Friday, July 17, 2009

Downtown Grand Rapids: The Ford Museum

Since last Tuesday would have been the late President Ford's 96th Birthday, they offered free admission at the Ford Museum, and I decided Franny and I might as well go. (During my summer as a stay-at-home Dad, she has three half-days in daycare a week... Mon-Weds-Fri... and Tues-Thurs are our days for fun outings)
I hadn't been to the Ford museum since Ford died. I have a special fondness for Gerald Ford... when he was a congressman, my grandfather occasionally served as his body guard. Ford was married at the church we now attend, where Frances was baptized. (Ford's mother purportedly dropped dead of a heart attack during a service at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in downtown Grand Rapids, which is where Suzanne and I were married--of course, that was long before our time) There was a funeral for Gerald Ford at our church, attended by Jimmy Carter, the Ford family, Peter Secchia and many other big names. The night before Ford was buried, his coffin was lying in state at the Ford Museum, and Suzanne and I stood on line for seven hours with almost 100,000 other people and we filed past the coffin right at the stroke of midnight, and were able to watch the changing of the guard. I hadn't been to the museum since then--I think that was 2006. He died right after Christmas, and his funeral was in the dead of winter, though Grand Rapids was blessed with very mild weather that week, and there was no snow.
I've been called a sentimental fool--but I can even get sentimental about downtown Grand Rapids if I have half a chance. When I first came to Grand Rapids, I lived in the dorms at Aquinas College for two years, but then got an apartment downtown, on College Avenue, where I lived until we bought our house...I was in that apartment for a total of six years. Suzanne had an apartment on Lyon Street, just a few blocks from me. I had a variety of jobs, ranging from security guard to substitute teacher, before I got my first real job, teaching 7th grade in a rural farm town in central Michigan. After we got married, we bought our house on the East side of town, and we switched churches, but as I mentioned before, Suzanne and I were married in 2001 at St. Marks, a gorgeous, old neo-gothic church which has been in downtown Grand Rapids for over 150 years, and was at one time the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of West Michigan (until the late Bishop Bennison built that hideous monstrosity of modern architecture on I-94 in Portage which they had to sell to the Pentecostals a few years back because the Diocese was on the verge of bankruptcy)
Anyway, I will spare you more of my going down memory lane. Even though I drive through downtown Grand Rapids almost every day (Suzanne works at the Children's Hospital) I rarely get out of my car and do anything downtown. So visiting the Ford Museum was fun...

...although it made me feel a bit old. Look at this picture for a minute--Ford was president when I was born. He died before Frances was born. I started feeling old when I realized that, to Frances, Gerald Ford would be what F.D.R. was to me--the old dead white Episcopalian who was president way back when my father was born...
Here is Frances, inspecting the Oval Office exhibit--no doubt planning how she'll redecorate it after she's elected.
Here I am, doing one of those self-portraits in a mirror that I think are so cool.
Here she is, having a run by the fountain. Note the red, white and blue flowers.
I think that this has to be one of the best pictures I've taken in ages... just look at THAT BABY.
Here is a shot of downtown Grand Rapids, as reflected from the glass wall of the Ford Museum.
This is where Ford is buried. Note that Frances had gotten her hands on my camera for a second, and left a greasy fingerprint on the lens (she had been eating a sugar cookie) which I wasn't aware of until I got home and started looking at the pictures...hence the smudge in the lower right corner.
And here can you see Frances doing her new favorite thing--pushing her own stroller. She always strongly prefers the cheap plastic stroller that Suzanne and Wilda bought at one of the shops in Guangzhou to any of the others we have, and since its lightweight, we go along with it. Nobody has anything like it here--its got Chinese writing all over it. You can also see the greasy finger smudge in the lower right corner.
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