Dam LakeLast weekend Mark and I flew back east to celebrate his grandmother’s 90th birthday! It was a terrific time to relax, meet family, and remember why I love the Midwest.

After an early Friday flight, Mark and I landed in Minneapolis/St. Paul in time for afternoon adventures with Crystal and Tim. We got to glimpse the Twin Cities while tracking down good eats. Tim selected the Cheeky Monkey in St. Paul, so we called dibs on mansions in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood along the way.

Drive to AitkinFrom there we set out for Aitkin, Minnesota and the drive was stunning. Coming from drought wrought California, I felt like Dorothy waking up in Oz. Everything was impossibly green. The sky was endless. The bricks were beguiling. I loved the tree-lined streets and country roads. I wanted to take a picture of everything!

We made it to Gayle and Lyle’s lake house Friday evening for more eating, meeting family, and time on the water. The cousins fished off the dock as the sun set and we set out on the pontoon in time to see the blue moon rise! Then we stayed up till midnight with Crys and Tim, talking over a bottle of wine we’d brought from Sonoma to share with them.

Sunrise at Dam LakeDespite our typical time zone and late bedtime, Mark and I were up at 6:15 Saturday to catch the sunrise. There’s nothing quite like an early morning at a lake. Sunlight through the trees, the smell of dew, mist on the water, birds chirping and catching worms. We spent a bit of quiet time outside, Mark writing and me beginning Romans. It was the perfect way to get back into the habit of reading scripture.

Ladder BallThe rest of Saturday was a blur of family, lawn games, grazing, lake time, and naps! Mark and I took three naps that day on the soft leather couches facing the lake. One clear memory in that mixed up day is meeting Grandma Bergum for the first time. We got to stop by, just a few of us before the party. Her eyes crinkle into the kindest of smiles.

The afternoon celebration/family reunion was a success. And we spent the evening laughing as the older cousins took a game of tickle monster with my father-in-law to a new level. I savored some time with the tiniest girl playing on the swing, sneaking up on the hammock, and flipping her around.

Hammock for TwoSunday was a vacation day, pure and simple. Everyone slept in and gorged on Gayle’s blueberry muffins (or maybe that was just me). We read, spent lots of time on the water, visited with Grandma some more. She even came out on the lake for a bit! There was swimming with Crys and the cousins. And I had the most ridiculous smile while tubing with Mark and Tim. Later in the day, Lyle took me and the girls out again so the young ones could take turns tubing in my lap. Mark and I enjoyed a bit of casual badminton and quality hammock time. We had an evening ladder ball tournament and we watched a bit of Swiss Family Robinson.

We left Dam Lake around 8:25 on Sunday so we could have a sumptuous brunch in downtown Minneapolis. Mom and Dad Langer were pretty insistent that we celebrate our third anniversary and boy did the Hen House Eatery fit the bill! Props to Tim for finding the list of best brunch places and to Crys for making the final selection. Hen House was the perfect combination of Berkeley’s demand for quality, local ingredients and the Midwest’s lick-your-fingers-forget-the-calories cooking. Plus they had excellent bellinis and mimosas – strawberry lemonade basil, peach ginger, rhubarb!

Downtown MinneapolisWhile walking back to the car, Mark and I dashed into B&N to pick up a copy of Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. It’s one of my old favorites and I’d been craving it like one might crave a ripe peach in the summertime. Then we were off to the airport.

This might have been the first time that all six of us had a flight together – MSP to DEN. Most of us read, but Mark and Crystal also regressed to younger selves, prodding and playing with ice cubes and giggling. I loved Crystal laughing through, “He started it! All I did was…” and Mark sighing about being “long-suffering and noble.” It was a welcome entertainment, especially once I finished my book.

Overall, it was a marvelous getaway. Going into it, I regarded it a “trip” for an event rather than a proper “vacation.” But the lazy days on the lake and Mark’s official request with the firm made it the real thing.

Thank you, Crystal, for handling Grandma’s transfers. For years, I’ve enjoyed your funny work stories and heard about your passion for physical therapy. It was amazing to see you in action with Grandma, doing what you do best.