Every year we did the same thing.
Two days after Christmas, my parents would pack all of us into the family station wagon and head north from the Chicago suburbs to our annual vacation heaven: Lake Lawn Lodge. It was a ritual so firmly ingrained in Baker family lore, that it was impossible to imagine a year where we didn’t spend December 27th through the 30th on the shores of Lake Delavan.
All along Hwy 50, we shouted out the landmarks.
“I see Paddock Lake!” “New Munster!” “There’s Slades Corners!”
Each little Wisconsin town greeted us as we drove by, all of us eagerly looking out the car windows for signs of snow. When we reached Lake Geneva, if the lake was frozen and there was ample snow on the ground, we knew it would be an excellent trip. Lake Delavan was sure to be in the same condition. This meant cross country skiing, and snowmobiling, and ice skating on the lake. If there was no snow, we consoled ourselves with the knowledge that the steamy, chlorine-scented tropical paradise of the Timber Pool was always ready and waiting.
Upon arrival, my Dad would check in at the lobby near the Great Room and we would wait in the car. He always reserved two rooms, for two people per room. Never mind that we had a family of 7 and Grandma made 8. We used every inch of our Boulder Lodge room for sleeping space. We snacked on the cheese and sausage that Mom kept in a Styrofoam cooler chest on the snow-covered patio. Often times it was our only chance to stay in a hotel all year. To us, Lake Lawn Lodge was a luxurious treat.
The highlight of each year was a fancy dinner in the Frontier Dining room. We’d get all dressed up in our fanciest clothes and head down through the dark and chilly glass hallways towards the dining room, which was cozy and glowing with Christmas lights. Dad always insisted on getting a window table, so we’d wait a little longer in the lobby. We’d sit on the warm, smooth hearth stones of the oversized, blazing fireplace and admire the display of animated Christmas decorations in the window.
My memories of dinner in the Frontier Dining Room are a cornucopia of sensory delight: colorful Blinko water glasses glowing with the light from the table lamps, Bucky coloring books and butter boats, Wisconsin turkey dinner and cherry-topped ice cream for dessert.
There were kind ladies dressed like Indian squaws who seemed more like doting mothers than waitresses. I can hear the piano and organ music that floated over dinner conversation and the soft tinkling of wine glasses. I can see the deep, blue glow of the frozen lake outside the window.
Lake Lawn and these holiday vacations with my family will live forever among my favorite childhood memories. They exist in snippets of sounds, and in shadows of scenes.
Watching long, dripping icicles outside the Lookout Bar window,
Tasting the sweet comfort of hot chocolate in the lakeside warming house after an afternoon of ice skating,
and playing cards with my Grandma, all cozy by the Great Room fire, while snow piled up outside.
These are the precious gifts that my parents gave to me and my siblings and, without fail, they all come flooding back whenever I return. Fortunately, Lake Lawn is still alive and well this Christmas after reopening in May of 2011.
I will spend this Christmas holiday season in southern California, miles away from Lake Lawn. But I know my thoughts will drift back to wintry Lake Delavan, happy that a new generation of families are able to make their own memories there.
Lake Lawn Resort
2400 E. Geneva St. Delavan, WI, 53115
by Ellen Baker Bell