I'll get to that later. So this particular piece of property (see it on a map here) has been in my father-in-law's possession for all but six years of my husband's life, and because they owned vacation property, they rarely traveled elsewhere on vacation. So, a vast majority of my husband's summertime memories are of here:
Secluded, wooded property in an empty bay on a huge lake in a secluded community. Lots of stories growing up with three brothers tearing down goblins in the woods and building trebuchets out of discarded branches on the beach. Each little ebb and flow of the land meeting the water garners its own unofficial name: Beaver Bay and Picnic Point. And then there are the stories that everyone across all mid-western summer vacations share, like pontoon rides and s'mores over late-night campfires.
When the family RV finally fired its last piston, it was retired to the property where, subsidized by tents and open-air sleeping on the pontoon, the family spent weeks every summer. But about a hand full of years ago, my in-laws finally did the unthinkable. They built this:
A gorgeous cabin, abundant with windows, a huge loft, two bathrooms, an assortment of mis-matched mattresses for visitors, and paneled with wood largely taken from trees removed to make space for the house. It makes you feel like you're on a retreat. So when we showed up late Friday, the darkness, the threatening rain, and the fact that no one other than us and his parents were able to make it up, we decided to spend the night indoors. One night turned into two and then three. About six of my 13 bags and seven of my nine blankets never even left the car.
While we technically went up to the cabin last fall, it was pretty late in the year and we didn't uphold any of the up north traditions. For Matt and I, it was our first time in five years to take part in them. But for Abigail, it was her first time. I get to share a lot of my childhood with Abigail because we're both girls. I get to pick out My Little Ponys for Christmas and buy toy sets with kitties in them. But this time, it was Matt's turn to share a piece of his childhood with his little girl.
Like sitting under the cove-like trees and just smelling the "up north" smell.
And walking along the rickety dock and trying not to step on the loose planks.
And hopping aboard the pontoon and jetting around the lake, spotting bald eagles.
And after we'd explored the cabin, hiked the woods, and visited the new deer blind, we embarked on the other up north traditions. Like visiting Lake Huron.
And going up to the lighthouses and hiking their trails.
And then the harbor. No up north tradition would be complete without a trip to the harbor. "Ahhh, the harbor!" my husband always says with a deep breath of up north air as he gets out of the car. It feels so comfortable and so familiar, like snuggling deeper under the covers on a crisp Saturday morning or burying your feet in a pair of old slippers after a day spent in heels. It's the harbor - the place where you walk up and down the docks marveling at everyone's boats, walk along the pier and see the lighthouses in action, and eat ice cream and that one really good place whose small size could pass for an extra large.
Can you spot the lighthouse?
Up north is the place where it feels like there is no outside world. Where there is no tv, no Internet, and it's easy to forget you have a cell phone. Where, even on the worst of touristy days, you still feel like a secluded little community. Where, when the kids fall asleep, everyone breaks out a book or a deck of cards or grabs a bag of marshmallows and heads down to the fire pit. Where Matt tells the story for the fiftieth time about how he and his siblings once tried to swim across the bay.
Where, as you drive away, you start the countdown to the next up north trip.