We’ve been going to Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel since I was pregnant with Courtney. We always stay at the same place and we always do some similar things while there. I remember the first time we took Courtney. Autism wasn’t on our radar yet. She had a few words when we took her the first time. When she saw a horse she would always say, “clip, clop”. I can remember her being completely mesmerized by the horses all over the island.
To remember the trip, each year I have made a photo book of all of our pictures. Courtney has grown to LOVE these photo books. She looks at them regularly. As I shared in a previous post, this summer she was actually asking to go on the trip.
Though each trip has had it’s ups and downs since it is never easy traveling with young kids, especially when one has autism, each year we were eager to return. Last year was our toughest trip by far. So hard that I wasn’t sure if we could do it again. It made it so this year I actually had a great deal of anxiety as we counted down. But as she asked for “horses” and “boat” I also secretly hoped it meant it would be a smoother trip.
Courtney’s eyes lit up as bright as could be as soon as she spotted the boat that takes you to the island. Her demeanor radiated pure joy. That pure joy was seen as soon as she saw the first horse. It was seen as soon as we made it to the hotel. It was seen as soon as she saw our room.
The hardest part of our trip is the nice dinners we go to where we are required to dress up. The girls do struggle with this. Our hardest moment last year was during one of the dinners. (By the way…if you remember my post last year about the couple and their daughter who took Alyssa so we can enjoy our dinner…we were reunited!) Kids under 12 don’t have to dress up, but I have always enjoyed dressing the girls in matching dresses and coordinating my dress with them. They have professional photographers who will take your pictures and everything. Courtney HATES dressing up. Courtney spends most days wearing pajamas. I was unsure how to handle it this trip as it gets more and more difficult to put regular clothes on let a lone a dress. I decided since it wasn’t about the dress, it was about any clothes, that I would still try to get a dress on her. Trust me, if I thought it was JUST about the dresses, I wouldn’t make her wear a dress. She literally only likes pajamas.
When Alyssa and I got in our dress the first night, you could almost see the wheels turning in Courtney’s brain. Then something clicked. She knew this is part of the routine. She knew that for a few hours she had to wear a dress and then back in her pajamas. Without a fight at all (which never happens when changing her out of pajamas), she put on her dress. And I think there was even a smile. I cried tears of joy. It then really hit me that this isn’t just a favorite place of Alyssa’s. Courtney truly loves this place too.
The trip to The Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island was truly GRAND. Yes, we had some really tough moments. Tears were shed, sensory systems were tested, meals were left early. But what I also saw was Courtney the happiest she has ever been. The squeals of glee as she ran down the famous long porch at the hotel in her bare feet. The look of awe as she went on a horse and carriage ride. The laughter in the burly during a bike ride. The splashing and jumping in the newly renovated zero depth pool. It was priceless. It’s these moments that make me forget the really tough parts. It is these moments that bring us back year after year. Thank you Mackinac Island and The Grand Hotel for being a place for our family to make beautiful memories! Until next time…