If you speak to anyone from Wisconsin about their weekends, you will probably hear them mention “up north.” I am no exception to this. Located on Lake Wisconsin is my family’s cottage, a true little slice of heaven. When you look at it from the outside, it doesn’t look like much. My great-grandfather built the original foundation when it was only one story with no running water. Since then, each generation has made additions and renovations, but it never quite seems to be done. In some ways it has turned into a long standing family joke that there is always something to be done to it and that something is always breaking. It is much bigger than the original and now has an exposed basement, a second story, and a porch — at least for now. The fact that it is unfinished is one of the things I have grown to like about our cottage, though. My grandfather was one of those do-it-yourself type of people, so he insisted that we do it ourselves. My family has literally put blood, sweat, and tears into it.
My time up north is definitely not all work. We find plenty of time to have fun and just enjoy each other’s company. One of the best things to do is be out on the lake. We own a big pontoon boat that is perfect for going up river. There is a series of sand bars that run along the river that boats can pull up to. Some of my favorite memories are from spending the entire day up river grilling out food, getting sunburned, and splashing in the lake with my cousins. In the evenings, our cabin is so peaceful. Most nights we build a fire on the lake shore and just sit outside. There aren’t any big roads or cities right nearby, so the starts are always bright and visible. When some of our neighbors get ambitious, there are even fireworks to watch.
When you see our cottage for the first time, it won’t look like anything impressive. It is not the most extravagant structure by any means. None of the furniture matches, there are some exposed wires, and everything is an assortment of items we have collected over the years. I don’t love our cottage because of its looks. I love it because it is a place where my family and I can go to get away, and it is where so many memories have been made. Before school and work started getting too busy, I would spend every weekend of my childhood up there. I remember when it was only one story. I remember my grandfather driving his tractors around in order to plant his gardens. I remember running full speed down the hill and across the pier in order to jump into the lake. I remember sitting in the boat house to watch a storm roll in off the lake. It might not seem like much, but to me it feels like home.
Kimberly Hillmer is a May 2014 graduate of Marquette University with a BS in Biomechanical Engineering. When she’s not redesigning pediatric vein transilluminators or adapting sensory rocking chairs for pediatric rehab, she can be found organizing fundraisers for the Milwaukee Women’s Center, keeping up her black belt skills in Tae Kwon Do, and being a mom to Wesley.