My father, Bob Ruff, had an opportunity as a young boy during the Great Depression to head to the lake with some of his extended family, a unique experience for a boy from the North Side of Minneapolis. It was then that a dream was born.

He married Mary Jane Young after World War II and a family was born of eight children (four boys and four girls). Friends loaned us their cabins, and we rented cabins for years. Summer vacation was quite a pilgrimage with eight children and Grandma in the station wagon.

In 1971, the dream came true: Mom and Dad bought a cabin on Cross Lake, which is part of the Whitefish Chain of Lakes near Brainerd. The cabin was just across the lake from the resort where we had stayed for years. The then-small rambler that was known as the Ruff House was stuffed, and soon in-laws and grandchildren arrived. Dad loved the weather, the trees, fires, swimming, fishing and a good dinner at the large family table.

Family weekends were full of every imaginable activity by boat and foot. Winter brought skating, snowshoeing and more fishing. Cousins played together, adult siblings did, too, and our kids were able to experience life in a large family at the lake. Those who had relocated came across country for their yearly time at the lake.

Our family dinner was an event. The table was hauled in over a snowbank and its benches seated hundreds of diners every summer.

Though Dad died many years ago, we continue to head Up North. Mom kept Dad’s dream alive, and the cabin has grown in size and is as full as it was in 1971. Family members number more than 60. The eight Ruff kids have 18 kids, and those grandchildren of Mom and Dad’s have 24 great-grandchildren. Mom spends lots of time at the cabin and stays busy with the family reservations, gardening, bird-watching and photographing all the events.

Dad’s dream of a lake home has been a wonderful gift. We give thanks for Dad, his dream of the Ruff House, and Mom, who kept the dream alive.

Mary Jenkins, Minnetonka