September, 2001 | Jan Harley

Here I go again, venturing out on another new beginning in my life. I was on my way for a little vacation with my boyfriend, Al. He had invited me for the first time to visit him at his home in Michigan.  What a beautiful Fall day I had to travel.  A brilliant blue sky silhouetted vibrant red maples and glistening yellow oaks.  The color pallet was gorgeous.  The smell of burning leaves and dots of orange pumpkins on front porches beckoned me on.  My 11-hour drive from Minnesota was a peaceful time to reflect on past experiences and contemplate new beginnings.

Anticipating the start of a new life with Al, I reflected on the fact that I have been a single Mother for seven years now and sharing visitation of my 10-year-old daughter, Nicole.  Nicole’s Dad had just begun a new job in Rochester, MN.  I had moved this summer to Rochester from the Detroit area to be near my daughter, her Dad and his new family.  This long drive offered me plenty of time to ponder the many paths my life has taken in 48 years.

I mulled over the past two years being away from Nicole.  I moved in with my parents in Detroit to work and get back on my feet after being financially challenged in a child custody suit.  I thought to myself, ”What a heart wrenching experience that was being away from my one and only child.”  A defining moment in my life indeed. I now felt Nicole and I are closer than we have ever been.  It goes to show that our spirits and our love transcends geographic distances.  Our letter writing, phone calls and long visits during the summer are quality times that contribute to our close bond. We certainly do not take each other for granted.

Driving past the East Lansing exit, I pensively wondered where my life would take me with Al and his family now in the picture.  As I rounded the corner of Michigan Avenue and West Michigan, just outside Saginaw, my heart began to race.  There it was, Andrew Street, exactly as the directions read. Al would be eagerly awaiting my arrival. After all, Al and I had been apart for 30 years.  

Al and I had dated a few times in high school and developed an affection for one another.  But as life so often takes you down those windy road, we had gone our separate way.  Unexpectedly, our eyes met at our 30-year High School Class Reunion last summer and it didn’t take long for us to realize we deeply loved one another.  I recalled the time in high school Al had dropped me off at home after a date.  All of eighteen years old, with hands clasped tightly behind his back and a nervous voice, he whispered goodnight to me.  Our eyes barely met as he apprehensively walked away to his car leaving me standing on my front porch alone. I daydreamed, “If only he had kissed me! Would we have been together all these years? Would we have gotten married? What would our lives be like? Would we have children and what would they look like? As these thoughts encircled my mind, they quickly vanished as pictures of my beautiful daughter Nicole came flooding into my mind like the first light of daybreak.  I would never trade those thoughts for my sweet, precious daughter.  There are many lessons I had learned in life and the one that stands out so overwhelmingly at this minute was how blessed and grateful I am for my daughter, Nicole.  She is the light of my life.  Her jubilant spirit and loving character far exceed any thoughts of actually living a different life.

Pulling myself out of these thoughts, I saw Al frantically waving at me.  I had indeed arrived.  Al ushered me into his home and proudly introduced me to his three handsome boys; ages 19, 21 and 23.  His beloved Siberian husky, Pop, jumped up on me and approvingly licked my hand.  Yes, it was quite the contrast to life I had led thus far.  A house full of the male species. I was charting new territory here and I could feel the excitement of good times with this new family unit.