katy huertas del pino
EUROPE LAKE, WISCONSIN
"The attached photo is a current photo of my parent’s house which sits on Europe Lake. It’s in a very small town in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin which is on the very tip of the ‘thumb’ of Wisconsin. It’s part of ‘Door County’ which is a huge tourist destination for many mid westerners and is often listed in travel magazines as a top US vacation destination. It reminds me of small waterfront towns in New England. The community depends on tourism in the summer, because let’s be honest, no one is going there in the middle of winter. While I did not officially grow up in this house (we grew up in a Milwaukee suburb), we spent many weekends and weeks in the summers at the ‘cottage’. We spent hours on the lake swimming, fishing, boating and bathing. The water is so clear you can see to the bottom from every place…it’s also very shallow with 10 feet being the max depth. We are surrounded by the woods and we took many nature walks and bike rides to explore the beauty. Summer nights were filled with star gazing, fireworks, and bonfires. We had some family friends from California that spent summers on the lake too. We had countless hours of good fun and laughs throughout the years. We still manage to catch up with kids when we’re up there! I spent the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college living up there and waiting tables - one of the best summers I ever had. While there were hours of good fun over the years, we also spent many hours working – raking leaves, fixing bathrooms, painting, cleaning trash out of the lake, etc.
My grandparents originally bought the ‘cottage’ in 1967. My Dad was 16 years old at the time and has truly called this his home ever since. As he entered college and began thinking about his future wife, he made the statement that he would never marry someone that didn’t enjoy Europe Lake. My mom’s first trip up there they spent fishing and doing housework. She wasn’t concerned about sun bathing (apparently some of his other girlfriends had). He knew she was the one! There have been 3 major renovations in the 48 years our family has owned the property. The first renovation included adding indoor plumbing (a requirement of my Grandma). The original home was a small shack with a kitchen, 2 tiny bedrooms and living room. I believe the next renovation took place in the late 70s and added 2 additional bedrooms on the 2nd floor. In 1985, my grandparents talked about selling the home as it was getting to be too much for them to manage (they were living in Chicago which is 6 hours away). My parents bought half interest in it that year so we could keep it in the family. 2 of my dad’s 3 siblings (both of his sisters) have harbored some hard feelings ever since as they claimed this was also their home. But in reality, it was my parents who put in all the blood, sweat and tears over the years. And no one else at the time could take care of it. Thankfully they got over it to a point where my cousins would often come in the summers. I have a small extended family, but we all talk about a reunion on the lake at some point. In 1995 my Grandfather fell ill and my parents bought the remaining half. Later that year, my grandfather passed away. Less than 2 years after that, my grandmother also fell ill and passed away. Within a few years after she died, my parents started renovating…pulling out paneling, removing 70’s green velvet furniture, etc. They ripped out the front windows (facing the lake and not seen in this picture) and replaced them with large sliding glass doors and a fireplace. I spent a weekend building a deck with my dad so we could enjoy the space between the house and the lake. They added a fireplace and were finally able to insulate the crawl space and make it livable year round. In 2003, my Dad retired and my parents decided to move in permanently. My mom’s only requirement was an addition/renovation to the kitchen and updated bathrooms. He obliged J And they have been living there ever since.
There are so many deep rooted memories in this home and I often wonder what will happen when my parents are too old to take care of it. It’s so much a part of me that I can’t bear to think about not having this is a place to retreat in the summertime. My kids are young, but the few times they have been there have been some of our best memories. This past summer my cousin and his family stayed in a nearby cottage and our kids had the best time. The first night they were still swimming (in their underwear – we lost luggage) until 8:30 pm. My cousin and I were thrilled that they were enjoying some of the same pastimes as we had 30+ years earlier. This house (or ‘cottage’ as still listed in my cell phone) is such a huge part of my family and will hopefully continue to be. I was so excited that I was able to get one of your spots J I can’t wait to frame this and have the flood of memories hit me every day when I look at it."