I remember Aunt Agnes Peterson on Hilltop a small cottage in Upper Michigan where she lived for nearly 100 years, much of it alone after her beloved husband Alfred died. We would visit Agnes in the summers when staying at a family cottage on the Hamilton Lake chain near Norway, Michigan. This was where my wife’s family heritage began. There in the Northwoods were Petersons and Sandersons who made a living through a lumber mill in Cunard.
Back in the prewar days Agnes cooked for the lumbermen. She made hearty meals and always had fresh baked rolls and cookies for us when we visited. Somehow it was as if they just came out of the oven. As we made our way to the cottage, we would walk past the one-car garage where Albert’s burgundy 1938 Chevy was still parked; Agnes never learned how to drive.
Upon entering through the summer kitchen we could smell the sweet aroma of bread baking. Agnes always greeted us as if she had been waiting for us with glee. Now that is a wonderful attitude. We would sit at her kitchen table and enjoy the rolls fresh from the oven, with pickled beets and other things pickled that survived the hungry deer in the garden. Always hot coffee made from the Northwood’s recipe that included breaking a raw egg into the pot to take away the bitterness of the free dregs.
After our repast we would head to the living room, filled with boxes and her upright piano, where she would play old hymns and sing. As the story goes, her love of the hymnody had influenced my wife Pam’s mother Mirabelle (Sandy) Sanderson to take piano lessons. Agnes’ faith was important to her. Recently the hymn “Road Home”, played at a memorial service, caused my Mother-in-law to recall her childhood days there, learning piano.
After our visit, we would walk up to the top of the hill at Hilltop to the little cabin where Uncle Harlan lived. We would need to prime the pump with the can of water that sat beside the pump. The leather gasket was covered with aluminum foil to keep it moist. There was a little sign reminding us to fill the can so the next person could prime the pump. There is a strong message of stewardship and caring for one another in this and all the experiences of Hilltop. Remembering family and heritage is vital to leave and live a legacy of caring.