I awoke this frozen, bright blue morning with the delightful thought of tagging along with a friend to Clarkston. The unique charm and flavor of a local village appealed to me, especially in good company and when I’m hungry.

After Mary Ellen delivered her little Mal-Shi into the groomer’s loving arms, she parked on Clarkston’s Main Street. I observed the free parking, one benefit of dining and shopping in a small town.

I mention this in remembrance of the $45 parking ticket I lately paid for overlooking a small sign at the corner of Canfield and Cass Avenues in Detroit.

The price was worth the reunion with my California daughter and our laughs with other canine lovers in the gated Dog Park. I seldom have the opportunity to watch my grand-dog Lily play with all kinds of breeds and sizes of city pets.

Yet, be it local or out of state, I’ve found small town merchants and wait staff kinder than those in cities. Perhaps slower foot traffic allows for that.

In high anticipation, Mary Ellen and I passed a bakery and clothing shop. We paused before a window with a beautiful display of white, life-sized deer with little red hearts dangling from their antlers.

“They have some very nice items in this store,” she said.

I stood resolute before those cascading red hearts. Lord knows I didn’t need anything new for my home. I’d find something useful inside to support this local business.

My fellow admirer of darling, dangling, original ideas looked me in the eye. “We have two hours while Abbey’s at the groomer. Would you like to drop in after breakfast?”


We walked next door to the Old Village Café. The waitress smiled and waved to us. “Sit anywhere you like.”

“I remember her from lunch here two summers ago,” I said.

We ordered Eggs Benedict and a cup of hot tea. I splurged with a side of hash browns which I shared with my friend.

Two mothers who’ve lost an adult child, Mary Ellen most recently, we acknowledged the overwhelming fatigue that follows the crisis of death and a memorial service.

“Let me know what I can do to help you recover,” I said.

“You’re helping now.”

“What? This is like a mini vacation.”

We left the café and browsed every nook and cranny within the shop where the red hearts hung from the deer’s antlers. I found my favorite tea blend, Paris, by Harney & Sons. And Moosejaw chocolates and Germack nuts.

Oh yes, I fought the nudge to pluck up a string of those frivolous red hearts until I saw Mary Ellen, one of the most practical persons on the planet, with a strand in her hand.

As she drove us northeast toward home, I asked, “What’s the name of that charming shop?”

“Essence on Main.”

Lord willing, we’ll return to the place where we found our token of companionship. For the shop sells delicious ginger molasses and chocolate chip shortbread cookies.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com.