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Vincent was nonplussed when we explained the situation. He stuck his skinny, 17-year-old arm out the cabin door and waved hopefully as Paula and I peered out the window, hidden behind the curtains. The owner smiled, shook his head and went back inside. He never told our parents.
Now, more than 25 years later, I'm the parent, trying to keep my kids safe and entertained at the lake without the aid of No Pest strips, Noxzema, bright-orange life jackets or cane poles.
Resorts are more comfortable and more complicated, with microwave ovens, fish locaters, electronic games, boom boxes, fiberglass kayaks. Two-person paddleboats are rare; instead Jet Skis buzz the docks. We go inline skating on smooth ribbons of asphalt, browse antique stores, read Harry Potter, sip juice boxes, apply SPF 30 on the beach during the day and luxuriate in a sauna at night.
We have yet to find the perfect resort. But we still fish, still swim, still enjoy each other's company in wooded retreats far from home and work. Whatever the accommodations, it's all about family and, as my dad says, "at-ee-tude."
On Pelican Lake several summers ago, my parents got stuck with a bad cabin. The converted tool shed was so close to the main dock that gasoline fumes filled the air, and so small that an opening had been cut in the bedroom wall to accommodate the backside of the refrigerator in the adjoining kitchen. My wife and I felt guilty about ending up with the better cabin on that trip, even though we needed the extra room for our toddler and infant. My parents, nearing their 70s, waved off any suggestion of switching and, as always, made the best of the trip.
They caught their share of sunnies and played cribbage with us at their kitchen table long after the ululating loons had quieted down. They had fun in that little cabin. I think it reminded them of Ossawinnamakee.
Ben Welter is a producer for startribune.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.