July 4th, America’s Independence. Everyone has different traditions around this holiday to show their patriotism. Most often, involving fireworks, bbqs and lawn games, and inevitably in Minnesota, including bodies of water and mosquitos. This year, I was lucky enough to be invited to celebrate the traditions of Peter’s family at their cabin on the Brule River in Wisconsin. It had started to become a regular thing that we do together and even though Peter was still in New Zealand, I joined his family for a vacation in the north woods.
The days were full of traditional activities, river bathing, croquet and delicious meals together on the screened in wrap-around porch. I even brought a family tradition of my own and made aebelskivers for breakfast one morning. We took the mandatory trip up river. Piling into canoes with food, drink and firewood, we poled up to the usual picnic grounds. Bacon was fried by Peter’s uncle David over a blazing fire and turned into a hash with potatoes and onions. There was salad, bratwursts and plenty of New Glarus. We enjoyed the cool shade, and as we munched on appetizers I chatted with Kara- the girlfriend of Peter’s cousin Seth- also there, braving the family without her significant other. Before digging in to our extravagant picnic meal, we contemplated over the beauty and sacredness of being able to share such a magical place with family and friends of past, present and future. On full bellies, we boarded our canoes to paddle back down through the heavy mist that was settling on the river.
To celebrate Independence Day we joined the short-ships parade, an extravaganza connecting cabin neighbors that ironically, I had never participated in with Peter. Canoes were decked out in red-white and blue and people dressed patriotically. Splashes from the paddles caused the crepe-paper colors to stream festively down the sides of the boats. When the parade was ready to commence, the leading canoe turned on their boom-box and America themed songs began to accompany us down river. It was fun, kitschy, and very USA as we followed each other and the current all the way to the Winneboujou Club for appetizers and camaraderie. When the boom-box got too far ahead of our canoe, Peter’s brother and sister, Jesse and Katie, serenaded me with what they could remember of ‘America The Beautiful’ (keep in mind that they grew up in the Philippines).
Of course at dusk it was time to get ready for the fireworks. We sprayed on the OFF, collected blankets and sweatshirts and made our way to the town of Lake Nebagamon. This small-town fireworks display was always big & loud and up-close and personal. And it was a great opportunity to patronize the local Dairy Queen on their busiest day of the year.
Thank you Caldwells and Spencers for sharing with me your cabin home, your wooded land, and your traditions. A good motto for the weekend could have been, “This land was made for you and me”.
This was the first song to blast on the boom box during the canoe parade:
All photos courtesy of Sue Spencer