Every year the months leading up to the start of the season are always filled with anticipation, excitement, and daydreams of all the lovely things you’ll accomplish…or not. It starts as a little tickle in January, but January is still a very longs ways off from April. In February the island homesickness can settle in with force! Way back when there used to be a winter gathering of the few free MSHP folks on the island. We’d fly over for winterfest, stay in Mission Point and go sledding on the fabulous hills! It was just enough to tide you over until spring. While these winter gatherings no longer happen, through the wonders of technology the island family can stay in touch via facebook. Winters have become less mysterious now that we can keep up with island friends regularly. But February can still be rough, it’s still cold, dark and summer seems like a distant dream. March rolls around next, March is exciting, we start hearing about the new staff that will be joining us, about which of the old staff is returning, who’s doing what, where. It’s all very engaging! March is also when we start ordering dresses, hats and other fun accessories and necessities. Depending on the winter March is also when the weather starts warming up and teasing with whiffs of spring. April…is hard, it’s SO CLOSE, yet so far. We have our staff basically set, virtual introductions have been made, facebooks have been stalked and preparations are underway!
Normally in April I would be planning our move to the island. Which is really very involved. Every 6 months you pick up your life, pack it on luggage cart (or two), cross on the ferry boat, unload it on the island onto a horse-drawn dray (flatbed wagon) or taxi. Then it’s about a mile east around the lakeshore road and up a little hill to the final destination; Mission House. As you can imagine, a move like that takes a bit of planning and creative tetris master packing! The first year I moved onto the island was the easiest….my mom packed everything for me! It all went downhill from there, every year since I think I’ve brought more and more stuff with me…
The whole process starts with a list. I love lists, I make lists for EVERYTHING, there is nothing so satisfying as crossing things off of lists. I know there are other list lovers out there who know what I’m talking about. My list always starts in Adobe Illustrator, gotta have a pretty designer list you know!, I typically start by loading the previous years lists and make adjustments. Adding or subtracting items according to what I used/didn’t use. This part can be tough, every year is different. There were years where the house was overflowing with fun people and activities, so having books and movies wasn’t that important. Other years the social scene is “meh,” and you never really know which it’s going to be until you get there.
Above is the belongings of three people. Myself and a fellow HHI are probably the two people who bring the most stuff with us. So this is the extreme end of packing/moving. Most of the normal residents back a couple suitcases and a tote or two…
April is electric, everybody is really anxious to start and those who are arriving to start right at the beginning are just buzzing, striking envy in those who have to wait another month to join. All the pre-season staff move in around the end of April. This year is the first year we are not moving. It’s bittersweet really, on the one hand I will miss the Mission House and living on the island very, very much. I’ve been making that move every summer for the last 6 years, and it just oozes that new beginnings feeling, everything is exciting, new and full of possibilities. On the other hand, moving is really hard tedious work. I counted one year, each item is lifted and moved approximately 5-6 times between packing from your winter home to placing it on the (usually 2nd) floor room on the island. It’s also really stressful trying to pack your entire life into a handful of boxes. This year we are living in Mackinaw City, so we’ll be commuting on the ferry every day. It will be a new experience for sure.
April is also when I start working earnestly on my training and scheduling materials. Last year was my first year as the Lead HHI. Which means I supervise and work alongside 6 other ladies. Aside from the usual responsibilities of the job, dressing up and talking to people, I am also responsible for training new staff, opening/cleaning the historic buildings we interpret, creating the bi-weekly schedule, heading up weekly morning meetings, managing our supplies, fostering a pleasant work environment and a team atmosphere, encouraging the staff and giving evaluations. And that’s just a quick summary! Being Lead is hard but rewarding job. I care very much about the job and about my staff and I want to give them the best foundation they can. Which for me translates mostly into the practical skills. How to knit, how to sew, how to cook over a fire, etc. When I started in 2007 there was practically nothing in training or the manuals that taught us the mechanics of these crafts. Last year I created several handouts and compiled an entire secondary practical manual to being an HHI. All the stuff that I’ve sort of picked up here and there over the years. I couldn’t crochet or knit until my 3rd year. Cooking was the only thing I was really good at, and that’s because I already knew how to cook. I really want my staff, especially the first years, to have all that information and support available to them right off the bat. So I spend a lot of time finding/making patterns, instructions, compiling information etc. This year I filled a 3″ binder chock full of handouts and articles I’ve found and collected from the HHI Library, the internet, and those I created. It’s hard work, but it’s a labor of love.
I could go on and on and on. But I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say, I spend a lot of time making pretty hand-outs and drafting patterns and scheming schedules! Next time learn about the training involved in becoming a Museum Interpreter (of nature and history not of languages)!