Raisin learned the quintessential Minnesota skill last week: she "caught" a three-inch sunfish off the dock (my dad baited the hook, put the line in the water, saw the bobber go down, reeled in the fish, and removed the hook from its mouth, but Raisin was present and may have had her hand on the pole at some point -- that counts!). Then, my dad taught her to say "great big fish!" with her arms outstretched so she could tell the rest of the family about it.
With some interruptions, my extended family has been taking these collective vacations at least since my own childhood. The scenery is a little different -- when I was a kid we camped, now we rent cabins on the other side of the lake. The cast of characters has changed some -- those of us who used to beg to spend all day in the water are now explaining to our kids why they can't.
Most things are blessedly unaltered. Every year, we play the same games and tell the same stories. (Do you remember the time we left the Nerf ball out overnight and a skunk chewed it into pieces? Or when my aunt was SURE another picnic table would fit in the screen tent because she had "measured it with her eye?" I can no longer tell if I actually remember the events, or if I've just heard the stories so often they've become part of my memory.) We mercilessly tease for mistakes made years ago, but we also make each other laugh harder than any of us get to do anywhere else.
These trips formed a backdrop to some of my best memories, my most important moments. These are the people who know the best and worst of me, and who love me no matter what. This is the village that raised me, and now they are raising my daughter, too.