Summer vacation usually meant a trip up north for my family. I loved being up north as a child. I recall a time when I could barely contain the anticipation to leave for the A-frame cabin my grandparents owned at Canada Creek Ranch, that I practically packed up the family car by myself. I was probably around 8 or 9 years old, and my dad was working afternoons at the Ford Motor plant, which meant he would get home around midnight or later. I so badly wanted to leave that night, that I packed up the car myself, at least that is my memory. The reality was I probably packed up only a fraction of the items needed to make the trip for a family of 5.
I waited up for my dad that night, hoping to persuade him that the only thing he had to do was drive, since I had already done the heavy lifting, but my mom was already asleep on the sofa, and my little sister and brother were snoozing comfortably in their beds, so the decision was made to wait until the morning to make the 5 hour drive up I75 and M33. I reluctantly went to bed, making myself sleep until it was time to leave in the morning.
My family didn’t leave the state of Michigan often on our family trips. Almost all of the time off my dad would get during shut down in the summer or during holidays, was spent going to the cabin. My childhood memories of our trips are filled with feelings of contentment, adventure, laughter, and love. Walking into the cool clear water of the lake; watching all the silver minnow reflect and scatter in different directions as my sister and I tried unsuccessfully to catch them.
Climbing the big waterslide, in the deep end of the lake, nervously for the first time. Being coaxed by my dad that he would catch me, that I would be ok, and finally letting go; splashing into the water to feel exhilaration and then relief, when my dad did grab and pull me up above the surface. And eventually, not needing him there anymore, feeling the strength and confidence to do the big slide on my own.
Going to the library, located in the Ranch’s clubhouse, and letting time slip away unnoticed, while searching the titles for the book or books that reached out to me and said, “Read me.” Spending hours laying in one of the beds in the upstairs loft or on the couch in the family room as I slipped away into the adventures on the pages, at an age when I wasn’t acutely aware of the passage of time.
Making the walk down the sandy hill, with my sister- my trusty companion in every adventure- with fishing poles and tackle box in hand to “Tibbets Landing.” Stopping to catch the baby frogs that were hopping and crawling their way to lake; delighting in our discovery of them. Than another time, we discovered a nest of frog eggs and tadpoles and ran up and down the steep sand hill to grab jars and supplies to catch these fascinating creatures.
Coming back to the cabin, after a day at the beach, for the delicious dinner or lunch prepared by my grandma, always with a dessert of some sort-maybe cake or zucchini bread or jello with cool whip. Never once worrying if my needs were going to be met, just the trust and confidence in knowing they would be.
Driving out onto the Ranch at dusk, with my grandpa or my dad at the wheel, as we talked quietly; arriving at the various Rye fields, with binoculars in hand, waiting, hoping to see an Elk or a herd of Elk searching for their evening dinner.
Spending our evenings playing cards, Rummy or Spit or the Marble game with one another. Laughing, joking, smiling, teasing, and loving one another, simply, in the everyday easy interaction of being a family together.
As a young mom, without much money, I took my little ones to the cabin, where they enjoyed some of the same simple pleasures I did as I was growing up. Spending time with their grandparents and great grandparents, with cousins, aunts, uncles and friends.
My grandparents are gone now. The cabin is listed for sale, and I’ve gone back to the cabin only once for a long weekend in the past 7 or 8 years. Family vacations now consist of airplanes, new destinations each time, and giving my children the opportunity to see places that I didn’t get to go, which I’m very grateful for.
But I’m also grateful for the memories I have as a child, for the slowness of that time. When an afternoon picking cherries or strawberries up north with my grandma and cousins was a time of fun and adventure. And the taste of the delicious strawberry shortcake or cherry pie that grandma would promptly make when we returned. And when I think on those simple, satisfying summer days, I know sometimes in this journey on earth, it’s about enjoying the people you are spending your time with, more than the where of the destination.