I went antiquing and found a STEAL in a 19th/early 20th C. German bisque doll dressed as a Dutch girl- which I got for $25 - and which is probably - according to my internet research worth at least $125-165! I never thought I would be able to afford another bisque doll for my small doll collection!
We also drove around and saw places they used to go for picnics - and there was more antiquing and I found some nice blue-green glass insulators - lovely color and ANOTHER short strand of pearls I think may be cultured - for $1. We also found a handmade Packer wooden plaque which we bought and gave to Peter - as he has a collection of Packer memorabilia and wouldn't have anything like THAT. We drove around my late mother-in-law's old car - which had gas - and which was larger and more comfortable than the smaller rental -
We also headed out to a resort that hubby's mother and father had liked to stay in. There were deals on a game of golf - so hubby and Peter played a "memorial golf classic" in this course which is beautiful and on an island, so it is surrounded by a river. They have a Friday night fish fry at the lodge (Al Capone is rumored to have stayed there) - a tradition in those parts - and quite inexpensive.
One day after the funeral we drove up to Door County (you have to swing down and around to get up to the peninsula - saw an historic light house and went up and visited again with one of the sisters. It is beautiful country. Pure Michigan, as the ad campaigns say and all that green spring nature was beautiful and a balm, giving one a sense of continuity. There are visitor centers in both Wisconsin and Michigan (they are across the river from each other here) - and there are bountiful brochures and guides, and even a booklet that had B&W postcard pix of the lighthouses (there are HUNDREDS in this area!) Hubby had breakfast with several old friends, and generally re-connected to his roots. It IS a different life up there! Coming back to the pace of even Milwaukee - where we flew out - is a big change! And the people did look different in LAX!
P.S. If you are up in that neck of the woods, I recommend the pasties - meat pies said to originate with the Cornish miners who worked in that area, who brought them to work with them. It's a real local specialty!