An Open Letter to my Grandparents re: Bruce Beach

Dear Nana and Grandpa,

We have two family gatherings this summer. The first is the gathering of our immediate family in Colorado we call Schningerfest. The other is the Masson family reunion in Kincardine. Both of these events are the descendants of an annual ritual established by you two.

Children grow so quickly and seeing the gbabies this summer I couldn’t help but think about how much they will change before the next time I see them. I suppose if I lived in the same town as they do, I might feel differently, but only seeing them every 6 months or so compounds the feeling that I am missing so much of their lives.

I think you felt that way about us too. Your family was scattered and you only saw us once a year for many of my formative years. I’m pretty sure that’s why you bought the cottage at Bruce Beach. It was your way of making sure we would stay connected.

So, this weekend we will celebrate that tradition. Not all of us will be there. Some are gone and some live too far away. Some of those attending will be there for the first time. They weren’t even born when we cousins picked raspberries and built tree forts. They never experienced bonfires on the beach or swam to “the rock.” No one ever told them the story of the seaweed monster or watched them skinny dip in the cold Lake Huron waters. They didn’t read all of the James Bond novels before they were movies or swing in the big swing at the back of the cottage out of the wind. They never used the outhouse (or painted it) or tried desperately to tune in CKLW on the 1950s radio. They never experienced a north blow or roasted marshmallows over the fire on chilly evenings.

And there are so many other memories to share: The “bunny rabbit” store and anchovy paste on toast in the morning. Cheese bunnies and learning to dance under the tutelage of the farm girl who came to help out every summer. The rope swing, the golf course, the tennis court, the nightly games of baseball on the beach umpired by Mr. House. Buying fresh bread in town with a quick stop at the “dime” store and a drive by of the “diamond” house. The Pine River cheese store and picking up fresh eggs at the farm at the top of the hill. Marking on the closet door how tall we’d grown over the last year, and best of all, marching down Main Street behind the Pipers on Saturday nights. Well, maybe second best – let’s not forget my honeymoon and the weekend the whole Tom Masson clan showed up to “chiverie” us.

What memories are we making for our family at Schningerfest? It would be fun to ask them, but I’ll guess for now. I’d say the Hot Springs and the BIG slide, hiking, camping in the Aspens, s’mores, tie dying shirts, “dance party,” the Kitty fort, hot chocolate at the Roastery, Lake Marmee, dress up, painting with Diddy, the park, making “sand” castles by the Arkansas River, yoga on the deck, star gazing, excavating for arrowheads and panning for gold, kayaking, standup paddle boarding, and, of course, cousins.

We all hope to leave a legacy of some sort. You gave us Bruce Beach, but more than that, you instilled in us the importance of family – tied together with the memories we share of those summers. That tradition has continued at the Windover compound in Michigan, at John and Mary’s cottage on Lake Huron and at Uncle Peter’s cottage on Lake Rosseau. We are blessed to be able to join in with the Schnabin.

Thank you Nana and Grandpa for having the foresight to begin it. We are proud to continue in your footsteps.



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