Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Best Christmas Gift Ever

It came to him as ideas often come to Rick -- on the seat of a bicycle. One of his favorite 100-mile stints at the lake is to Torch Lake. Fifty over, fifty back.
It's a spot that is meaningful for him, because in the long-ago, his mother's family had a cottage there. During a half-way point in his ride, he stopped by and the people there directed him to the owner's place down the road. She was a distant cousin. After a lovely chat, he hopped back on the bike to head home.
On the way he thought, "What if... what if we could get my brothers and cousins to give a Christmas gift to my mom, aunt and uncle that was a week together at Minisa."
It wasn't as easy a project as it might seem. Rick didn't know all the cousins on his mom's side as well as those on his dad's and as many families are today, they were spread throughout the country.

Some didn't want to join in, but most did and on Christmas Day all the cousins joined in a conference call with the three senior siblings inviting them to the lake!
As some things go, it wasn't clear right off the bat if all really wanted to go. Reconnections after a long period apart aren't always the easiest thing. But in the end, they gathered at Minisa for a week to remember.
Rick stayed north, going back and forth to Minisa from the lake until he finally just found a bed and stayed. Other cousins rented a cottage down the road and everyone would gather for fun in the sun and meals on the porch. I came on the weekends.
Part of what made Minisa special was the cabin itself. It was a genuine log cabin, built from the forests of Bellaire, Michigan in the early 1900s.
The fireplace was heavy stone, and the living room was filled with photos and memorabilia that would make an Antiques Roadshow junkie go crazy!
The bedrooms had beautiful quilts. Most faced Torch Lake and when the windows were open, a lovely breeze came through.
There were so many wonderful touches. Here are a few. The bathroom...
 Reading materials in the rooms...
Vintage pans...
Unique decorations.
And much more. 

It was interesting, coming the first day, then the second weekend. People who barely knew one another, despite the bloodlines, were at first a bit tentative. Glad to be together, glad to meet new family, but a tad more formal.
By the second weekend, all were old friends with that familiarity that only spending extended time together can bring. Those times were enhanced by long talks, dips in the lake, games...
...and fabulous meals that seemed to appear with relative ease.
Rick made his "best pancakes in the world"...
...and I loved the kitchen with its log walls and tall, rustic cabinets.
There was time for contemplation...
...and time to hunt for Petoskey stones.
Lots of photos were taken -- we all had family portraits!
The sunsets were dramatic and always drew an audience.
Even the trees seemed to pose.
There were campfires...
...sunsets... and family memorabilia sharing...
For Rick's Aunt Lou, a first-time visit with her new baby grandson.
For Uncle Jim and Becky, a return to the spot they spent their honeymoon.
For Rick's mom, Kitty, time with all her boys and many of their children.
It was a time to revel in the beauty of nature...
...the magic of family connection...
...and the steadfastness of tradition.
For everyone, it was a time of love, sharing and family. With the parents, all of whom have health challenges of one sort or another, it was a reunion at a critical time, when all could enjoy the time together at a beautiful place.
To distant cousin Mary, who now owns Minisa and made it available, a big debt of thanks. Something tells me that we may return again!


Annie Jeffries said...

I have family in Northern Wisconsin and Rochester, NY. With only one exception, I haven't seen any of them in decades. I would jump at the opportunity to do something like this. I yearn to see these people again. I need to talk with Don about this.

Susan Bailey said...

What a fabulous post! Such a meaningful get-together. My sister and her husband have two cottages in Northern MA on 5 wooded acres overlooking a lake. The cottages are the typical summer type with open beams. They were built probably about 100 years ago by the great grandfather. Your log cabin is amazing and I sent my sister your post so she could see.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

OH wow! That is such an awesome gift idea. Well done, Rick! It looks like everyone had such a great time. What a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience to all spend that time together. My favorite picture is the susnset one!!! So so gorgeous!!

Joanne Huffman said...

This is so cool! Brilliant idea, perfect gift for lots of people.

Linda Jo said...

How wonderful! Would have loved something like that!

Barb said...

Great that Rick had this idea - looks as though the reunion was a big success. The cabin and landscape are out of this world! Great shots, Jeanie.

Gerry said...

Linda (shoreacres) told me I'd like this post and she was right. There's nothing quite like the classic family cottage on a lake Up North in Michigan. We are spoiled for choice.

Jennifer Richardson said...

that is almost magic,
the way i can feel this to my bones
and beyond
...can feel the family bonds
and the love
and comfort
of a tribe.
how beautiful, this.
your hubby's mom is one
blessed woman!
thanks for sharing the wonder,

Marilyn Miller said...

Oh my goodness this does make me have tears. What a very special dream come true and how tender to have family reunite in a beautiful setting. Looooove that cabin, what I would do to be someplace like that. How very very special!!!!!

shoreacres said...

Look at that huge family you have! Even those who have to rent their cottages can do so - but a family like that is pure gift. Sometimes I miss those days of aunts, uncles and cousins so much. It's nearly all gone now - pretty soon it will be just me and Dixie, so I'd better stay on her good side!

The more I see of Michigan the more beautiful I think it is - how wonderful that you all were able to join together in such a place and renew those old ties!

Relyn Lawson said...

What a thoughtful gift. What a fantastic time! A perfect way to spend precious summer hours.

Anonymous said...

Hey, this is very nicely done. Jeannie ever thought about getting
into the writing biz?
I especially appreciate how she was able to capture the event from
the fringe. No, not that she is fringe...what I mean is that I'm
sure she is just like every other spouse/kid/significant who has
heard all these stories about this wondrous magical place for all of
these years. She actually captures some of that wonderful magic in this piece very well.
(moved from email from Dan O by Kitty)

Anonymous said...

Jeanie, you have done it again with both the words and the pictures. I have tears running down my face as I read and type this. That week meant more to me than any of you can imagine and I am so grateful to all who enabled it. A friend of mine lost her son unexpectedly Mon. I hope all who have commented on missing families and loved ones will follow through with plans to get together. Thank you Jeanie, for sharing your talents and for being there with us. Love, Kitty

Anonymous said...

I don't have Jeannie's e-mail--but please pass along my thanks to her for her successful efforts. Great job capturing the memories, Jeanie--thank you! Much love to all,
Becky (moved from email by Kitty)

Maggie said...

Arranging something as wonderful as this get together can't have been easy, but I'm sure it was oh so worthwhile, what a treat for everyone.

Bella Rum said...

What a wonderful idea. It looks like so much fun was had. It's nice that they actually had enough time to truly connect. Great photos.

Unknown said...

Jeanie, you so eloquently put into words what I felt that whole week! It was magical and extremely overdue for us all. The reconnection with lost loved ones and connection to new will forever fill my heart with joy! This quaint log cabin up north in the woods of northern Michigan was a magical and healing place. A place we shall never forget and will frequent again soon! Hopefully more Acklin descendents will come and experience the magic along with those who were there this last time.

PeterParis said...

A wonderful intiative and a fabulous house and place!! (We also organize cousin meetinsg, aobut every five years. Nex time maybe in Paris.)

Sally Wessely said...

Reading about this just made my heart smile. Rick deserves a huge pat on the back for not just having the idea to do this, but for helping to do what it took to make it happen. Truly, this post is precious. The photos are treasures. The memories that were made are priceless.

Arti said...

What a wonderful place for family reunion and holiday gathering. The log cabin is just beautiful, the environment pristine. Your photos are gorgeous, esp. the sunsets, ready to frame! And oh, those pancakes look so delicious. Thanks for sharing this experience with us, Jeanie!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful idea and a most perfect spot. Going through the pictures reminded me of two favorite movies, On Golden Pond and Dan in Real Life. How special indeed.

Enjoyed Gypsy's post too...sigh. Can't believe it's been three months already.

Always good stopping by, Jeanie.
Much love,

OldLady Of The Hills said...

What a Beautiful Wonderful Post, my dear....Your Rick came up with such a rich and meaningful idea---The "Family" must have ben so grateful to him and you all have created such wonderful dear memories....Memories that no doubt will grow more and more meaningful as time goes by. Thanks so much for sharing this really special time with all of us.

Janet said...

What a wonderful idea and such a beautiful gift to give to a family.

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