If you’re really lucky, you get to spend every Fourth of July on a little island in the U.P. You drive six hours to get there, but the longest part of the trip will be the twenty five minutes it takes to drive from the ferry on the north end to the cottage on the south end. That will seem like forever, especially if you are 10, 8, 6 and 3. But it’ll be totally worth it because at the end of the long two track driveway, grass in the middle, will be your grandpa and your new grandma Nancy waiting for you. They’ll be sitting on their John Deere Gator because no one walks anywhere on Sugar Island. They’ll be smiling and your little cottage will be clean and waiting for you and you’ll feel like you are home. You’ll instantly head for the water and you won’t come out except to eat and sleep for the next nine days. There will be two boys who get up on skis for the very first time, two who master going out of the wake and a dad who’ll prove he’s still got it.
There will be girly things like channeling your inner Farrah Fawcett by wearing your swimsuit backwards and letting Aunt Cyndy french braid your hair so you feel pretty, which of course you are. You will try to pick out a makeup cell phone as your souvenir, but your mom will tell you it’s made in China and will turn your skin warty. You’ll promise you won’t eat it, but she won’t budge. You’ll settle for new floaties, but you won’t like them.
There will be birthdays celebrated with strawberry cupcakes your cousin helps you make and a gluten free chocolate cake that rocks your mom’s world. There will be a My First Little House book in pink wrapping and a Barbie that can swim with you and your very own bug catcher.
There will be lots of Sea-Dooing that will leave everyone’s hair looking like this: but your aunt will tell you that you’re still cute, so it’ll be ok.
You will want to tube with your new grandmother, but will worry that she can’t handle it.
You’ll soon find out she can. And more.
On Independence Day, you’ll pack up a dish to pass and head on your four wheeler or your bike or your tractor or your whatever and head to the parade start. The parade will end at the Sugar Cottage where you’ll have the “sweetest fourth in the north” celebration with hundreds of your closest islanders. Grandpa will put on a big show with legal fireworks shot over the lake while sleepy children stare in wonder and the Canadian neighbors are silent.
Stewie will man your family float, slobbering all over the decorations. You’ll forgive him because he’s just so darn pitiful with his short little legs and droopy eyes. Plus you’ll soon realize that as long as he’s on the float, he isn’t drooling on your feet. That’s a plus.
There will be a mystery trip (there always is) that starts at the indian cemetery for grave rubbings and picks up speed when you pull up at the pier. You’ll discover that you’re jumping off, then swimming across the channel to your very own Canadian island (don’t tell immigration). You worry for a sec, but then you’ll remember that Buddy the WonderDog will not let you falter. He’s just that kind of dog.
See? This is where you’ll swim. You start on that black pier and end up on the island. You’ll name it Roxaboxen after the book. You’ll want to live there. You like maple leaves and syrup enough to be citizens will be your argument.
When you are cold from your big swim, you can lay on the warm rocks and dream that you own this place, this slice of heaven. You’ll find eggs and bones and lots of scat. There is always scat on deserted islands, it’s a rule or something.
There will be an old axe head found by Grant and a protein picnic spread on the rocks before sliding into the water and letting your Uncle Al pull you back across the channel by hanging onto a ski rope attached to the Sea Doo. You do have an Uncle Al, don’t you? You’ll need one for this mystery trip.
There will be fishing with your best Uncle Bruce (you’ll need one of those too) that will net you a seventeen inch Walleye. But only if you’re really lucky and only if you have chocolate eyes.
Yeah, you fit the bill.
You too. I’d like to eat you.
If you go to Sugar Island, that 48 square miles of wonderland that smells like bacon grease and campfire, go when we do so we can show you around. We’re there every fourth of July. We wouldn’t be anywhere else in the world.
This is me being real. And hoping you’ll join us there sometime. But only if you bring your own accommodations-ours are blissfully maxed out.