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It started with a trip to the grocery store, on our way up the Peninsula to camp in one of the state parks. We’d gaze at the tall stacks of brightly colored barrels filled with sugary drinks in the aisle. Turning our pleading eyes to mom and dad, we’d each pick out a few for the trip. Popping the aluminum tab and taking a first slurp, the sweetness was enough to bring us content. At our campsite, we’d settle in to our pint-sized camping chairs and warm our toes by the fire.
There’s something about the quiet presence of a drink that has the ability to encourage us to talk to each other. An activity in itself, it’s become part of our culture to consider it a practice in community and conversation. A beer doesn’t taste as rich when drank alone, tea not as comforting when in the company of a smartphone, our cherry-liquid barrels not as sweet unless shared with a sister. Company and conversation is as important to the ritual as the drink itself.
A parent’s blessing of children quieted by sweet treats was really a gift in disguise for my sister and me. While we weren’t indulging the same drinks as the adults, we still felt a part of the fireside conversation. Nighttime around the campfire, our family and friends came together. In these moments, we were gifted the chance to sit back and listen. Eventually, we learned if we sipped quietly we’d learn more about our parents, friends, and the world than we could anywhere else.
I learned from an early age that good drinks meant good conversation. And the deepest, most intimate of conversation happened when we were away from the day-to-day normalcy. When we went on trips with extended family or friends, this is when the best stories came out. The memories that sealed my parent’s friendships for life, the lessons explained by experience from elders - they all came out of the woodwork when we’d gather at the end of the evening on vacations.
As my sister and I grew up, we advanced on to adult beverages beyond the fruit barrels (don’t get me wrong, we’d still be excited to get one of those) But through growing up experiencing this drink culture - this open, welcoming event with joy and honesty, I’ve grown to love the event of gathering together. To bring your closest friends to a lodge or campsite along Lake Michigan, away from distraction, to spend time together. To share drinks and stories with one another. To learn more about each other than we would’ve back home in the midst of the routine.
Still today, I cherish each trip North and the opportunity it brings to reconnect. And you know for sure, I’ll be armed with a six-pack to share.
So through all this, I’ve found one thing to be true…Good things come in tall glasses (or fruit barrels).
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