By the Shores of Gitche Gumee

Each year in July my family and I venture East to the shores of one of Wisconsin's many lakes. This is my place of origin and we go back each year to visit my large and unruly extended family.

We'll eat Wisconsin style(until the buttons fly from our pants). We arrive in our jeans and fitted tees and return in elastic. You think I'm kidding? My kids eat their yearly allotment of corn on the cob, I partake in all of my favorites I don't eat in our vegetarian home and my husband gives his sweet tooth its money's worth.

We'll spend ten halcyon days filled with skiing, boating, swimming, popcorn and movies, bonfires and roasted marshmallows, fireworks, and hammock naps. The best part for me is that although I hate the thought that I might be putting someone out or taking advantage, even at 35, this in no way includes my mother.

When I'm home there's a part of me that reverts back to when I was twelve, she's the only one I can do this with. So I'll let her bring me an afghan when I'm cold, coffee when I sit bleary eyed on her couch shaking off sleep, another piece of pie. I will not utter the words, “no I'll get it” or "don't go to any trouble." Just “yes, please.”

I'll let my stepdad take my son fishing at dawn while I sleep in. I'll let my mom watch the kids while I 'nap' with my husband. For him and I, it's one of the few times we get a break at the same time since usually it's one of us relieving the other. For my parents, its a time to build memories with their grandchildren.

My husband, kids and I catch fireflies at dusk. If we're lucky, we'll have a thunderstorm, something we rarely get at home. I'll get to finish a book or two. We'll see a bevy of friends and family. Our California kids get a taste of wide open spaces and a small private lake seemingly put there for our pleasure alone. We'll spend ten days in the same lush backyard we were married in, the water lapping at the shore.

My stepfather puts on a spectacular illegal fireworks display over the lake. He surreptitiously procures dollhouse-size fireworks with names like the Widowmaker, the Amputee and World War 7. He sets them off from their pier that sports the scorch marks to prove it. I'll tell you another time about when he almost set the quartet at our wedding ablaze.

It's a midwest shangri-la, where the weather heats up and time slows down. Every year we add another day or two to our trip. I suspect eventually we'll spend most of our summer there. For now, we all look forward to those ten magnificent days.

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