A Much Needed Visit

Friends. Most of the time I am aware that I have some, here and there, people to smile at, speak with, do an occasional lunch or other outing with. But then there are those times when people show up, at great expense to themselves, when I am not at my loveliest or in the greatest of circumstances. They are the truest of friends who show up and do life with us, me and Dennis, when they wouldn’t have to. That is what happened last week.

It surprised me when my invitation to come “up north” was accepted not just with “sure, we’ll come someday”, but with “when is a good time – I’ll buy tickets…” Not many visitors make it up here, although it is a great place and to cool off in the summer. I also was thinking of the perfect time for them to come. My whole local family was taking a two week Alaskan cruise. I couldn’t see how we could go with them since I had just done my Grand Canyon trip. I was fairly content to stay home, watch the animals, water the plants and weed the garden. Having friends come would be the perfect thing to keep me from feeling sorry for myself.

Arlette, a.k.a. “French girl” has been one of my best friends for several years. Her husband, Dwight, and my husband, Dennis, started the American Aldes office in Sarasota way back in the 1980’s. They had heard a lot about our Wisconsin home since helping us move last July. Now I had a chance to show them some of its charms.

It started with the three hour trip from Minneapolis airport to Hayward. Then we rushed them off to eat at The River Deck, a waterfront restaurant where my nephew had just started working. It’s also the location of the National Lumberjack Championships, which had to impress them (I think). And although we didn’t visit it, I did point out the gigantic Musky (at least three stories tall) in the nearby park.

Eating out was one of the easiest things for us all to do together, and I had my list of favorite places. In addition to the River Deck, we were able to go to The Angry Minnow, and Garmisch Resort. Each of these places had its own unique vibe and I think we all enjoyed the differences.

One of our lunches was a bit different. It was on a boat, out on my favorite Round Lake. I had heard of the Jacobson’s project from my brother. Ralph Jacobson and several of his friends built the “Galilee”, designing it to host small groups on the lake, as a ministry opportunity. He and his wife Carrene, served us lunch and spent an hour showing us their part of the lake. It was a beautiful day, weather wise.

Thank you, my friends, for your supportive visit.

Dwight and Arlette, the brave ones.

Slapping mosquitoes on a hike. Photo ops were brief.

One Reason for Being Here

20180904_1813045661508336183345620.jpgSeptember 4, 2018

This is not the first time I’ve come in Mom’s room and found her horizontal surfaces covered with stacks of old letters, poems, pictures and memorabilia that she’s sorting through. She puts items that go together in zip lock bags ready to be offered to the person most likely to be interested in them.

 

“Do you think anyone will want to read these letters? They have a lot of family history in them, but I don’t know how to contact any of the people anymore.” 

It’s habit with me to think of Google for anything I don’t know and I suggest she plug in some names and try it. She pulls out some faded black and white photos on thick cardboard with finely scalloped edges. They are Christmas cards from three different years picturing a family.  In one, parents, four children and dog are sitting, close together, on the floor in front of a fireplace. The room is darkened and light from the fire is glowing on their faces and casting shadows behind them. The father and his son are wearing suits and two of the girls have matching dresses. The mother is in shadow except for the top of her face and she is smiling. She wears glasses. They all look peaceful, happy as they gaze at the flames.  Handwritten below is “A Merry Christmas from the G. Wesches”.  I wonder who was taking such artful pictures back in 1950. 

Another one has the children lined up in order of height and age and this one is signed by the parents and the names of the children are listed. They are Harold, Geraldine, Patricia and Alice Jean. I pick up my smartphone and plug the name Harold Wesche into the search bar. Mom explains that these people were not relatives but the family of a local doctor in her hometown. The doctor made house calls and impressed her as being such a kind man – and one who sent cards to his patients at holiday time.

 The search engine comes up with over 100 records of this name and as I look at them I find one who is 82 years old – that would be about right. The website gets to work collecting and verifying information on Harold. I know they are going to charge something at the end, and that we are not going to buy anything from them, but the small paragraph they give us for free does help Mom remember. He is the Harold in the Christmas picture. She remembers more.

There was one summer that this family vacationed at Meyer’s Log Cabin Resort on Round Lake. Mom’s friend Donna was asked to come with the family to help entertain the children. They let Gwen (Mom) come along to keep Donna company. This was quite a treat for both Gwen and Donna to have a week at the lake. The Wesche children were cute kids too, so it was not an undesirable responsibility.

One day the parents took the children with them on an outing. Donna and Gwen were given the day off to do whatever they liked at the resort. They decided they would take a boat ride. They went out into the middle of this fairly large lake and felt very adventurous.

This story interests me because Meyers Log Cabins was less than a mile from the farm where Mom and Dad went to live after they were married six years later. I grew up visiting my friend Barbara Meyer and swimming in Round Lake at that resort. I have never heard of Mom’s experience there and she said she would not have thought to tell me of it if the Christmas pictures had not been found. She is still trying to pull out the end of the story from the memory bank. 

“I don’t know what we did but it might have been something that made us feel a little guilty. I think it had something to do with hot dogs. Maybe we took more of them than we should have…” I laugh, because Mom still loves hot dogs.

“Do you think it might not be good to dig through all this stuff, all these memories from so long ago?” she asks.

I tell her I think it’s okay, and the truth is I think it’s a gift to remember stories from the past. It’s an opportunity to think of people, to wonder about them, and especially to mention them in prayer. It is never too late to care, to look for someone, to possibly even get in touch with them and tell them a story.

So, if Harold Wesche or any of his family reads this story, Mom wants to know if you’d like to have these pictures of your younger self.  If not, I will keep them to remind myself of one of the reasons I am glad to have come back to Wisconsin to do life with Mom. I want to hear more stories that I’ve never heard before.   

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#3: Boating on Round Lake

wp-1470780259001.jpgWe had a gorgeous day for this outing – clear sky, warm air and warm water.  My brother had agreed to take some teens tubing on our favorite lake.  Round Lake is a large, deep, spring fed, recreational lake about eight miles west of Hayward.  Our family farm was  only a quarter mile from Round Lake and our childhood memories are pretty much dominated by the times we spent there, swimming, skiing, fishing and boating.  It is known for it’s clear, unpolluted water.  I don’t know it’s present status but when I was younger, it was known to be clean enough to drink.

We met the kids at the boat landing and put the tubes in the water. I don’t want to say that my age is responsible, but within ten minutes of being there I had gotten my leg tangled in the tow rope and fallen down in the shallow water, clothes and all.  But, hey, I was there to get wet, right?

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These girls play hard…

The tubing was fun to watch and the kids had a great time being viciously competitive. After they learn how to hang on, the only real excitement is in knocking someone else off or flipping their tube over.  At the mid-point of the afternoon we parked the boat out in the middle and spent some time diving off the bow and swimming. It was as refreshing as any of my memories, and that is unusual since memories often take on a life of their own.

 

 

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This time I really got wet.

 

A to Z Family Stories: S for Summer Swims

Summer is very short in Wisconsin, but often there are a few day of blistering heat and few are prepared with air conditioning. The only good way we had to cool off was to go swimming and our summer life was defined almost as much by the swimming and the lake as it was by the farm. Because of the beautiful area lakes there was an active tourist trade. Summer meant the resorts were full, there were summer jobs of cleaning cabins and babysitting to be had, interesting people to meet, water skiing challenges, and weekend picnics at the beach with friends.

We claimed Round Lake as our own playground. The sandy beach called the Narrows was within walking distance and when we were young it was unregulated and frequented mostly by us locals. Situated on the narrowest part of a peninsula, there was water on both sides of the road, one side being better for swimming and the other side a little more rocky was mostly for boating. The water filling this fairly large lake was clean enough to drink, and very cold. It was our goal to try to go swimming or skiing by Memorial Day but most years, it required a wet suit to be comfortable.

a crude drawing of The Narrows and our Peninsula
a crude drawing of The Narrows and our Peninsula

Our usual swimming time during the busiest part of summer was evening, right after the last bale of hay went up into the loft – when everyone was still hot, sweaty and dying to get cooled off. Everyone would get into their suits quickly, often neighbor families would stop in on their way, we would load up inner tubes and truck ourselves down to the beach. Ritual dictated that each person run into the water until it got too deep and then dive in quickly. There was no other way to get used to the icy chill. After being in the water a few minutes we all seemed to “get used to” it and didn’t mind. As it got dark, the crayfish in the water and the mosquitoes in the air would get thicker until common sense dictated that we all go home.

There were always a few weeks when visiting relatives were around. My aunt, uncle and cousins from the city would bring their boat up and those were great times when we got to spend hours at the beach with them. My uncle would pull us water skiing behind the boat, always trying to scare us by going over big waves or turning tight circles. We all learned to ski slalom and some of the brothers even went on to kick off the skis and go barefoot. We all have stories about falling, losing our swimsuits as we tumbled in the water, or being dragged and nearly drowned as we tried to “get up”. Skiing is not for the faint of heart.

We would often follow the road to the end of the peninsula, where it curves around and almost forms a complete circle around a small bay. At “the point” as we called it, we would walk the sandbar and swim the channel to the other side. The trees on “the point” have initials carved in them and many memories were made there. I especially remember sitting there looking out at the lake and talking to my mom as we planned my wedding. I wanted to be married at the lake (however it was in January and there was NO SWIMMING.)

Years later my parents moved to a house on the lake. My brothers and I were able to take our families there often and my children have developed their own attachment to Round Lake. That house has been sold again several times but whenever I visit home we take a ride out Peninsula Road and dad makes me drive in to it so he can walk around and look out at the lake (don’t tell the owners please).

Oh yeah, lots of fun at the lake
Oh yeah, lots of fun at the lake
My girls and their dad enjoying a moment on the dock after a swim.
My girls and their dad enjoying a moment on the dock after a swim.

Everyone in our family has been to some fantastic beaches in the years since childhood but I think we all put Round Lake and our memories of summer swims right up at the top of the list of special places. We all go back and visit, and remember, and maybe you should too. Just sayin’…

The beach at The Narrows,
The beach at The Narrows, “our swimming hole”