Up North

up north flag Up North Stomper She stomped away, all two feet of her, arms folded and her little flip flops on the wrong feet sticking straight out to the sides. I looked at her other grandma who was standing next to me in the warm, early morning sun, with raised eyebrows. "She insisted on dressing herself," Giselle said. "Oh." We tried to stifle our laughter. Our granddaughter was not in the mood to have her picture taken. I felt the same way. But I soon learned that it was a tradition. It was the departure morning of vacation during the summer of 2001. And it was the year that Sven and I had been invited to 'save a cabin' at the resort, because one of Giselle's brothers opted out. up-north-picnic-table When we arrived, Darwin was sitting on top of the picnic table in front of his cabin wearing khaki pants and a very tiny life jacket. I saw Giselle smack her father with a fly swatter right on top of his hairless head. "Are you expecting a flood?" asked his granddaughter-in-law, Annie. "I can't get this God damn thing off," he says. Giselle swatted him again. "Got it," she said with a satisfied grin. Annie helped him out of his life jacket. "Dragon flies are your friends," he would explain. "They eat flies you know." And then he'd step into his little fishing boat taking along nothing more than one pole and one lure. "That's all you need," he would say, pulling the cable three times and then he'd putt his way out to sea. Late at night with family all crowded around the table, more folks standing at the counter and kids batting balloons around and above all the fans pointed upward in the living room of the big house, he would tell his sordid tales. The place would explode with laughter hearing about his condemned cars and adventures as a milk man. Although Darwin was a wonderful story teller, he was not the best at playing games, including Catch Phrase. "It's not an orange," he declared. The room howled. "What?" he said, looking around. "What's wrong with that?" "That's a pretty shitty clue!" "Well, it is still not an orange," he said, blue eyes twinkling behind the thick lenses. Patsy would role her eyes and say, "That was your clue the last time." They were the matriarch and patriarch of the clan and the life of the party. "I would like a Summer Hummer, please," Patsy would order at the resort bar and then sip the tropical-green concoction with wide eyes like it was some sort of a miracle with each and every taste. Their cabin came with an endless supply of freeze pops. Patsy made sure that her grandchildren and great grandchildren never ran out of freeze pops, whether they wanted freeze pops or not. You see, this was a family tradition. If this family does something once, this family must do it again, every year, forever and ever, AND EVER. As in, take a family picture next to your cabin on the last morning of vacation, right before you go home. On arrival day it was also a tradition that Patsy would bake a sliced ham. Everyone was invited for hot sandwiches, pickles, beans and chips. Everyone except Adam. Adam didn't like ham. So she would run back and forth between cabins throwing in frozen pizzas for her grandson. You were expected to show up at six o'clock. No sooner and no later. Sven and I learned the hard way that this was sometimes a challenge when we had three lakes to pass through in order to reach the mandatory ham sandwich dinner. But we did it. Adam began inviting his friends up when he hit his teens. Although the gangly pack of boys have grown up and filled out and have now dwindled, there are still two that remain constant. I don't know where we will ever put them if they decide to marry and/or have kids. My guess is they will stay unattached so as not to lose the foot they have in the door of this particular family vacation. They are like family to all of us. My son Marques is married to Giselle's daughter, Nicolette. They have four children, including their first-born, Oceanne, the two foot tall, arms folded, flip-flop stomper. She is turning eighteen and is now all of four and a half feet tall and she usually puts her flip-flops on the right feet these days. My eyes were wide. "Marques is smoking!" I gasped, as he leaned over the pool table at Donner's Bay with a lit cigarette stuffed behind his ear. "It's fake," said Giselle. "He and Jason got them at the fair." Our rented-for-the-day pontoon boat came around the bend and there was Swimmers' Island. Two more motorboats stuffed with familiar arms and legs and coolers zipped along next to us. And there stood my and Giselle's grown sons, Marques and Jason, in the water wearing Speedos, hip waders and safari hats, with those fake cigarettes hanging off their lips. They simultaneously threw out their lines. Later that day the 'Double-mint Twins' were spotted being towed behind the big boat on skis, smoking. Cedar Cove Cabins are in Northern Wisconsin on a body of water called, The Turtle Flambeau Flowage. There is a reason for the word turtle in the title. A few summers back, we seemed to have arrived during turtle-sex-week. As we floated lazily around on the securely-tied-to-the-dock blow up mattress that is fondly named Alcoholic Island, there was a large turtle patrolling the area. up north alcoholic island "He's looking at me again!" yelled Lindsey, in a bikini, sitting up straight, on top of the raft. If you have never heard wild screams of frantic women or have never seen people move faster than the speed of light, then you probably have never seen the face of a turtle pop up in the middle of the circle, located in the middle of Alcoholic Island. The very circle where all feet dangle. The very circle that is named, The Circle of Trust. The very place we lock our feet together to become a solid floor. A floor that one can step on to move about the securely-tied-to-the-dock, floating island. A circle of trust that is not always that trustworthy. And if there is anything that can cause an even more shrill scream and can make people move even faster than having a turtle face come popping up in The Circle of Trust, it would be Eric tossing a snake onto an otherwise peaceful float. I am still mad about that. However, Eric makes up for being a dick in ways that nobody else can. You see, he not only makes the world's best Bloody Mary. He delivers them on a tray to all of his slippery relatives in swimsuits, on the island, out on the dock or wherever they happen to be. And then there is Scott. His special talent is Pina Coladas. He does not deliver. One must go to his cabin after his wife, Amber, spreads the word. And as you walk into the cracker-box sized house, he hits the button on the blender and his cousin Eric plays Jimmy Buffet on his cell phone to create a delightful atmosphere. "Are you going over there?" I asked Brooks. "Have you ever had one of Scottie's Pina Coladas?" He said to me. "No," I answered. And then he gave me a brief dissertation all about Scott and his Pina Coladas while he zipped a bunch of zippers on his backpack filled with all kinds of contraptions, including a book about knots and a couple of battery operated misting fans. He slung it over his shoulder, checked for his water bottle hanging from his kilt and said, "Let's go." The talents in this family do not end here. Alison is famous for her tiny bikinis and her delicious pudding shots, while her sister Emily is known for her love of fishing and her beautifully striped Jell-o in the cake-pan shots. Annie brings home the blue ribbons with her Farmers' Market jams. Bill lights up the sky with his fireworks and Jerry lights up a room. Lindsey knows every word of David Allan Coe's, You Never Even Called Me by my Name. Amber and Jason don't miss a syllable or a note of, We didn't start the fire. Jason sings like Elvis and impersonates Sinatra. Oceanne sings like a star. Iris is a ballerina. Kate, Maggie, Kaden and Sean all kick butte at washer box. And Kaden at eleven can out fish Babe Winkleman. Marques and Nicolette have produced four beautiful children that call me Gramma Millie. Dougal wins the cutest upturned nose award. Maggie swims like a fish. Reggie and Nyssa are just plain cuties. Lydia pops out of cabin number four every morning and twirls around and says things like, "Happy Day, Sven," in her helium voice. And even Aengus is coming out of his shell. Jerry has a cannon ball that drenches all of the previously happy people, floating around on the securely-tied-to-the-dock, Alcoholic Island. Jane is the finder of all vacation rafts. Vicki can turn a game of charades into hilarious havoc. If you ever have the opportunity to meet Vicki, ask her to show you her version of a card dealer. And do not miss the chance to see her silent interpretation of Elvis Presley. I will admit that it was not her fault the day she chose Neapolitan ice cream as her clue on the folded piece of paper. You see, the game was rigged, and that is why her audience refused to guess any of her frantic gestures out there on the grass in front of cabin number three. Klen is a shore-lunch fishing kind of a guy. Jason looks for, fixes and changes loose bolts anywhere he can find one. Mike is a wizard of fan art. There is never a stuffy room. Amy does her best to keep Eric in line which ain't easy. Like the time she failed, and a frog jumped out of the Red Solo cup in the middle of the table in the big house, during a game of Catch Phrase. At least she shares her Patron with us. Way back when, in the early years, before he moved to Thailand, our friend, Cousin Bill, used to join us on this vacation week. Early one morning, even after a brave attempt by Mike to save it, Cousin Bill's fishing pole went overboard and disappeared in the deep, dark water. After the fatal toss, there were several search parties and several attempts to retrieve that pole. Before the week was out cousin Bill himself hooked it and reeled it in. No. Wait a second. He hooked and reeled in a different fishing pole. Sven, Cousin Bill and I set out to fish one very hot afternoon. It was a scorcher. "I have to pee," I said. "Of course you do," said Sven and motored over to an island where he parked us in the shade. I finished my business and got back in the boat. Cousin Bill passed me a pipe. Sven says, "Hey, that boat coming toward us is the DNR." I blew out the smoke. Cousin Bill says, "What boat?" Sven says, "That one. The one with the guy with the binoculars." Cousin Bill put his lit pipe into his front pocket just as Andy of Mayberry and Barney Fife pulled up next to us. "How're y'all doing?" says Andy. "Good," we answer. Barney was sniffing the air and sizing us up and down and down and up. And sniffing and sniffing and sniffing. He wanted to nip something in the bud. "Just catching a break from the sun?" asks Andy. "Yeah," we answer. "Catching any fish?" he asks. "Nope," we say. Barney pipes up, "Got your licenses handy?" In slow motion Sven unzips the flap on his tackle box, and he hands them over to Barney. Deliverance was playing in my head. Andy seems to want no trouble. Barney is itching to lock us up. After ten minutes, a disappointed Barney, hands us back our licenses and Andy wishes us, "Good day." "Jesus," says Cousin Bill as he pulls the pipe out of his pocket. "That was getting hot." He refilled it. An hour later we were stuck on a rock pile in the middle of another lake. Andy drove past real slow and deliberate and waved while Barney knowingly stared at us through his binoculars, as we threw out our lines, pretending to fish. "Do not let them know we are stuck here," says Sven. Fortunately we were not incarcerated. So we were able to make it to the FAMILY FUN-O-RAMA, Cedar Cove Cabins, Washer Box Tournament. The FAMILY FUN-O-RAMA poster that was hand crafted by Emily, Oceanne and Iris, in cabin number five, also known as Millie and Sven's Place, hung on cabin number three just before the potluck washer box tournament began. The Cedar Cove Cabins Washer Box Tournament is one of the biggest, grandest sporting events in the universe, although it is not well known anywhere other than at Cedar Cove Cabins, on the second week in July, by the inhabitants there on that particular week. Nights can get real late and they sometimes turn into mornings at this resort. You see, it is hard to go to bed. Because if you do, you will miss all of the singing around the table. And I'll hang around as long as you will let me And I never minded standing' in the rain But you don't have to call me darlin', darlin' You never even called me by my name Or you could miss the women all stuffed in Giselle's bedroom trying out a Tens Unit. And then you would absolutely miss Vicki leaping two feet backwards, banging into Giselle's dresser with saucer-like eyes popping out of her face, just as Giselle turns on the switch." "Ahhhh!!!!!" she screams. "What number do you have it on?????" "One," says Giselle. "Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha." This was the reaction from the person who kept yelling, "Turn on the juice!" "Oceanne!!" yelled Iris out the bedroom door. "Get in here!! We're gonna do Grandma. Do you want to watch?" And the guys in the kitchen didn't even blink. Today, Darwin and Patsy are with us in spirit only. But they are a strong couple of spirits. They are never forgotten and they are always on this vacation. Right down to the hot sliced ham mandatory sandwiches, which Vicki has taken over. Although she says bullshit to the pizzas. And there is still an endless supply of freeze pops in Cabin number one whether you want a freeze pop or not. It is tradition. The other rainy afternoon no one was around. Anywhere. I walked over to the bar next door at Donner's Bay and that's where I found them. You should have seen all of those pretty green Summer Hummers. up north skye "They are actually, pretty shitty." As I am writing this today, it is the first Thursday of the second week in July. It is the last real day of vacation. Because we check out on Saturday. I know. It is tradition that this family packs up on Friday. All day Friday. FRIDAY IS FOR PACKING. You see, it is another family tradition to pull out at six AM on Saturday. Some do this in order to catch breakfast in Minocqua at Paul Bunyen's Restaurant. "Sounds like a cluster-fuck," says Sven. On Saturday morning, we will wake to the sounds of feet on gravel, doors opening and closing, and kids laughing and running. We will climb out of bed with a sad twinge in our hearts in time to hug good-byes and to see Oceanne, her parents and her siblings, Iris, Kaden and Sean standing in front of Cabin number two, for their family vacation departure morning, photo. That is the tradition. up north barons up north jager shotup north loon alert up north bar boys at games up north jason up north bar Nyssa up north bar bill and lindsey up north bar amber and scott up north bar marques and me up north klen up north Sven and boat up north bar amber and scott up north old style up north guys by boat up north heather and jason packing up north our boat in water up north packing sven up north bar kids and toys up north bar brooks and ann up north a frames up north bar girls up north dock at dusk And I'll hang around as long as you will let me And I never minded standing' in the rain But you don't have to call me darlin', darlin' You never even called me by my name

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