Thirty-three years ago, my parents bought property on Madeline Island.
At first it was just a 7-acre piece of vacant land with a beautiful view of Lake Superior.
But slowly, steadily, it became something much more as they built a house on that land north of Ashland over three summers, literally pounding every nail and mixing the concrete for the footings with the help of a few friends and not enough from me. Once it was up, we Lindquists began building memories on that spot.
We swam in the frigid water — until some of us grew too old and soft to muster up the courage. We walked on the beach, ever changing based on the wind and waves. We watched deer, bald eagles and the occasional bear as they shared our little slice of heaven. And no matter what else was going on, we gazed in awe at the magnificent view, which stretched all the way to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on a clear day.
My dad, my son and I treasured countless rounds of golf at the nearby Madeline Island Golf Club, a classic layout created by famed golf course designer Robert Trent Jones, and the whole family loved hiking along — and a few of us even jumping off — the spectacular cliffs in Big Bay State Park just down the road.
Those of us fortunate enough to have summer birthdays (my daughter and I) enjoyed many celebrations on what we referred to as simply “the island.” My parents hosted guests from around the world, two weddings and their 50th anniversary party in the house, occupied mostly in warm weather months.
My kids — and my wife and I for that matter — likely can’t envision what the Fourth of July is like without watching or participating (hula-hooping, biking or riding in the back of a pickup as part of “Grandma’s Kitchen Band”) in a parade down Main Street of the island’s lone town, La Pointe; listening to patriotic speeches and songs on the village green; and oohing and aahing at fireworks over the world’s largest freshwater lake.
My wife called it her “happy place.” My daughter, who elected to have her senior pictures taken on the island, called it her “favorite place on Earth.”
For my father, who designed the house (a hexagon with a guest wing and a master bedroom wing, all with sliding glass doors to take advantage of that view), it began as the ultimate handyman project and ended as a comfortable place to face the daily challenges of Parkinson’s disease until his fight finally ended two years ago.
For my mother, it was a place of renewal after her successful battle with lung cancer 20 years ago and remained a spot of peace and tranquility.
Most of all, it was a place our family gathered to laugh, cry, talk and just be together. Somehow it was always easy to leave the stress of everyday life behind once we hopped aboard the ferry for the 2.5-mile ride from Bayfield to La Pointe.
In short, even after my parents became snowbirds who spent increasingly long portions of the year in Florida, the island house was home.
Astute readers will notice all of my reminiscing about the island is in the past tense.
Yes, my mom sold the beloved house a few weeks ago.
It has been hard for all of us to let go — and not just because it meant packing up personal items accumulated over three decades. But it was time, for reasons familiar to many others who have gone through a similar experience: lakeshore property taxes that have gone through the roof, too many assets tied up in real estate, friends and family unable to get there as often as they once did, a never-ending string of maintenance projects.
Despite all those well-thought-out reasons, the heart doesn’t always heed the head, and it’s difficult to imagine not returning next summer to the island getaway my parents created.
Fortunately — and I can’t stress my gratitude enough — many of our precious memories are preserved forever in a book my mom wrote and self-published just this year, appropriately titled “Island Dream.”
The book, already a family treasure, traces what began, with that chunk of land, as just a dream and turned into our happy reality.
Thanks, Mom, for the memories.
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