I think the best way to start a description of a weekend away with my family is to let you know that our first very important stop on Thursday night, after dinner with both sets of parents, before leaving Milwaukee on Friday morning, was the liquor store. My dad pushed the shopping cart up and down the aisles as James, my mother and I followed, branching off on occasion to each locate our poisons of choice. I found a reasonable bottle of Amaretto, James his beer, Mom her Montezuma tequila. Remember that movie? With Nicholas Cage and something about Las Vegas? Where he’s filling his metal shopping cart up with booze? Yeah, well our cart looked something like that, except the whole feel to this little shopping expedition had nothing of that sadness and despair and all of the party attitude of a group of folks who don’t have to do anything but hang out at the lake for three days.
Just to interject, James and I went to (and were rather disappointed by) the midnight showing of X3 with our group of Milwaukee nerds that same night.
So we woke up at 7:00 on the morning of May 26th (my parents had been up and about much earlier, and I really don’t know how they do it–wait, they didn’t go see a midnight movie). We took our turns showering, getting ready, having breakfast, etc. I wasn’t feeling great, so all I ate was an orange. By the time we made our first grocery stop, on the way to meet my brother and his family, I thought I might vomit. So I ate half of a bagel from the grocery bakery while we got some necessary travel items: soda, deodorant, aspirin, Red Vines, etc.
When I was a kid on drives longer than five or ten minutes, we would play a game in the car called “I Went to the Grocery Store.” The game is simple. I say, “I went to the grocery store and I bought something that begins with the letter T.” Then the other people in the car have to guess what item I am thinking of that you could buy at a grocery store (the answer is toothpaste). I had forgotten about that game until we were driving to the grocery store that morning. But I digress.
Dad, James, Mom, Brittany and I followed Kevin, Maggie, Zach and Tony in Mom’s station wagon. We stayed in touch with a set of walkie-talkies. And we competed against each other to spot items on a list that Brittany had provided to each vehicle. I think my brother’s carload ultimately won, but after three hours or so, I don’t know who was even awake to keep track. We stopped for lunch, where we met up with my sister. We all drank beer with our food, even my mom, who, as I’ve mentioned, generally prefers a tequila.
We got to our cabin and each claimed our rooms. Lucky for everyone, James and I got a room to ourselves. By the time we got settled in a little, it was about cocktail hour. So we began to make drinks, and Dad went out to sit on the porch, waiting for the rest of us to join him. Little did he know that Mom had planned for us to have a little surprise birthday celebration for him on this trip. So we brought out our gifts and drinks singing “Happy Birthday” and you should have seen the look on his face. His birthday was not until June 5th, so he never suspected a thing. Most years, in all the chaos that goes on in the lives of his family members, Dad’s birthday doesn’t get a whole lot of fanfare. We fixed that this year. It was good.
After cocktails, we headed to the lodge for the fish fry. I haven’t really considered the fish fry much since we moved, and for the first time, I realized how unique that is to our home area. Where I live now, I have no idea where to go for a good fish fry on Friday, and I doubt there would be anything all-you-can-eat, whereas in Milwaukee, and other parts of Wisconsin, anyone will be able to recommend their favorite place for a fish fry. Anyway, the fish was really good. I had talapia and shared James’ walleye and someone else’s cod. It was an excellent feast. And did I mention potato pancakes? Yeah. Haven’t seen those around here either.
When we came back to the cabin, a few folks decided to have a little campfire. It didn’t light well for a very long time. By the time it really got going, everyone sitting around it was getting quite sleepy. One by one they left and went up to bed. James and I watched the fire for what seemed like a long time. Just us. We separated the burning logs and watched as the flames subsided into glowing embers. When we went into bed, I could still smell the fire on him. Now, I’m not really one for camping or the outdoors, but being there with all my family, the man that I love with all my heart, even in a log cabin somewhere in the woody north of Wisconsin with trees and lakes and ticks and mosquitoes, I was exactly where I belonged.