Last weekend my husband’s annual family reunion was held in the coolness of Michigan, a state north of my own sweet Missouri. The chosen city was Ann Arbor, home of the prestigious University of Michigan, best known around my home for its slogan, “Go Blue!”
It’s that time of year when shapes of waxy green hanging above our heads were starting to turn yellow. Edges of some were slightly curled. Below our feet, several had been there for days or maybe a week. Others floating down seemed to be waving. “Hello,” or “Good-by,” depending on your point of view, I guess.
Chairs of plastic mesh crisscrossed to make backs and seats on hallow metal tubes. Bright colors of orange and yellow, blue and white or lime and turquoise sat ready and waiting. Some were already filled and taken. Semi-circles automatically made their way atop a stained wooden deck of dark cinnamon that seemed to flow right off a kitchen belonging to the host.
Inside, on every covered counter top of Formica white, trays of catered food were displayed. Fresh sandwiches of turkey and vegetables, lean roast beef with lettuce and bowls of assorted chips and dips of green or cream sat together with a variety of salads. Noodle or potato? Lettuce or Kale? Creamy dressing or plain? In between were large plates of every crudité imaginable plus the mandatory sheet cake. Decorated and frosted in white, it took center stage. There was enough food to fill a plate for my husband’s siblings of eight. Maybe two or even three. No one had to wait to see. “Come and Get it!”
As tracks of teeth left bite marks amidst three-layered sandwiches, there was another buzz floating among the trees. A new name spitted out. Harbaugh. H.A.B.A.U.G.H.
One can’t live in Ann Arbor, perhaps anywhere in Michigan and not be excited about the new coach of U of M. As members of die-hard Michigan fans, this was a great topic of conversation during our reunion. “So what do you think about Harbaugh?” “Isn’t that great about Harbaugh?” “Can’t wait to see the first game coached by Harbaugh!”
Jim Harbaugh was a former Michigan Alumnus where he played Quarter Back for three seasons and led the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl in 1987, finishing third as a Heisman Trophy finalist. He coached the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL for four seasons (2011-2014) where he led them to three playoff wins and one Super Bowl. Now, he was coming HOME. No wonder everyone was excited!
Sitting in my webbed chair of plastic color, listening to all of the talk about Jim Harbaugh, I couldn’t help but smile to myself. Out of everyone attending the reunion, perhaps I had the most reason to be thinking of him. No one knew, of course. And, after all these years, centuries even, it’s not really important. But, on that day, in that time and place it was my own little secret claim to possible fame.
Jim Harbaugh, the new coach of the University of Michigan may be related to me. His early ancestors settled in the same few states that my own ancestors did. My great-grandmother was a Harbaugh, the same as Jims’. She was a German descendent of Casper Harbaugh who came to America via ship at the age of 13 in 1742. His parents tearfully put him on a boat, all alone, hoping to give him a better life once he arrived in the new world. How desperate they must have been!
Ironically, I’m lucky to be here and perhaps Jim Harbaugh is too. Casper Harbaugh almost didn’t make it to America. Like many who rocked their way across the sea on a wooden ship, Casper took ill with typhoid fever. Thinking he died, his frail and limp body was quickly sewn into a burlap sack, ready to be tossed overboard. Somehow God gave him the strength to make a slight movement within which saved his life there and then.
So, Jim Harbaugh, if you’re out there we may be distant relatives. No, it doesn’t really matter. My family will forever be Michigan fans! So glad we are to have you back where you belong! And, next year, feel free to stop by our reunion. The food is great!