Dear Mom,

Happy Easter! We are so thankful that Mercy and the talented staff at your facility took the time to do your hair for Easter. Look at how you impressed the Easter bunny! In the midst of stay-at-home celebrating today we are reminiscing about one of your favorite places in the world…

Think back to your honeymoon. You and dad were high school sweethearts and managed to keep your relationship going through college in two different states. When you married and began planning your honeymoon, you wanted to go somewhere fresh and not too far away. Fortunately, Goggie read an article in the Chicago Tribune about a destination called, “The Cape Cod of the Midwest,” only five hours up north. After your downtown wedding night in the Palmer House, you packed up the ghost-white station wagon and headed into the unknown. Dad described it as a miserable drive, “Rained the whole way and your mother didn’t feel well. We checked in and wondered what tomorrow would bring. The entire area looked bleak and black.” But when you woke up, you saw the June sunlight tilting through the conifers surrounding your cottage. I imagine you two stepping out and letting the screen door slam behind you— inhaling your first breath of what would become 50 years of Door County pine scented air.

Door County. It is a huge part of the life of all my grandparents, both sides of your family and now our own family. Thanks to your 1950’s trekking up north along that Lake Michigan coast, here’s what happened:

Grandma and Grandpa followed you and built “just a little hot dog stand” on highway 42 between Ephraim and Sister Bay. That little hot dog stand became a full service restaurant known as the Red Barn complete with cottages for rent, a driving range and their summer house. The restaurant is still there and is now known as the Summer Kitchen.

We jammed our massive Lehwald family into their little summer house, heated by a Coleman stove and baseboard heaters for many Thanksgivings. We spent my first birthday eating dad’s favorite strawberry shortcake out on the concrete patio.

Uncle Jay and Janet rented the “big, grey house” on Cottage Row and cousin Leslie and I played with the electrified dollhouse more than we played outside. 

Dad and Grandma battled over which fish boil served the best meal. Dad swore allegiance to the White Gull Inn and Grandma and Grandpa loved The Viking. Both of these restaurants still do fish boils. The White Gull Inn won the family contest. Who wants to pay to eat a fancy dinner off an army mess hall, stainless steel tray?

After baking countless apple and cherry pies and picking up legions of golf balls on his riding mower, Grandma and Grandpa sold The Red Barn and built their dream house just up Maple Lane from the Sister Bay Bowl. Erica and I stayed in the guest house and snuck out at night. Me and Uncle Billy and Dad and  cut down our most gigantic Christmas tree and we all made the ornaments and chains out of paper. Grandpa taught me how to play cribbage. Grandma cheated at pee-wee golf. We killed each other over slap-jack and Fool Your Neighbor card games. 

Our kids spent many Presidents’ Day weekends running down hotel halls and jumping off the sides of the High Point Inn pool. Summers lazily wandering orchards picking cherries, skipping and heaving rocks into the water, hiking in Peninsula State Park. Nathaniel got lost in the woods at the Wilson’s Eagle cottage and Pebble Beach provided hours of rainy day entertainment by painting rocks. Pebble Beach and the surrounding land was recently purchased by the Door County Land Trust so it will forever be enjoyed by generations of rock painters and skippers.

This past Christmas you spent with all of us up at High Pines, sitting beside the second most gigantic Christmas tree, looking fly in your cheesehead hat and sipping cherry bounce. Snoopy the dog ate all the sugar cookie ornaments off the tree and we enjoyed the best hot chocolate in our individual whipped cream topped teapots at the White Gull Inn. 

Generations of cherry juice running down the arms of children who jammed more cherries into their mouths than their pails and everything else happened because you listened to your mother who read the newspaper! Thank you for taking us to shuffleboard courts by the bay at the Evergreen Beach Hotel and snowmobiling on New Years Eve from the Hotel DuNord and everywhere else in Door County. As the worlds battles the Coronavirus, the beauty of birches by the lake remains untouched.

Gratefully loving you from a distance this Easter!