*No one knows what the hell I’m talking about at this point but I figure I might as well finish what I started.*
After a few hours my mother and I arrived at a congregation of houses in the woods and determined that this was where our rental house was located. We drove past a swath of pine trees and an expansive lake with a dock until we came to the house that would be ours for the next few days.
It was a rather charming house with a large foyer and cute little knick knacks for decorations. My personal favorite was the sign that said “Wisconsin State Bird” with a painting of a giant mosquito underneath (although I’m used to vacationing in Florida and the bugs in Wisconsin are nothing compared to what you find in the Sunshine State.) The room I was staying in bore the decor of a little boy (the home owner’s son.) Of course since the turnout for our family vacation was lower than expected, we had some vacant bedrooms. The only real downside of our accommodations was the shoddy internet connection, but I do realize that the purpose of a retreat in the woods is generally not to spend time on the internet.
On the first day my mom’s boyfriend drove down to Wisconsin to meet us but after that it was just the two of us. We sought out hiking trails but there was a surprising lack of them. Finally we found one. It was an uphill trail and at the bottom there was a sign that said “Show off your selfie skills.” I took a picture that proved my selfie skills were quite lacking.
There were a lot of steps to climb to get to the top and it became arduous at times, especially since I still had a cold (I was also worried that I would drop a snot rocket on one of the steps, causing a hiker to trip and fall to their death) but it was worth it for the view.
Every day at dusk we were treated to a beautiful sunset over the lake that we got to enjoy from the dock. I feel like at this point, if I was a better writer, I would describe the views of the forest and the lake and the sunset in vivid detail. I would make my readers (if there even are any at this point) feel like they were there and I’d make them marvel at the wonders of nature, but since I’m not that kind of great writer, you’ll just have to take my word for it that the views were spectacular (or I guess I could just post a picture or two.) Okay, spectacular may be overstating it a bit, but I’m judging by the kind of standards I had for a vacation destination like Wisconsin.
The lake was enticing to me. I wanted to go swimming in it and I wanted to go boating in it, but it was too cold to swim and with our rowing skills, my mom and I feared that if we went out on a boat we would never return.
On the day before we left we found a place to go horseback riding. In addition to horses, this farm had other animals such as llamas, goats and dogs. When a dog came up to greet us my mom said she thought it was an Australian shepherd and I said I thought it was a blue heeler. His owner informed us he was an Australian Shepherd /Blue Heeler mix.
The horse I rode was named Leo and the horse my mother rode was named Rowdy. Or maybe it was the other way around. Or maybe I’m misremembering and their names were nothing of the sort. I have no recollection of the name of the guy who led us on the horseback ride through the woods, but I remember he wore a cowboy hat and smoked like a chimney. He was a nice guy, although the anecdotes he shared in the beginning about horses throwing people off their backs didn’t exactly leave me feeling reassured. The horse I was riding gave me a scare as we crossed from the road to the forest. He started whinnying and trotting quickly and I had this vision of him dashing madly down the highway as I clung helpless to his back for dear life. The tour guide noticed my panic and reassured me that everything was okay-my horse was just trying to catch up with his friends. After that it was all smooth sailing. I mean riding.
In the evenings, after we’d watched the sun set, my mom and I would eat dinner in our cabin, enjoying such delicacies as steak and corn on the cob. There was a sense of peace and comfort but feelings of wistfulness also permeated the air. As we noticed all the empty chairs around the table and the sofas that had room for several more occupants, we couldn’t help but think of the family vacation that could have been. We couldn’t help but imagine my grandfather sitting there surrounded by all his children and most of his grandchildren, as we told stories and played board games and the sound of our laughter reverberated throughout the cabin.
Since the amount of time we spent in the cabin in Wisconsin ended up being abbreviated due to the lack of family participation, our stay was over before we knew it. Even after we got back home, we continued to experience sadness over the “family vacation that wasn’t.”
On his nightly phone calls with my mom, it became apparent that my grandfather’s health was declining. I thought of what a shame it was that he wouldn’t have a grand family bonding experience in the woods in his cache of final memories and I knew such an opportunity would never again arise in his lifetime (I suppose if I wanted to put a positive spin on it I could be grateful that I got to spend quality time alone with my mom and we got to strengthen our relationship, but we live alone together so we already spend plenty of time together, and we’ve always had a good relationship.)
Oh well, at least we tried. And at least I got to see Wisconsin. Now in my mind it’s more than just the cheese state and the state that Hillary should have campaigned in. It’s the site of the family vacation sans the family.