In Minnesota, keeping a lake cabin in the family for multiple generations is not unusual. Our family’s retreat is on Mille Lacs, the second-largest lake in the state. My father-in-law bought it for a pittance in 1950 when his brother urged him to buy it so they could be neighbors at the lake. It was a one-room structure with an unfinished attic and a screened-in front porch facing the lake. It had no running water, but it did have a space heater that could have killed us all with its noxious fumes.

The cabin got an immediate upgrade when my father-in-law added a bathroom, a tiny new kitchen (complete with a water heater) and a small free-standing fireplace. Humble beginnings, to be sure! The starring attraction was being together and enjoying the great outdoors. Some of the men in the family turned into avid fishermen just viewing the vastness of this great lake, affectionately called “the ocean.”

Our four sons took to the place in a big way, playing in the sand on the shore, swinging on the old tire swing, aiming their .22 rifle at tin cans and practicing hoops on the garage’s makeshift court, besides just being in the water on long warm summer days.

Now we’re into our 63rd year since the cabin was purchased and we’re still turning on the water every spring, anxious for another season to start. We’ve made two more structural additions to accommodate the family’s continued interest in being at the lake together. The cabin now sleeps 18, including three bunk rooms and a storage room where the grandkids can hang out on a rainy day. Nearby is a screened-in gazebo with a welcoming hammock and comfy chairs.

I can’t imagine this place ever being sold and I seriously doubt it will ever be torn down and replaced by a McMansion. It’s a pretty down-home place with stuffed fish, a duck and even a stuffed animal hanging on its walls. Every family member has a self-decorated cup hanging from a beam in the kitchen. The cabin is filled with books and photo albums and time to thumb through them and see each other when we were all younger and sometimes looked pretty funny.