**Disclaimer: This is a LONG post. Lots of nostalgia to sift through, but I promise pictures!
Bayside Resort is all I knew as a kid. While my friends were hitting up places like Denver, Mexico, Jamaica, New York City and California, I was planted in Northern Minnesota, indefinitely. With the exception of one vacation to Minneapolis, we spent my childhood years at Bayside Resort on Potato Lake. We would camp while my grandparents and aunts and uncles stayed in cabins by the water. I despised being the only family who had to stay in the woods, batting off thousands of mosquitoes walking down to the laundry shack to take a shower, and secretly terrified a bear would chase me when I got up at 2 in the morning to use the bathroom.
All those years of monotony tricked me into believing my childhood was jipped. That somehow I missed out on 18 years of traveling to new and exotic places in exchange for the same scenery year after year. I swore when I got married and started a family of my own, we'd go to new places, show our kids new things. For awhile, Jae has had the best of both worlds. Grandma has taken her along on most of the vacations we didn't make it to, and Carter has gone along on a few too.
It wasn't until the threat of Bayside not existing did my heart really yearn to go back and make sure my kids remembered this place. Since we've been married, we've gone four times including this year, and each time we've left thinking, "This could be it." Terry and Norris are aging, and the reality that a couple in their mid 70's will continue to care for a resort for many more years is unlikely.
In true Wolfswinkel fashion, Dan called up Terry at Bayside on Friday morning, unbeknownst to me. He came home on break Friday morning to tell me the apartment above the lodge was ours if we wanted it. I'm so truly grateful to be married to a man who values making memories and soaking up these moments while our children are little. He had no obligation to do this. No childhood memories tugging on his heart. But he knew I did. He knew this place was my childhood, and that sometimes you sacrifice adventure and the exhilaration of new experiences to grasp tightly to the childhood memories you want so badly to share with your own children. Sometimes you decide it's worth working extra hours in the fall to spend some extra time with your family before the chaos of the school year ensues.
So that's what we did. We decided on Friday that we were tagging along, leaving lots of packing and cleaning to be done in the next two days. The only thing that could have made this trip more perfect was to have Casey and Amy there, but we got their girls, and they now have been initiated into the Potato Lake experience.
The moment we arrived we were overwhelmed with heavy doses of nostalgia. The smell of the pine trees and the cedar cabins brought back the comfortable familiarity of this place that housed so many happy memories of my childhood, and I was determined to fill up my children's buckets with five days of happies to store away for their own mental memory boxes. I smiled each time my nieces or my children caught a fish off the dock and squealed with excitement. I drank it up. Every single ounce.
We tubed, went paddle boating, built lakes in the squishy sand, made smores over the campfire, explored the woods, sat under the open sky and took in the supermoon and the stars that seemed to be a million miles closer to us than at home. We went to the lodge and reminisced over photo albums of old fishing photos. We kayaked around the lake and dreamt about buying a house there. We played King of the Raft, drank coffee by the stillness of the lake in the mornings, read mindless magazines, and took boat rides to chase the waves.
Yes, there were moments my heart would drop a little, knowing that it would never be the same. We occupied only two cabins this year as opposed to five or six. The sauna where we spent countless nights sitting in followed by jumping in the ice cold lake from the dock is now gone. The slide has been removed, and in its place are weeds that haven't been tended to. The lodge is no longer the hot spot where everyone meets at night to take pictures of their big catches or play pool or chat over a bottle of Sioux City Sasparilla. Now it's a little darker and a lot less happening. All these things remind me that Bayside's story is coming closer to the end.
I've looked at pictures of the new places my cousins and aunts and uncles are trying out. Families are getting bigger and are finding new places to make memories. Different isn't bad. It's just different. I've enjoyed watching them make a new normal. Bayside won't be what all of their children or mine remember the same way I will. Maybe it will be Eagle Beach or a variety of other places. Wherever it is, their mamas and dads and grandparents are starting new chapters of memory making in their books.
I'm not sure that I'm ready to let go or if I ever will. Maybe I don't have to. We will continue to seize the opportunities to go to Bayside when we can. And if this was it, I'm okay knowing we left making great memories for our kids and for us. It was a great chapter in all our books.
And if I close my eyes really tight....all my memories are still there. All my childhood happies of that place are tucked safely away in my mind. I can pull them out whenever I want to. I'm learning as I get older that very little in life is black and white. I can show my kids new experiences while still loving the familiar experiences of certain places we go to over and over again. We can have it all.