On any vacation, the things that make it the most special are those things you couldn't imagine beforehand... those little surprises that stick in your head forever.
I had seen a photograph of Sue and Ron's backyard pond... I couldn't remember what it looked like exactly, but I knew it was really pretty and that, unlike Texas, the state of Wisconsin had strict guidelines to follow when making any changes or improvements to ponds or waterways, even small ones on private property.
We arrived in Manitowoc at 10pm and drove in darkness through the woods to our lodgings, a pop-up camper. We were so tired, we just crawled into the sleeping bags in our clothes.
The next morning... well, remember that moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy steps out of the house from black and white into full-fledged Oz color? That's how I felt when I stepped out of the camper and got my first glimpse of their "backyard" and the pond. I was hit with an explosion of sunshine and nature. There were natural grasses, cattails, beautiful trees, a fishing pier, a floating dock, a canoe, a paddle boat... ah, now this was a pond.
The wedding, barns and cemeteries distracted us from the pond for awhile, but the day after the wedding, Sue and Ron hosted a family reunion; the pond played a big part in keeping everyone happy and occupied, from fishing, canoeing and paddle-boating to remote-control boats and, as dusk fell, a bonfire on the shore.
Besides my bonfire lessons, I learned about cocktails, specifically the Old Fashioned. Tom's cousin Dan made me both the sweet and the bitter (and I've probably got that all wrong) so I could compare the two. Making cocktails is truly an art. I think everything Wisconsonians do is an art, now that I think about it...
And back to Dan and bonfire fun... you have to admire a guy who doesn't take himself too seriously. (Maybe it's something that runs in the Shallue family?) When his sister Kathy decided to toss her wedding dress on the bonfire, rather than box it and ship it home to Costa Rica with no place to store it (long story, but she is still happily married), Dan stopped her. He saw the value in the dress... as a potential Halloween costume. He even tried it on. Best entertainment I've had in a long, long time. His girlfriend thought it was pretty funny, too (when he "proposed" to her in it.)
Thank you for these and the other wonderful memories that will be stuck in my head and heart forever!