The cabin is a place to make memories.
Story & photos by Sylvia Kindt
My mother-in-law Betty used to say, “The cabin is the glue that keeps family together.”
So it wasn’t any surprise when in 2008, at age 85, she bought Uncle Art’s cabin after nearly 50 years of it being “out of the family.” This was her greatest pleasure: to spend her life savings on her children and have the family cabin back with all its memories, and in essence, to take one last vacation before her cancer finally took her home. It was her “gift” to us kids, but we knew that it was more than that. There is nothing more comforting than a sentimental journey. Somehow it evokes a feeling of gratitude for the many blessings in our lives. This cabin story began when my in-laws married and returned home after the war. As a young couple just starting their family, it just made sense (and saved cents) to vacation in the Northwoods at Uncle Art’s beautiful lake home and cabin next door – yes, that cabin. Reminiscing is cathartic and fun! Especially when it comes from my husband, who loves to tell of how every year his dad, Bill, could hardly wait for the five-hour drive “Up North” from Milwaukee to Eagle River, Wis. As it goes, his parents, two older sisters (with helmet hairdryers in tow), he, their golden retriever Honey – plus a week’s worth of luggage for five – loaded into the old ’63 Chevy.
It didn’t matter that my husband, his sisters and Honey were “packed into the back seat like sardines,” they were going to Sugar Camp Lake – where you could see to the bottom like a big bath tub! Uncle Art would open his big lake home and neighboring cabin, which he built in 1950. The property included a manicured miniature golf course and towering 200-year-old pines. To top it off, there were cousins with a cabin down the way. My husband remembers as a kid that his dad lifted him up, so he could hang from the rafters in the cabin. In the late 1960s, before Uncle Art sold his property, my husband’s eldest sister and husband honeymooned there. I’m quite sure that is when our family’s “cabin cocktail hour” tradition got its beginning! Sadly, the North Woods is also where my mother and father-in law were with friends enjoying the colors of fall and eating out at a “Supper Club” when Bill had his fatal heart attack. That’s a memory that was difficult for a teenage boy and his college-age sisters, but it somehow instilled a sacred connection and a reason to revisit the area every year. And so the circle of life continues, as we load up our golden retriever and make our four-hour opening-the-cabin trip “Down North” from Duluth, Minn., to Sugar Camp. This year, my husband turned 60. In celebration, and for posterity’s sake, I took a picture of him standing behind the same original swing that he sat in between his two sisters when he was barely a year old! He does not have a single year of his life without a summer memory of being “Up North” or “Down North.”
For me, looking back 35 years ago when I first joined this family, I couldn’t understand what was so wonderful about the Northwoods. But, now I do, and it’s hard to explain. It’s more than tradition. It is as Mom would say, “a place to make memories.” Sylvia dedicates her story in loving memory of Betty and Bill Kindt.