« and so it begins | Main | this week's library book »

the cabin

My father's family gathers together once every two years for a reunion at our family cabin in Northern California. I'm not sure how long the tradition has been going.. 30 years? 40 years? When I was a little girl the reunion at the cabin was the highlight of my summer. I got to see my grandmother and grandfather, who I adored and spend time with my cousins, who lived far away.

We'd camp outside the cabin in tents because the cabin couldn't fit everyone. We'd run down the hill to explore the creek and skip rocks. We'd walk up to the clearing to watch stars at night. We'd head into town to visit the pool and grab an ice cream. We'd play cards until it was late at night and grandma's toffee nut bars were gone. Oh, I adore this sweet little cabin.

My great grandfather, who was nicknamed "Heavy", ran a grocery store near Sacramento back in the 1930's. During the Great Depression, many customers couldn't pay for their groceries because they were out of work. Heavy understood that people needed to eat. So he rented some forest land and put the men to work building a little cabin. He would pay them wages, some of which they used to pay back their debt to the store.

The cabin is nothing fancy. No TV. No radio. No telephone. No internet. It has one little bathroom that was added onto the back deck and a tiny shower. This summer we camped down the hill from the cabin, and it was Bee's first time sleeping in a tent. One morning she woke up around 6 AM and yelled "This is so much more fun than sleeping in our beds!" Do kids love anything more than camping?

We spent a few hours each day in town at the community pool. It's such a lovely spot to take a swim and stare up at the beautiful trees surrounding you in every direction. It brings back all kinds of memories when I was a little girl playing with my cousins or trying to jump off my dad's shoulders into the water.

The kids loved the creek just as much as I did when I was their age. Rushing water is endlessy entertaining and the creek is gentle, shallow enough that even Bee can cross it without too much trouble. We raced sticks and piled up rocks and tried to see how far we could throw our pebbles.

My grandfather passed away a few years ago, and I miss him, but especially so when I am at the cabin. I see him sitting on the deck under the trees with his flannel shirt and his fisherman's hat. I like to think he would be happy to see us still gathering together as a family, playing the card games he loved, talking and visiting, eating the tomatoes from his garden, and just enjoying the cabin.

Such a gift my great grandfather gave us. Here we are, four generations later, bringing our children to the cabin so they can enjoy it as well.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (5)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (40)

You must be very proud of your grand father. I bet that cabin put food on a lot of tables during those hard times x

08.27.2009 | Unregistered Commenterlucy

My "dream" home would be a cabin by the lake and I'm sure it's b/c I have so many good memories of being out at the lake where my grandparents lived. It was an old campground - so there were about 6 cabins (of varying sizes) and my grandparents' house. We'd head up there the last day of school and stay ALL SUMMER (dad worked back home - mom stayed with us).

Different cousins/aunts/uncles would be there throughout the summer on and off...so often my mind drifts back to the lake and our cabin and our summers...sigh

08.27.2009 | Unregistered CommenterEdi

what a nice story about your grandfather. and just wonderful that you all carry on the tradition. i'm sure your grandfather is so happy and proud, as he should be :)

08.27.2009 | Unregistered Commenterjenny

This is such a great post! My grandparents had friends and family with great names. One Uncle was called "Slim", and my grandmother's best friend was called "Chubby", and she didn't even mind! That generation is just amazing.

08.27.2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

This was such a lovely post, and what a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. He certainly sounds like a fantastic man who knew what was important in life. It's great that you got to experience that as a child and that now you can pass the experiences on to your children.

It makes me want to call my grandma now!!

That is an exceptionally lovely post. How wonderful that the tradition continues....

08.27.2009 | Unregistered CommenterViv

What a beautiful story about how the cabin was built. I love the old store list. The trees around the pool make the whole scene even more relaxing. Glorious!

08.27.2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

What a nice story about your grandfather. and just wonderful that you all carry on the tradition. i'm sure your grandfather is so happy and proud, as he should be :)

08.27.2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

thanks so much for sharing! what a wonderful tradition!

08.27.2009 | Unregistered Commenteramy

thanks for sharing such a great story. cabins, camping, family, traditions, memories; life doesn't get much better than that!

08.27.2009 | Unregistered Commenterdem

Brooke has really captured the spirit of the Hellewell cabin, and the joys that all children find camping in the woods. I remember Brooke there as a little girl, so excited and full of wondering awe. She loved sharing a tent with her girl-cousins, watching out for the pranks of the boy-cousins, playing in the creek and getting wet (for which there was no penalty), going to Dutch Flat swimming hole and sun-bathing (not quite a women, but not unaware of her growing beauty), and wrangling to stay up late at night and play the adult card games, like Black Out. Brooke's children are the fourth generation to enjoy these simple but glorious pleasures. I hope there will be a fifth!

08.27.2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke's Dad

Aww. Dave just mentioned the other day that no one ever takes pictures of the cabin itself. I might have to steal this from you...

08.27.2009 | Unregistered CommenterApes

This is such a lovely post. What a special tradition for your family! Great imagery too--I can totally imagine why you love this place so much!

08.27.2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary Ferrara

What a lovely post! I love on your grandfather's store flyer "Our Store is Filled With Things You Will Need".
I live in Northern California. Would you mind emailing me and letting me know where this cabin community is? I have a dream of one day having a cabin in the woods near a creek. Sigh...
Thanks for sharing. :)

I grew up near Sacramento in the foothills...Placerville, so your story brought back so many memories for me, as I am far, far away from home these days. Wishing I could have some that cool, crisp, moutainy air in a bottle down here in the Caribbean where we are feeling pressed in with the humidity these days. Thanks for sharing!

08.27.2009 | Unregistered Commenterkarin

love this story! My family has a similar annual reunion at my grandma's cottage on a lake in Maine, every Labor Day. Now that I live in California, it's tough--but I still make it! I'm so looking forward to the sight and smell and feel and comfort of being there next week...

08.27.2009 | Unregistered Commenterlillie

So sweet. Cabins are magical places.

wonderful story - i can hear the sounds of the woods - nothing like the woods for kids

I love stories like this. Family is what it's all about!

08.28.2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Hi Brooke,
What a wonderful retreat for your family. I spent my summers with my grandparents at the summer house outside of St. Petersburg, Russia. It was very rustic, no running water, an outhouse, surrounded by a pine forest. My best memories are from those summers. Your post reminded me of that time. Thank you.

08.28.2009 | Unregistered Commenterasya

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>