The very best way to celebrate my dad's birthday - even if it's a belated celebration - is to head up north toward Mille Lacs Lake, about two hours north of the Twin Cities. That's where you'll find the campground that houses the RV that accompanied my family for many annual road trips in my childhood. Before we started celebrating Dad's birthday with a trip up north, I hadn't been back to the campground in many years. I am happy and grateful we've turned this annual weekend into a new tradition.
From the archives:
2012: Leisure and Leisure
2013: Celebrating Dad's birthday
One earlier trip coincided with Memorial Day weekend, an especially bustling few days at the campground as people set up for the summer. This year, earlier in the week, the weekend forecast had called for a total washout, and I think that kept the campground quiet, even though the forecast improved as the weekend approached. It turned out to be gorgeous: lots of sun and puffy clouds and 65-70 degrees both days.
Josh, Wish and I carpooled with my brother and sister (it was a full car) and arrived by about 2 p.m. on Saturday. We immediately settled down and grabbed seats at the picnic table and in camping chairs and the hammock. Mom brought out a batch of homemade playdough because it was such a hit last year, and my dad covertly whipped up his trademark Babar the Elephant during one of my mom's stories. And then Wish tried to eat playdough that had been shaped into a carrot and then did eat playdough shaped like a mushroom. The rest of us focused on Mom's dip and Brother's salsa. I brought mojito fruit salad and that made appearances throughout the weekend, too.
The hammock was rarely empty. For example:
The view looking up from the hammock helps explain its popularity:
But the entire site is so peaceful and relaxing, whether you're in the hammock, the gazebo, or lounging on the ground:
Dad grilled steaks for dinner, and then we celebrated his birthday, as tradition calls for, with Mom's lemon meringue pie.
While Mom was setting up the birthday candles, my job was to prepare the picnic table and my camera for our timed photo. Not too long ago, Mom and I figured out the beauty of setting a timer on our cameras to get everyone into a picture, and as you can tell, we now employ that practice frequently, especially at birthday celebrations.
My brother and dad were standing in to help me find the right height for our cameras (I think the final result was two coolers and one magazine stacked on a small table), but really, I was taking pictures of them as they were goofing around.
And then we sang to my dad and tried a few photos. I am sharing all three from my camera because we got surprisingly different results from each effort. (Also, I have no idea what's happening in the second photo, but I love it.)
Mom and Josh chopped up some wood for the campfire. I think Dad is supervising that process in this picture, looking down the stairs toward the fire pit.
On Saturday night, as the campfire dwindled, Phil and Josh pulled the TV out of the RV and into the gazebo, and the six of us lined up our chairs in theater-style seating and finally watched our "Airplane!" DVD, which was a Christmas gift (and family favorite) that we've been meaning to watch together ever since.
On Sunday, Mom made pancakes for breakfast and then Dad took us out for boat rides on Mille Lacs Lake. Dad grilled hamburgers when we got back and then we wrapped up the weekend with his famous Monster Malts. Truly: this was a big treat during my childhood and will always be one of my favorite desserts.
My camera's battery had faded by lunchtime on Sunday, and I left it on the picnic table and used my phone's camera for backup. When I uploaded my photos back at home, I found the following selfies (taken without my knowledge with the last of the battery power) and burst out laughing:
I think my dad enjoyed the birthday celebration as much as the rest of us did. I hope so!