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When I was 4, my paternal grandparents sold the home in Falcon Heights where they had raised my dad, Mike, and the brothers he is sandwiched between in birth order, Jim and Dan.

It was time to downsize. Which meant for them what it does for many Minnesotans: a smaller home in the Cities and a cabin somewhere Up North.

By the time my grandparents, Jim and Irene, closed on the brown cabin in the Brainerd area, summer 1998 was already drawing to a close.

But the seeds had been planted: We were to become a lake family.

This is a place where we sleep on air mattresses on the screened porch, where the ratio of people to bathrooms is heavily skewed in "the loo's" favor, where food is usually grilled and made in bulk.

It's where we sing around the campfire and play dice around the kitchen table. Where we gather to laugh, cry and be together.

Occasionally we watch movies or golf tournaments, remark on just how long the Indy 500 takes, or turn on the "big game," but for the most part, the rest of the world is kept at bay. Come as you are and be present here.

It's where we point out the dipper hanging in the night sky and gaze with amazement on the rare occasions when the colors of the Northern Lights show themselves.

It's where we exclaim "There's the eagle!" or "Loon!" as if it's the first time they've been spotted, or as if they are our friends. And really, aren't they?

When our inaugural cabin season opened in spring 1999, we weren't exactly naturals at lake living.

In later years, my dad would become the true boat captain — he has logged hundreds of hours pulling skiers and tubers — but back then, no one was claiming any expertise.

The first buoyant toy to be parked at our dock was the pontoon boat my grandparents bought: 22 feet of green-and-white glory. As kids, my cousins and I carefully decorated it with streamers and handmade signs for the annual Fourth of July boat parade.

We all grew up here together. We faced off in rounds of Cornhole and cheered for each other when we finally got up on water skis after many attempts resulted in face plants.

Now, two decades later, as we have grown into adulthood, it's still the place that unites us. When my grandparents were downsizing, it turns out, they were really putting down roots.

Courtney Kueppers, Atlanta