SOMEWHERE IN TIME
That summer trip stands out singularly as the time we had the world to ourselves–in those rare carefree days that I have had in my life.
By force of circumstance, we did not have a real honeymoon. We got married in the course of life unfolding. I had just passed the bar and started practicing law with a premier Philippine law firm, and was pursuing a dream of attending a world-class American university as a graduate student. Amidst my grand career plans, however, I was not going to put my great romance on hold, and so, we planned a wedding in April–just over a month before I packed my bags and took my brand new wife on a plane to Chicago.
A couple of days after the wedding, we managed to catch a flight to Hongkong, and from there, a ferry ride to Macau–for a tour of the former Portugese colony before it was converted into the Vegas of Asia–and back to our hotel in Causeway Bay for a nightcap at the bar on the 27th floor of our hotel. But even the breathtaking view of Victoria Harbor can only be eclipsed by thoughts of what was to be our life in the “new world.”
I believed then–as I do now–that life presents its moments. While I am in a profession that thrives on the best-laid plans, and building relationships on sound legal structures, I crave for impulsive reactions and spur of the moment happenings, like a spontaneous rendezvous or an unplanned escapade.
I believed then–as I do now–that life presents its moments. While I am in a profession that thrives on the best-laid plans, and building relationships on sound legal structures, I crave for impulsive reactions and spur of the moment happenings, like a spontaneous rendezvous or an unplanned escapade. They are typically not grand nor fancy–but often more tenderly remembered.
In my case, I will always remember that idle summer a year after our wedding. I had then earned that proverbial feather on my cap–a diploma from a known private university in the American Midwest–and I was trying to explore an internship gig somewhere in the vast American legal market. As the spring turned to summer, and I felt an urge to take a pause, we decided almost on a whim to get in a car and drive away from the cosmopolitan Windy City toward the Great Lakes.
Back in Manila, Michigan is known for prominent lawyers (like George A. Malcolm, founding dean of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines) who earned law degrees from Ann Arbor, home of the Wolverines. But we were Northbound–closer to where Ernest Hemingway spent his childhood summers and found inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea that earned him both a Pulitzer and a Nobel Literature prize.
I don’t even remember the subject of the idle conversations anymore, but I remember glancing at her to see if she was slightly enjoying that time of my life.
We left Chicago at the break of dawn, and after being on our first road trip as a couple on American roads for seven hours (including pit stops), we finally reached the edge of Mackinaw City. We parked by the harbor and quickly alighted from the car. With our small luggage in tow, we walked toward the dock to get on one of the ferries bound for Mackinac Island.
It was a glorious afternoon and the lake glistened from the rays of the summer sun. As the ferry approached the island, a grand suspension bridge beckoned. But although it was a sight we expected to see, the white Victorian structure with a 660 feet frontage on the island was captivating at first sight.
Upon reaching the island, the landing led us to the main street. As we’ve been told by friends, motor vehicles are not allowed on the island. Locals and visitors get around on horses, carriages, or bicycles. Many of the structures on the island have undergone extensive historical preservation and restoration giving the island a turn of the century feel. We checked into a century-old waterfront hotel in downtown Mackinac Island, had an early supper, and retired early in our quaint little room with an eagerness for the sunrise.
As a self-styled movie buff, I felt like Richard Collier would clumsily walk in in pursuit of Elise McKenna in that formal dining room with jade green walls.
She did not know how to ride a bicycle, so we went around the island mostly on foot. Although it was by definition a small island, we could only get around a small part of it. We spent the day checking out the structures, the buildings, the homes and the churches, including the remnants of the early Jesuit presence on the island (that mattered much to this Jesuit disciple). And then there were the more rustic parts of the island that gave us views of the bluffs, Lake Huron and a lighthouse, and as we approached one edge of the island, the limestone formations, including the famous Arch Rock, forty five meters above the ground, that provided a natural framed to many a couple in their photo souvenirs.
The biggest attraction, of course, was the Grand Hotel, that white structure that we saw from the ferry, made famous by the classic movie [that was filmed in that hotel in 1979], Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, about a playwright who traveled back in time to reunite with his beloved, an actress from a different time and era.In the hotel, it is as if time stood still. As a self-styled movie buff, I felt like Richard Collier would clumsily walk in in pursuit of Elise McKenna in that formal dining room with jade green walls. We had to visit the hotel by the afternoon, as we found out that the hotel was among the few hotels, if not the only one, in the U.S., that imposed a dress code for guests–in the evening, dresses, skirts, blouses, dress sweaters and dress slacks for ladies, and coat and tie and dress pants for gentlemen.
As the twilight enveloped the sky from dusk, we randomly picked a place in the heart of town for dinner. From our table for two in a cozy bistro, the island felt festive in the early evening. I don’t even remember the subject of the idle conversations anymore, but I remember glancing at her to see if she was slightly enjoying that time of my life.
The details of the sights, other than those shown in our photos, are frankly quite blurry now–and in many ways, do not matter as much as the feeling of being together. More sophisticated travelers often dismiss Mackinac Island for being touristy, but I enjoyed every minute of the trip–from seeing sights, to falling in line for ice cream, to the early evening walk, and to wading in the pool of our waterfront hotel beneath the summer sky. To this day, it feels like a moment made for my memories–and for a famous classic love song by the great crooner, Jo Stafford, as if it was written for us.
To this day, it feels like a moment made for my memories–and for a famous classic love song by the great crooner, Jo Stafford, as if it was written for us.
In the course of the next nineteen years, within which we have finally settled back in Manila, we have been blessed with occasional opportunities to travel to various destinations–from great cities in the old and new world, to beach towns, to authentic Asian locales–that can be far more exciting or glamorous. But that summer trip stands out singularly as the time we had the world to ourselves–in those rare carefree days that I have had in my life–to enjoy our union, and when we had our real honeymoon that was just a little over three hundred sixty five days late.
By Albert Yu Chang