We have said a lot of goodbyes during the past month. For the most part, they haven’t been too bad – I will be home in September for a wedding and both Matt and I will be home at Christmas. So most of the “goodbyes” are really of the “see you later” kind. The more real goodbyes are those to some elderly relatives (because it really could be the last goodbye) and to the events that we will miss: the family St. Patrick’s Day party, Markesan June Dairy Days at our cottage, Lakefront Festival of Art, Milwaukee’s Irish Fest, etc. But saying goodbye to “The Lake” – my aunt and uncle’s home on Lower Nemahbin Lake – was the hardest goodbye of all.
My dad’s family rented a cottage on Lower Nemahbin since the mid 1950s. Initially, the Hayburn sisters owned the property, but my uncle and aunt bought it in the late 1970s. Regardless of ownership, from the 1950s – early 1990s it was a cottage with an outhouse and only a kitchen sink for running water. And it was my version of paradise. Despite the outhouse. Despite the blistering hot upstairs where all the kids slept on the 5 old, saggy beds. Despite the blood sucking mosquitos. The Lake was Wisconsin summers at their best -even if my family spent multiple cold, rainy weeks there for our only vacation of the year. The Lake was family – the open Sundays when anyone could come out after noon is the sole reason I actually know a majority of my 56 first cousins. The Lake was being a kid – lying on the raft all day with a book, playing board games and card games during the rainy days and catching fireflies at night.
The Lake is up for sale. My childhood is truly over.