My Mom, my sisters and myself in photo.
I just got back from our annual weekend family vacation, and my heart is full. For years my mom’s family has reunited on the shores of Moose Lake. Cabins and campers and tents fill with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandkids – anyone who can make it. It’s our (almost sacrosanct) annual tradition. And with Mom’s family of 13 kids, each with their own big families, it’s a big, bustling gathering full of laughter and memories that fills me so full of contentment and thankfulness and joy I could burst.
The thing is, I don’t particularly care for Moose Lake. It’s a place for boaters and fishermen, neither of which describes me. I’m a beach person. I want to bury my toes in the sand and wade into shallow water. There’s not much of either at Moose Lake. ‘Why can’t we go somewhere else?” I ask every now and then, “The Whiteshell? Grand Beach? ANYWHERE ELSE?”
But I know the answer before the words leave their lips. “Because this is where we always went with Grandpa.”
It’s where he taught his 13 children how to fish. And the grandkids too.
Year after year, it’s where we heard him laugh as he joked and grilled the day’s catch in flour and butter.
It’s where we can look at the dock and see the memory of him walking side by side with a grandson, poles and tackle boxes in hand, heading for the boat.
Here, he is alive. Every camping spot, shoreline, and sunset brims with memories. It’s almost like being together again.
This year I stayed in the very cabin Grandma and Grandpa used to stayed in, right on the lake’s edge. As soon as I swung the door open, it felt like home. Every evening I opened the windows and let the endless lapping of the water against the shore lull me to sleep. In the morning, I’d make coffee and drink it on the porch that overlooked the sun-speckled water. When I was younger, I used to have coffee with them in that same porch. I’d brew pot after pot and serve Grandma, Grandpa, and the aunts and uncles who would gather on the shoreline for their morning schnetke conference.
I sipped coffee on the porch, looking out over the water, and remembered those who were not with us this year.
One time I’d ventured to tell Grandpa some joke I’ve since forgotten. His eyes pinched closed and his mouth spread wide as he laughed this incredible bubbling laugh, sputtering Low German words about how it was ridiculous. Later, he felt badly about laughing at it, which makes me snicker to this day.
Uncle Jake would come up the path carrying a fish he’d caught. He’d hold it up proudly and grin goofily, eager to boast about his prize. Some would be dutifully awed, others would mock its size, neither of which would disappear his grin. He has been gone for years but I remember him every time someone comes carrying a catch.
I was glad that my Aunt Tina was able to get time surrounded by family. All the changes with Uncle Gary’s passing this year have been exhausting. I hope she got refreshed in every way. Some of my cousins have lost a father recently and some of them have had to lose children. John, Marty, Alicia, my heart has been grieved for the loss they have suffered.
Just last year, cousin Jeff brought his drone to take high tech pictures. As we all gathered around tables for the potluck supper, he flew the drone overhead taking videos and photos. Then we sat around eating while looking at photos of us eating. He grinned proudly, too.
Months later, he passed away. He wasn’t here this year. We did get to see his beautiful wife and children.
It’s interesting how, even though I don’t see extended family much, as soon as we come together here, we are instantly comfortable. There were so many hugs. It was so… familiar. Like a favorite cozy blanket. I mean, I felt so comfortable I didn’t wear make-up or do my hair at all that week. I felt accepted and cared for just as I was. There’s something about familiarity that satisfies us on a soul level, isn’t there?
It’s that belonging and familiarity that I think we seek when we’re looking for our own homes, too. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a client say about a house, “It’s perfect. It’s everything we wanted… but … I just don’t want to live here.” or, when they find that homey feeling, they’ll say ‘I don’t know what it is, I just … feel at home here.”
For me, that often happens in a 1 ½ storey home. There’s instantly a feeling of it being a loving place. Probably because it reminds me a lot of Grandma and Grandpa’s place, which was a cozy, familiar 1 ½ storey that filled with good memories with loving people.
Home really is where the heart and its memories are.
It’s where we seek and find belonging with those we love.
What are some places that feel like home to you?
Tina Plett, Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate