Family Reunions, Summer Traditions, Lake Fun

From Cleveland to St. Paul, from Chicago to Omaha, from Geneva (Switzerland) to Sterling, we trekked over 5,000 miles to be together for the annual family reunion where rituals help cement our souls through the distances that separate us.

Every August we gather under a canopy of trees at a red wood framed cabin, a priceless family heirloom passed down from my grandparents that peeks out from behind white birch and spruce. Here a lifetime of memories is stored in my summer cottage on a silvery lake that rocks in a crib of evergreen under powder blue skies.

a cabin in the woods

a cabin in the woods

Like all families we have endured our ups and downs, accidents and injuries, job losses and relocations. Together we weathered heart surgeries, cancerous tumors, and chronic illness, but every summer we put aside our individual aches and pains, angst and worries, and seize the day.

The kids, no longer kids, range from age 15 to 27, from Nathalie the pediatrician, to Marie a recreational therapist, to Nic a teacher in the making, to Hannah nurse-in-training, to Rachel gifted flutist, and lastly Mark, a walking Wikipedia, a modern day version of his dad, my brother Doug, the talking encyclopedia.

kids in the lake

kids in the lake

Once Grandpa’s big to do list is done – pick up brush from woods, stain the deck, paint window frames, scrape moss off the roof – we kick back for fun on the waterfront. Endless hours of boating, floating, skiing, swimming, kayaking, tubing, sailing, hiking, biking and being in the moment.

As if running a food pantry, we buy massive quantities of food and rustle up meals to fill the trough (kitchen counter). Hungry vultures swoop in at meal times to feast and fly.

No summer memory can be complete without the usual cabin calamities.

« Yikes the toilet is plugged! »

« Help, water is leaking in the basement. »

« Hey, a mouse ate my chocolate? »

Inevitably the ol’ used motorboat will put-put putter and die, the French captain will « sail » overboard requiring an emergency rescue, and mysterious bug bites will send someone to ER. Naturally mishaps happen. The wheel will fall off the grill, a bike tire will be deflated, and a fishing pole will be cast into the lake. We will run out of milk, bread, and pickles, but never short on stories, laughter and hugs.

Every summer the kids learn something new marking each stage of development -how to drive a car on the back roads, how to ski behind the ol’boat, how to do crossword puzzles in the USA Today.

The four McKinzie kids raised on lake creeds learned early on to respect the land, appreciate family and give back to society…values we then passed on to our children, to one day pass on to their own offspring.

In a crazy fast-paced unpredictable world, every summer we recreate a sense of childhood security by repeating family rituals singing ‘round a camp fire, swimming to the island, watching meteor showers at midnight.

McKinzie family reunion 2012

McKinzie family reunion 2012

Summit Lake is a place for children to grow up and grown ups to grow old gracefully, where traditions help us ease through life’s difficult transitions, where family ties keep us grounded, where time stands still long enough to treasure each moment together.

Like my niece Marie wrote on Facebook when she posted photos of this year’s family reunion, « we laid down a lot of memories, like tattoos on this town. »

Posted in education, inspiration, relationships, social view.

31 Comments

  1. So glad to have been able to share some of that special time at the lake with the McKinzie clan again this summer. Great times with great friends and lots of belly laughs.

  2. Oh Pat, your writing is exquisite, capturing these treasured family memories in a way that connects me to my own family memories at our summer cottage on Keuka Lake in western NY. What a wonderful event to look forward to especially since you live clear across the ocean. You show clearly the true meaning of family and the gift of making memories together. Beautiful!

  3. What exquisite language [to cement our souls through the distances that separate us].
    Loved the trials and triumphs you weathered in the “cementing” this year. I forwarded it to my “soul mate” … another Pat Atherholt. She and I have similar serendipities that you and I have. When I told her I hoped I’d be able to “keep my marbles for awhile”, she said, “Don’t worry, I’ll cover for you if you lose them”, which will be a no-brainer as we think alike, read
    each other’s minds and finish each other’s sentences. That’s what a friendship of 74 does
    for you.
    Loving our continued cyber “cementing”. Keep them coming, even tho I don’t comment often. Have been fighting this “disease” for which my doc has no name.
    Love you, The Other Pat ….

  4. What exquisite language [to cement our souls through the distances that separate us].
    Loved the trials and triumphs you weathered in the “cementing” this year. I forwarded it to my “soul mate” … another Pat Atherholt. She and I have similar serendipities that you and I have. When I told her I hoped I’d be able to “keep my marbles for awhile”, she said, “Don’t worry, I’ll cover for you if you lose them”, which will be a no-brainer as we think alike, read
    each other’s minds and finish each other’s sentences. That’s what a friendship of 74 does
    for you.
    Loving our continued cyber “cementing”. Keep them coming, even tho I don’t comment often. Have been fighting this “disease” for which my doc has no name.
    Love you, The Other Pat ….

    • Please do pass it on, Pat. Thanks for the cyber cementing, soul mate. Keep on keeping on in your daily battle to survive! Love TOPthe2nd

  5. I enjoyed your blog, as usual. I especially enjoyed your tribute to Coach Dietz. A bunch of us retirees have coffee at the Precinct most mornings and Coach was one of us. We really miss him. See your folks some Sundays. Jim

  6. I enjoyed your blog, as usual. I especially enjoyed your tribute to Coach Dietz. A bunch of us retirees have coffee at the Precinct most mornings and Coach was one of us. We really miss him. See your folks some Sundays. Jim

  7. Oh, Sis, I am already homesick for family and our beloved Summit Lake. How blessed we are, though, to have such a special place which time and time again provides us the means to slow the pace, reconnect, put things in prespective, appreciate each other and nature, and create new, wonderful memories to help sustain us through whatever challenges life throws our way. Thank you for helping preserve those priceless memories through your beautiful writing.

  8. Oh, Sis, I am already homesick for family and our beloved Summit Lake. How blessed we are, though, to have such a special place which time and time again provides us the means to slow the pace, reconnect, put things in prespective, appreciate each other and nature, and create new, wonderful memories to help sustain us through whatever challenges life throws our way. Thank you for helping preserve those priceless memories through your beautiful writing.

  9. Hi Pat! I always look forward to your McKinzie family reunion blogs. They are my favorite of all your blogs. I didn’t grow up with vacations to a cabin on a lake, but my parents did have a boat and I learned to ski on some lake in Wisconsin (can’t remember which one!). It took 25 times before i got up, but then I finally got the hang of it. The 3 of us (Mark, Sheryl & I)and Dad would also ski in the Rock River. Not as pretty as the Wisconsin Lakes, though. Tom and I used to go up to Little Arbor Vitae past Minoqua in Wisconsin when the kids were real little and that was so relaxing and pretty. Then we started going up to Life of Riley in Cook, MN which is not far from Ely, MN. The tall pines, beautiful lake and the call of the Loons were so refreshing. No TV or phones. Just relax, read books, grill out, get some sun, and enjoy family and friends. Tom would fish all day, the kids would take nature hikes with the Naturalist and i would read. Then we’d all go for Jet-ski rides. We have a framed picture of 21 of us on 13 Jet-ski’s lined up on a sandy Lake Vermillion beach. Those were the days!

    • Always good to hear from you, Deb. Glad you were able to cement so many of your own family memories in the Northwoods. I can’t believe you used to go to Minoqua…our place is on the way and my chiropractor is in Eagle River. Persistence pays off! Glad you hung in there to learn how to ski. Do you still ski? My husband does, but I have had one too many accidents, so I stick to old-fashioned, non motorized floating devices.

  10. Hi Pat! I always look forward to your McKinzie family reunion blogs. They are my favorite of all your blogs. I didn’t grow up with vacations to a cabin on a lake, but my parents did have a boat and I learned to ski on some lake in Wisconsin (can’t remember which one!). It took 25 times before i got up, but then I finally got the hang of it. The 3 of us (Mark, Sheryl & I)and Dad would also ski in the Rock River. Not as pretty as the Wisconsin Lakes, though. Tom and I used to go up to Little Arbor Vitae past Minoqua in Wisconsin when the kids were real little and that was so relaxing and pretty. Then we started going up to Life of Riley in Cook, MN which is not far from Ely, MN. The tall pines, beautiful lake and the call of the Loons were so refreshing. No TV or phones. Just relax, read books, grill out, get some sun, and enjoy family and friends. Tom would fish all day, the kids would take nature hikes with the Naturalist and i would read. Then we’d all go for Jet-ski rides. We have a framed picture of 21 of us on 13 Jet-ski’s lined up on a sandy Lake Vermillion beach. Those were the days!

    • Always good to hear from you, Deb. Glad you were able to cement so many of your own family memories in the Northwoods. I can’t believe you used to go to Minoqua…our place is on the way and my chiropractor is in Eagle River. Persistence pays off! Glad you hung in there to learn how to ski. Do you still ski? My husband does, but I have had one too many accidents, so I stick to old-fashioned, non motorized floating devices.

  11. OH Patty!
    You capture in words our thoughts and experiences so perrrrrfectly!
    We are truly blessed to have a piece of paradise at our little “Neyati” and so fortunate that our children are cementing those memories too! Still waiting for
    you to bottle up that northwoods smell to carry us through the year. Miss you already!

  12. Pat,
    I loved the writing but especially loved the picture of the cabin and of your family all together. I missed seeing the old inner tubes though – guess those gave way to speedboats and sailboats. Glad no one slipped on an old Matchbox car from the towns we built and drove through in the dirt and sand. Glad the neighbors got to share in paradise too!

    • Yes we often reminisce about the good old days,when used to take an E.19th St. kid hostage, throw them in the back of the Rambler and hide out in the woods for a week.Believe it or not the “kids” still stand on the old black inner tube and balance and Kar still plays with Matchbox cars. tee hee

    • Kath,
      good to hear those ol neighborhood/kid memories are held dear to your heart!
      happy birthday “Kathy the Kid”!!

  13. Pat,
    I loved the writing but especially loved the picture of the cabin and of your family all together. I missed seeing the old inner tubes though – guess those gave way to speedboats and sailboats. Glad no one slipped on an old Matchbox car from the towns we built and drove through in the dirt and sand. Glad the neighbors got to share in paradise too!

    • Kath,
      good to hear those ol neighborhood/kid memories are held dear to your heart!
      happy birthday “Kathy the Kid”!!

  14. Ahhh! All of these stories about “THE LAKE” make me wish I was there right now! Always a place of refuge–I hope I can make it up there in May! Always thankful that your family shares the joy! 🙂

    • Oh Sheila, I was up north for 6 glorious weeks this summer and still can’t enough of it. So glad you are able to appreciate the beauty of our magical place with your great group of friends.

  15. Ahhh! All of these stories about “THE LAKE” make me wish I was there right now! Always a place of refuge–I hope I can make it up there in May! Always thankful that your family shares the joy! 🙂

    • Oh Sheila, I was up north for 6 glorious weeks this summer and still can’t enough of it. So glad you are able to appreciate the beauty of our magical place with your great group of friends.

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