“A bonfire blast — what’s a bonfire blast?” my lake friends Up North asked me. “It’s really fun,” I said. “We meet at night, build a fire, sit around and talk, play games — we can do whatever we want to do.” Everybody was in for it and we started a tradition that lasted until our late teen years at my grandma’s cabin in Aitkin County.

The land for the cabin was bought when I was 8. There was an old, decrepit house on the property, and my grandpa, dad, uncle and older brother tore it down, being careful to salvage any boards, and even nails, that were reusable. Money was tight in our working-class families.

It took one summer of three-day weekends to construct the shell of a long, narrow lake home with a kitchen, dining area and living room on the front of the house. The back of the house was all bedrooms — one full of bunk beds for the kids.

The best part was the other kids on the lake. There were about 13 of us when everyone showed up on a weekend. Swimming was the biggest excitement we had, and we did it with little parental supervision, except the no-swimming-until-one-hour-after-meals rule.

At about 14 we were allowed to walk to an empty beach on the other side of the bay, build our own bonfire and stay out until 10.

Like everything in life, things evolved. Some parents sold their cabins as their kids grew up, while some of us got jobs or wanted to stay in the city on the weekends. But still, if someone said to me on a Saturday afternoon, “Hey, let’s have a bonfire blast tonight!” I’d be the first one there.

Linda Maki, Tonka Bay