It’s said you can never go back. But sometimes you can. It’s just different. And maybe better. Where were the two perfect days of the title? Why in Minnesota of course, home to perfect places. All of which are on lakes in Northern MN.
On our way to a wedding in Michigan, we met our daughter, her husband and the 5 year old twins for two days at Maddens Lake Resort in Brainerd, home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Oh how Maddens has changed from the summer I worked there between my Freshman and Sophomore years of college. It’s much bigger for one thing, and so much to do. They even have pickleball. But instead of waiting on tables and cleaning cabins, I was now a guest. Dining, swimming, pontoon boats, flying off rafts, perfect weather and best of all, no mosquitoes! The only thing we didn’t do was golf at one of their several courses. We would have needed at least 4 days for that.
The old lodge is still there and that is the one in the picture, but there is a bigger and more beautiful one now which is the main lodge. The first night there we ate at the old lodge which hasn’t changed at all except for paint and the memories flooded back…
There were about 12 of us hired to be waitresses for the summer from all over Minnesota and all attending different colleges. We shared a very rustic cabin dorm, two to a room and one bathroom. Meals were provided down in the main Lodge where we had our own dining room and the best cook ever. We called her Aunt Nora and she took care of us like we were her own children. I still have Aunt Nora’s cookbook, the pages yellowed and stained, with recipes such as: Pine Edge Famous Orange Rolls, Aunt Nora’s Famous Sour Milk Pancakes, Molded Blueberry Salad, and Lovelle Arnold’s Tangy French Dressing. We cleaned cabins in the morning and waited tables at lunchtime.
I will never forget the intimidating, scary Mr. Madden. He was a giant and presided over the restaurant at lunchtime. The dining room was a semi-circle. It had a main floor and a step down to where all the tables were, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the lake. There were only a few tables on the main floor for overflow. But that’s where Mr. Madden’s table was. At the head of the room where he ate lunch every day, watching us. Each of us had our one week turn of waiting on him which was the scariest week of the summer. He was about 6’5″ with a shock of wavy grey hair and blue penetrating eyes. You had better get his order correct.
Across the lake, which was narrow where we were, was a large house and there were lots of boys there. They came from surrounding houses and gathered on the point every night. They would start a bonfire and we would shout across the lake at each other. We were invited over and of course we went.
He stood out from the start. Blonde hair, blue eyes, cute and very shy. I was probably cute and definitely shy. There was an attraction, but what to do about it? Neither of us knew. Noticed by my friends and encouraged to talk, we finally did. His name was John. One night they all came to our side of the lake and at the end of the evening, John asked to walk me back to our dorm. I was thrilled but nervous. My friends had just gone and when we got to the door I could hear them all inside giggling and talking on the other side of the door. John and I made small talk.
Then he leaned in. And then he kissed me. My first kiss. I think he kissed me, but it was over so fast I wasn’t sure. Was it supposed to be that fast? Was that it? The romance novels made it seem much more exciting. Then he turned without saying anything and ran down the hill like he had a pack of girls chasing him. Maybe it was his first kiss too. I opened the door to 11 girls on the other side shouting “Did he kiss you?”
All too soon the summer was over. John and his family left the lake and so did all the other girls. I was the only one left. Apparently I was the only one who had signed a contract to stay until the resort closed for the summer. School was starting and I needed to get back. I went in to see Mr. Madden. After I explained why I needed to leave, he just looked at me and said
“You signed a contract, when you sign a contract, you don’t walk out on it.” I ran out to the dock and, while crying, called my dad begging him to come and get me. He listened to me and then he said: “You signed a contract.” Mr. Madden and my dad had a lot in common. At least I had Aunt Nora’s shoulder to cry on and I learned a big lesson.
Now lots of years later, I’m on the other side and although the sides are different, my feeling for the resort is not. I loved it then and I love it now. My California granddaughters think Minnesota is the best place in the world and I couldn’t agree more.