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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Tribute to Cabin Clear

An end-of-Memorial-Weekend post for all those "special family places" meant for holiday weekends like this one.


Our family cabin has been in the family for four generations.  In 1952 two best friends and WWII veterans, George and Nurmi, bought a spot on a Clear Lake from a WWI veteran and his wife, Frank and Bea Norris. The Norris’s were in foreclosure and they had no money to pay the bank, so they were forced to sell their home and land on the lake, which they dearly loved. The best friends knew they had found an amazing place, far off the beaten path.  But they were also good men.  They gave the Norris’ a “lifetime estate,” and told them they could live in the house and keep it up as long as the friends owned it.  The best friends raised their families in the cities, but they joined everyone together at the cabin for the summer and for most weekends in the off-season.  My mom and my two aunts grew up calling the couple Uncle Frank and Aunt Bea, who remained at the cabin until they died in their 80’s.

The best friends had led difficult lives with many past wounds, but they loved the lake and they raised their children to love it too.  It was a place of practical jokes, wilderness wonder, waterskiing challenges, and magnificent bonfires.  The brush piles are storied to have reached 20 feet high and 10 feet wide. They were lined up in rows in the meadow behind the house and burned all at once.  With the burning permit in his back pocket, George would throw gasoline on the piles and run back toward the house.  My Grandmother would be having a kitten in the kitchen. It’s a wonder the place wasn’t burned to the ground.

But the friends didn’t just burn the brush, they planted trees too.  When his daughter Cindy was five, George planted a dozen rows of spruce pines along the old path leading to the house.  Standing at the bottom of the sand hill along the road, he would gaze at the young trees and say to his three little girls, “Someday you’ll be showing my great-grandchildren these “Cindy Spruce” and you’ll tell them ‘I planted these Cindy Spruce with your great grandpa.’”  Fulfilling this prophesy, G-Bear just learned about the Cindy Spruce from Grandmo last summer… 

My Grandfather loved the cabin.  He loved it so much that he died of his fourth heart attack in the bed in the middle bedroom. My Grandmother woke up next to him; he was peacefully propped up on his pillow.  The book he had been reading was lying on his chest, his reading glasses placed beside him on the night table.  

Shortly after George died, his three college-age daughters bought his half of the cabin ownership from my Grandmother, so that she wouldn’t have to support herself and the cabin as well (which, at the time, may have been nearly impossible for a widow).  The three girls went on to have families of their own, and the generation of cousins at the cabin was born.

 Cousin cabin stories could fill volumes, and someday they might.  But for now it is enough to mention that the cousins are grown, many of us with kids of our own.


E-Bear, G-Bear and the rest of the great-grandchildren are now enjoying the same forest paths and lakeside views that once thrilled their great-grandfather.


Remarkably little has changed about the cabin in sixty years. When the best friends bought it, they knew that someday the area would be build up and their cabin and land would still be set apart in the oasis of woods that surrounded it.  They were right.

The house is still the same, with its large kitchen picture windows, stone fireplace wooden hearth, tile bathroom and wooden kitchen chairs.  The yard likewise seems frozen in time, with its stone stoop, the raccoon-feeding trees, the winding path down to the lake.


There’s a hummingbird feeder, a red wooden bird house, and a cast-iron bell that has announced thousands of meal times.

And cabin meals are always a feast…and from pancake breakfasts to Thanksgiving dinners they look the same today as they have for decades.


The wooden highchair has held three generations of rugrats.


And the dishes in the sink are always washed by hand.


Ahhhh, and the lake. 

There are a thousand lakes called Clear, but this one really is the clearest.  And cold every day of the year.  But that rarely keeps us from swimming in it, skiing on it, paddling or rowing across it....

...or exploring along it’s shores.  

There is nothing like lying with a towel in the sun on the dock.  Go ahead and fall asleep to the sound of the waves lapping up on the shore…there is nothing demanding your time here.  The carefree breeze is cool and the joyful birds are always chirping in the trees.



On this Memorial Day, I would like to thank my Grandpa, who I never knew, for creating a place so close to my heart.  And to my dearest mom and aunts, who pampered us again this weekend at the cabin: thank you for making every cabin family moment so very special.

Love and thanks for all our passed loved ones today, especially our veterans.


2 comments:

A said...

Look at baby Queen B!!! So sweet..

SnoWhite {Finding Joy in My Kitchen} said...

what a blessing to have a special place like this :)