My father-in-law, James Stageberg, and three of his architect friends built cabins side by side on a northern Wisconsin lake in Bayfield County. It was the 1960s. The cabins are modernist — all cedar-sided with sliding glass doors for windows — built on a raised shoreline about 25 feet above the water. There is a beautiful view of the lake below from the seat of the sofa in my family’s cabin. Our cabin has two bedrooms for couples and a third bunkroom with two double-bed bunks. It’s built for large families!
The architects’ kids were in their preteen and teenage years, so they grew up together. The families shared a communal dock. A lot of the memories revolve around time on the dock.
Stageberg passed his cabin to his children —six siblings sharing it in the most harmonious arrangement you could hope.
We’ve all raised our children to include time Up North. Cabin weekends quickly became family reunions, with boats to ski and tube, and often include whole afternoons spent down on the dock. (The cabins all now have their own).
Our kids have grown and mostly left home. Now they have their own gatherings there, and we’ve become more comfortable with it that way — though I might occasionally be surprised where some dishes end up.
Family reunions are now more likely to include only the siblings and their spouses, in their late 50s and 60s now, and an aunt in her 90s. Most of our boating is limited to late-afternoon cocktail cruises.
We host gatherings for friends, too: My wife invites friends from grade school. I have a gathering of friends who started our time together camping in Voyageurs National Park in the 1980s. We prefer beds now.
We are thinking about how to pass the cabin to our children. Some love it as much as we do; others not as much. Maybe when they think about the arc of their lives.
Tom O’Keefe, New Brighton