Marybeth Bordeau Flynn


White, Wheat or Rye?

I live in Detroit.

There, I said it. When I learned I’d be moving to “The D” I cried for 2 weeks. I had never even visited the state of Michigan, much less imagined myself living there. And I’ll be honest; I had to consult a map.

I was living in LA at the time, and reactions to the news were consistent.

From a trusted friend:

“Michigan? It’s so gray there. The sky and the ground are the same color for like, 6 months of the year!”

Hmm. This was damaging, as a top reason for loving LA was the sunshine. Then, off my reaction (i.e., weeping) she added, “But it’s cool, though. You’ll probably love it there.”

From my sister:

“Detroit? I’d rather move back home!” The ultimate blow. No one lived in our East Coast hometown except family and losers.

“I mean, it’s not a definite,” I back peddled. But as my husband moved along rapidly in the interview process, it was pretty clear that we’d be making this change.

24 hours after the job offer was accepted we were in The D looking for a place to live. My husband, who had already been for a series of interviews, began pointing out landmarks as we left the airport: “This is the bridge they built when the Superbowl was in town. There is the giant tire.”

That is no bridge, I thought. It’s a metal structure built over an existing highway. But I went with it. Deep breaths all the way.

Two weeks later we left sunny California for good, bound for Michigan. It was December, so we decided to drive to make the emotional and meteorological transition easier. It was snowing by the time we got to Flagstaff.

Then we arrived. On one of the first days we ventured out, a particularly slushy day, my husband popped into a Fantastic national chain to get his hair cut. He emerged with a gelled-out look that was combed straight down into a short bang. This ‘do, coupled with his weather-appropriate puffer coat, called to mind Slim Shady circa ‘99.

On top of that:

It was impossible to make a left turn. Restaurants and bars were filled with smoke. Everyone was pasty. The cashier at Target had more facial hair than my husband. Was a Coney a place or a thing? And why, for the love of God, doesn’t any establishment offer sourdough toast as an option at breakfast?

Every time we met a local and told them we’d relocated, we were met with, “Why?!?” Every time. And those gray days my friend talked about? We bought a sunrise lamp just to take the edge off. And booked a trip to Mexico.

Dinnertime conversation usually revolved around exit strategy. How do we get back to LA? Do we belong in Boston? Do we belong somewhere else? Are we really living in Michigan? It was exhausting and counterproductive.

And then something started to happen. My husband’s job was going well. I took a class and created opportunities for myself that would have been impossible in LA. People were nice here. We learned that there was a lot to do; we just had to look for it. And we started making friends. Nice, normal friends. Something we struggled with in Los Angeles. It took a good 8 months to let it wash over me, but good things were happening. Do I actually like Detroit?

Yes, I do.

Everyone claims this past winter was one of the worst in a long time. Yes, it was cold until May, but I swear the days were brighter. Maybe there was a shift and I started seeing what I wanted to see. Or maybe the sun finally came out.

Marybeth Bordeau