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  • Shannon

Growing up in a Bed and Breakfast

As I prepare for the summer ahead, a lot of folks have asked about how my son, Gideon, will do growing up in a bed and breakfast every summer. Luckily I have a lot to say in regards to the matter, as it is exactly how my brother, Jake, and I grew up every summer.

Every summer, Jake, Mom, Dad, and I packed up and left our suburban Chicago home to run Haan's 1830 Inn on Mackinac Island. Dad was a high school teacher, so his job was perfectly suited for running a summer business.

When I was little, I didn't know the difference between having a normal childhood and having one living inside a working B&B on Mackinac Island. I remember running through the sprinkler in the yard, making mud-pies, kicking a soccer ball around, doing puzzles and crafts (my mom is the craft master), just like any other kid would spend their summer. The difference was, I also remember meeting new people every day, sitting in the kitchen while Mom baked muffins, and sneaking into the breakfast room to listen to Dad tell the same energetic stories to the guests every morning.

My brother and I, drinking from the sprinkler in the front yard of the B&B

In elementary and middle school, I made friends with island kids, hung out at the 4H barn down the street, rode my bike everywhere and anywhere, and got to know guests a little better. We had chores like setting the table for breakfast and helping with the intricate recycling system we had in place. I started to realize how special it was, that we lived in a B&B (let alone one on Mackinac Island). I listened to guests at the breakfast table talk about where they were from, some from foreign countries, or some with fascinating life styles - I remember a few specifically, like a couple who were "lighthouse keepers," and another who were biking from Seattle to New York. I was inspired by the people I met. What an amazing opportunity to learn about so many different people and places as a kid, I really think it helped me to care more about people and the world around me.

In high school, I said goodbye to one set of friends, and reunited with my island friends. While I think it was hard for my brother (who was closer to his friends in Illinois), the lifestyle suited me. I liked a different pace for a little while. I also liked the freedom the island allowed for - we weren't confined to someone's home, relying on someone with a drivers license to get us around, or money in order to find a group place to gather. We didn't hang out in malls, or basements, or wherever other kids even hang out in the summer. We hung out on the Yoder dock, in Marquette Park, or wherever our bikes took us. We went parasailing for free and took small boats out for adventures.

Not only did I have friends with other kids who lived or summered on the island, but our family also became good friends with a few repeat guests of the Inn. We have a handful of guests who have been coming to the Inn every summer for 30 years - they have essentially ingrained themselves into the identity and family of Haan's 1830 Inn. A few are so close to us they were at my wedding, and we still see those guests/friends every season, some multiple times a year.

I will admit it is a little odd, sharing your living space with a new set of strangers every night. To be honest, if I don't think about it at all it feels totally normal to me. I am an "introverted extrovert," which works perfectly for a B&B setting. On one hand, you are the master of small-talk, with hours spent each day entertaining and assisting. On the other hand, you also have quiet afternoons, working at the B&B gardening, doing laundry, or simply reading a book while you wait for the next guest to check in. For me, growing up in a B&B was wonderful, I wouldn't have traded it for anything.

My hope for my son is for even just a piece of the love I had for growing up in the Inn. The feeling of owning your own castle in an exotic land that I had felt. I hope he too will find his favorite spot at the house to read a book. I hope that he would also make friends with visiting kids who would become pen-pals (though for him probably just add him on Snapchat). I hope that he too would be able to fully love two different homes, two different lifestyles.

Jake watches as my dad (Nick Haan) teaches me to ride a bike on the street behind the B&B

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