Saturday, July 30, 2016

Minisa: A Vacation From My Vacation

Yes, this is my story, shared in as much length and detail and illustrated so profusely because it is written especially for family as well as dear blog readers. But read on -- and learn about a very special place, one that touches the heart.

More than once, when I've said I'm going on vacation, someone will say, "But you're retired! It's always vacation!"

True enough, but not completely. At home, I have obligations. Dentist, doc or hair appointments, maybe some contract work, board meeting or volunteer activities. Most of these are things I welcome but it's safe to say that without my calendar at home, I am hopelessly lost, a bird adrift.

When I come north, the house is small, easy to keep up. So most of my time is spent reading, doing art, walking, swimming, road tripping. It's a vacation. But there's still the beach to weed, tasks to do.

But recently I took a vacation from my vacation. It was Rick's family reunion at Minisa, a cabin on Michigan's Torch Lake that was part of the family history on his mother's side. The cast of wonderful characters that I would be spending time with included three of his four brothers and some of their wives/kids/grandchildren (from Michigan, Massachusetts, Indiana and Utah), along with his aunts and cousin families from Arizona, Ohio, Minnesota, Maryland and Virginia. Our ages ranged from seven weeks to more than seven decades.

And it was an incredible week.

Why was this a vacation from my vacation? Well, because it was totally unstructured. The only rule was dinner at about 5:30 (probably more because of the little ones than the adults!). Usually one of the kids rang the dinner bell and I think the whole lake knew it was dinner time at our house!

Everyone had a hand in making a dinner. And in cleaning up. Many hands make quick work, it is said, and that saying was never more true. And really, who wouldn't want to clean up after menus that included barbecue ribs, lasagna, grilled pork tenderloin, pancakes, chili, and more. Every bite was fabulous!


Rick and his brother Randy slept in tents, niece Olivia in her hammock, the rest of us in Minisa and it's "ice house" cabin next door. People came and went as their schedules permitted. Cindy commuted from Traverse City, brothers Dan and Tim sailed over and went back to the boat at night and I did a couple of road trips home overnight to feel the Lizzie Girl. She was glad to see me.

The rest of the time we bobbed in the lake, hunted Petoskey stones, took a trip to the nearby winery, went shopping in nearby Bellaire, Alden and Elk Rapids.


There were breadmaking lessons by Rick and his guitar practice brought dancing times for Andy!


We read books in the sun and by the fire, played in the lake and had the most wonderful conversations. We got to know one another again and reconnected.


There were two birthday celebrations -- and lots of cake!

It was never a problem finding someone with whom to engage in a board game! And of course there were s'mores!


Amy, Jay and Molly seemed to be duck whisperers! (I think the ducks knew a good thing when they saw it!)


Oh, and did I mention swimming in the lake? (Yes, I know I did!) But we did it often on this warm week. At first the water is bracing! Then refreshing. Then perfect!


At times there were 20 people. At no time was there conflict or argument. There was plenty of reminiscing, piecing together family history, recalling old stories and providing current updates. We laughed. And when it was time to leave, we cried.

When I was a kid, every time I left the cottage, I would cry for about 20 miles, despite my mother's gentle reminders that we would be back next year. But when we left Minisa, we all knew that there would be no next year.

The property, sitting on a valuable piece of Torch Lake, has been sold and the new owners plan to tear down this remarkable building for -- what? A McMansion? Maybe. At least something usable over all four seasons.

It breaks our hearts.

Minisa was built in the 1920s, a marvelous log cabin with a fireplace so large that the smallest members of our party could have easily walked inside. It is like a living history museum.


While the entire structure is not original, the updates have been well within character. The bathroom looks like it could be that old, apart from the fact that it now has "real" plumbing. The towel bars and stair rails are handcrafted from birch logs. If the kitchen cupboards aren't original, I sure couldn't tell.

Checkout the old water tank in the corner of the bathroom! The log walls. And that half-circle of white in the lower right-hand corner is one of those classic tubs with feet!

The furniture is cottage mishmash. Perfect for gathering by the fire (which we did on the first cool evening), cozy and comfy for reading. The mantle holds family photos and sailing trophies.

The china is a mix of old and new and there were some wonderful pieces. In the kids room a hefty collection of children's books. Quilts for every bed. Eastlake furniture in some of the rooms, other equally antique furniture in others.

And everywhere, wonderful nooks and crannies filled with family history and treasures. What is in the dresser drawer? We discover old medals, family inventory records, beautiful pieces of jewelry. And it has been accumulated over decades -- nearly a century. Not all has monetary value and some bits are purely for use. Yet every little bit, fascinating.


The porch was the gathering place. Its wide roof covered us and offered shade from the hot afternoons and its comfortable Adirondack-style chairs and a table that seemed a mile long all contributed to this being the heart of the home, the place where conversations continued into the late hours.

And from the porch, you saw the lake. Crystal clear -- looking down through the water was like looking at a shore.

And, in the water, those long conversations continued as we bobbed around on floaties and noodles, sharing stories, learning about each other. Mermaids proudly displayed their shells and no child was ever unprotected in the lake with a cadre of grown-ups taking care to make certain they were safe.

It was a week of hugs...

...and laughter.

Lots of laughter.

A week of introductions to the youngest member....


...and moments of quiet reflection.

It was perfect.


Until the first Minisa reunion four years ago, Rick and his brothers hadn't seen their cousins in decades -- and the MD/VA cousins hadn't seen the MN/OH/AZ group either. What we all learned then is that time is fleeting, the senior generation is physically vulnerable, the connections are valuable and priceless. And there is a new generation who will remember Minisa only through fading childhood memories and who will never have the opportunity to reconnect with their cousins at this special place.

Each of us wrote our memories in the Minisa log book. A treasure of memories added to those of families we have never met but all with at least one thing in common -- a love for this place.

Could this have happened anywhere? Yes, there will be places with beautiful sunsets. And yes, you could gather at a central spot with lots of people, eat good food, swim, talk. But it wouldn't be the same.

It will never be the same.

And so, on the morning of departure, the last of us to leave saw lots of sad faces as we said goodbye -- not just to one another.

But also, to Minisa.


Mae Travels said...

What a sad and happy story you have written! Was your place a rental, or did it belong to the family? So many old places can't be kept up because the land is just too valuable, so we lose all the connections -- you have made this so plain and poignant!

best... mae at

Kerry Keiser said...

Thank you Jeannie, what a marvelous tribute to an amazing week.

Lynne said...

Oh my Jeanie . . .
I am in tears . . .
Beautifully written, visually, just as beautiful . . . described . . .
Where will all the family treasures go . .
The quilts, the trophies, the memory guest book . . .
So happy for each of you for your 2016 reunion . . .
Like no other . . .
Memories were made of this!

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I was also in tears as I read your poignant words about this beautiful place that will soon be torn down. It's sad, so I hope they got a good price for it, since the memories are priceless. I enjoyed the photos and the tale you spun as you (and all your readers) said hello, then goodbye to Minisa.

Valerie-Jael said...

How sad that this wonderful place will be destroyed. Glad you were able to enjoy the time together. Have fun on your vacation! Hugs, Valerie

Joyful said...

Both your vacation and your mini vacation from you vacation sound marvellous!!! I absolutely love that log cabin where you are all staying and it sounds like your extended family is a blast to spend time with. xx

Tamara said...

Memories like these are what form structure to our purpose and identities. Those young ones will hold the memory of family times at the lake close to their hearts. We had family gatherings like this, but 20 years have past since a true gathering and i miss my cousins. We formed close bonds during these times. This is a lovely post, with much to be celebrated.

La Table De Nana said...

You are very rich in family!!

Joanne Huffman said...

How very sad to have this be the last gathering here. How very wonderful to have all those wonderful memories.

Mary@mydogsmygardenandmary said...

Oh what memories you have of this wonderful week at the Lake. It looks like you had a terrific time seeing family members and renewing friendships.

Now you should have a family reunion every couple of years. They are a lot of fun.

So glad that you had a wonderful experience.


Marilyn Miller said...

Now that is just plain SAD! What a beautiful place for family to gather I want to cry now too. Wow! Wonderful memories and memorabilia.

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Dear Jeanie,
Thank you for sharing your family gathering at this beautiful place. It is so sad to say goodbye to a spot that has brought family together in one place to enjoy such beauty. But our memories are forever.. So beautifully written.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...


That is a heart breaker, Jeanie.

The only thing that can't be torn down and replaced with a shiny new, over-the-top construction are MEMORIES. Memories age and develop a tear-stained patina that is polished up by smiles of recollection. Oh this is think of this gorgeous, family center being sold. All I can think of from my own experience, is that what we build is not of wood and nails, but of the bonds of friendship within family and outside of family.

May the young ones remember these times and find a special spot to use as a sanctuary of sorts, to raise their children as well on family gatherings. Those memories never, ever die.

shoreacres said...

We do become attached to places as well as to people. When "the place" up in the Hill Country sold, I was bereft. All that's left of it now, at least for me, are the pots of cactus on my balcony. (And remember Godot? That's where he came from! Now Godot is gone, too, although Godette is carrying on just fine.)

Nothing stays the same. But you've reminded me that it's time one at least one more visit to "my" cabin on the Frio river. The folks who own that are getting old, too, and it won't be available forever.

Summer said...

Such lovely photos and family ♥ Glad you had a great time ♥

The French Hutch said...

Jeanie, Looks like a wonderful family reunion that was an emotional roller coaster! The sweet and bittersweet of your time together looks perfect. A place in time to treasure! I loved seeing your family photos and what a happy smile you always have. How blessed to have been able to do this.
Now you have memories and the youngest will carry them into the future. I so enjoyed this with you……..

Jann Olson said...

Jeanie, what a fabulous place to have a family reunion. We just hosted one for our out of state relatives yesterday. They also came to my home for dinner Friday night. It was short and sweet! They flew in Fri. and flew home this morning. We had not seen each other in over ten years. So yes, we had sad faces as they departed as well. Love your group photo and the plates with the year.

Red Rose Alley said...

Wow, what a wonderful family reunion! Minisa sounds like just the place for all the family to get together. It's beautiful there. Sounds like just what I will need after the wedding festivities are over with. :) That fireplace looks so old and charming. And the log cabin atmosphere is so delightful. Love the bell picture also. Good food and spending times with the ones we doesn't get much better than that. Happy Birthday to your dear husband, Jeanie.


ps your sunset pics are just beautiful.

The Artful Diva said...

WOW so much fun packed in one place. What a fantastic getaway!

Sandra Cox said...

How bittersweet.
Thanks for sharing.
Big hug

Jennifer Richardson said...

This is so deeply, deeply beautiful! Family at it's best.
Something about this tugs at the age old longing to simply belong somewhere. With someones. This is riches displayed:) You guys know what's important and you build it together.
Soooooooo much love and bravo to you and yours:)

~*~Patty S said...

Gone but never forgotten I'm sure.
Life can be so bittersweet!

Sally Wessely said...

I kept saying "no" "no" in my heart as I read this. It is all just too sad. I loved the story of the place, the wonderful photos of the place, but mostly I loved the people. I kept wanting to be a adopted by this family because I liked them all just by reading about them and seeing the pictures. This place was truly a treasure. It is so sad when such places are sold.

Have you read "The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home?" I read it about five years ago. It is a great book that you might enjoy. Certainly, Rick's family had a similar place they all loved and visited and then had to leave behind.

Kitty said...

Thanks to Aunt Josie and Uncle Charles for creating a place for such profound memories. And thanks Jeanie for the wonderful description of the week. I wish I could have been there. Love to you and all.

Victoria Zigler said...

This was a beautiful post! Your love for the place, and enjoyment of the fun times with great company, really shine through. I'm glad you had such a great time, and sorry this will be the last time you can gather there.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

This was such a beautiful post! I am glad you all had an opportunity to reconnect in a place that is so special to your family. How sad that you won't be able to come back there for future get togethers, though. It looks like such a charming and beautiful lake cabin. I can understand why many left in tears as it's hard to say good bye to family but even harder when you are also saying good bye to a special place.

Wandering Wren said...

Woah that's a tear-jerker of a family reunion, how special for you all. Looks a wonderful week. I'm sure the heart of your holiday house will live on - think of it like virtual organ donation, the new owners can build a new place. it might not be to your style but I'm sure you have left the positive heart and vibes of your happy family holidays which will live on in the land and spirit of the place! Well that sounds a bit deep doesn't it?!!!!
Happy Tuesday :)
Wren x

Mary Rose's said...

I was okay until I got to the line, "But when we left Minisa, we all knew that there would be no next year."

Now I'm sitting at work with tears in my eyes.

I think you captured the affection and family ties so well with your words, and the photos are just perfect vignettes of Minisa Summer.

Maybe there's a picture book for the family out of this?

Don't know. So sad for losing the gathering place.

Lately I've been reminded to take an extra measure of anyone, anything we're saying goodbye to, because you just don't know it's the last time.

Maryanne in SC

Lynda Shoup said...

Such a beautiful post. Such mixed feelings. Like others, I feel tears forming thinking about the loss of a place so dear to you. You have done a beautiful job of showing the joy of the place and it's charms juxtaposed with the sorrow of loss. May there be many other joyful reunions in your future that add a new type of cheer. This place - both on a physical and heart level - can never be replaced. But life may offer new and happy experiences. It is my hope that there will be plenty of those.

Shelia said...

Oh, the best of times!
Be a sweetie and thanks for popping in to see me.
Shelia :)

Mary Blanchard said...

Oh, Jeanie--You described it all so well. I hope your book will be everything in this blog. You have captured the essence of Minisa and family; I just pray that this won't be the last year that you and we all get together
again up here, even if the venue is different. Thank you for this beautiful memorial. Love, Mary

Bella Rum said...

It is true that retirement is like being on vacation all the time. I love it.

Your life seems rich with family and friends. I think your free and sweet spirit attracts people. Enjoy it all!

Privet and Holly said...

MInisa reminds me of one of my favorite
movies ~ On Golden Pond. Gosh, I'm so
sad that the family has to sell her!

But as my grandma, Gigi, used to say,
"All good things come to an end." And
it sounds like you sent her off with a
wonderful celebration of love and laughter
and gratitude....

I hope you'll all be able to take away
some tangible piece of Minisa to have
in your own home. Things are just that ~
things ~ but they do conjur up memories
that are so powerful and beautiful!

Thank you for sharing your lovely week
and Minisa, with us. I hope your family
will still gather together somewhere, some
how. Mine does every couple of years, in
different spots. I love the idea of always
"coming home" to the same place, but there
is also joy in discovering new places, together.

Love & hugs,
xo Suzanne

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