Passing On Family Traditions

By Andrew Natvig

Growing up, Summer was filled with late nights, long days and trips to my Grandparents cabin on Hay Lake, in Northern Minnesota. 

There was no containing the excitement my siblings and I felt as we packed the minivan full of luggage; complete with an old school box TV and a VHS player accompanied by 3 movies (usually Disney) that my mom had checked out from the library in order to pass the time on the 8 hour drive up to Brainerd, Minnesota.

Hours later, and countless “Are we there yets?” We turned onto the unpaved gravel road, that symbolized Summer fun was close. I knew we were moments away from Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

My grandparents house in Northern Minnesota.

The memories from Hay Lake are some of the most vivid from my childhood.

Sun filled days spent playing in the sand, building sandcastles.

The wind whipping through our lake-drenched hair as our Dad or Grandpa would try to knock us off the innertube.

Running through the tall pine trees with our 2nd cousins (who are more like 1st cousins) playing who knows what game or activity we had come up with.

Watching my dad and his cousins relive their childhood memories like trying to catch footballs of the dock. 

There was one Summer weekend in particular that as a family, we would never miss. The 4th of July Weekend. 

The quintessential part of the 4th of July weekend was a picnic hosted by my Grandparents. Family members from all over Minnesota would come to spend time together up at Hay Lake to celebrate independence day. 

The spread of the picnic was your classic Summer cookout – brats, hamburgers, baked beans, fruit and all sorts of baked goods. But there was one dish that always stuck out above and beyond the rest – my Grandmother’s potato salad.

Throughout the decade of Summers spent on Hay Lake, my Grandmother’s potato salad was something I always looked forward to. My Dad learned the recipe and made it for the first time in 2010. Since my Grandmother’s passing in 2012 he’s carried on the family tradition of her potato salad, always making sure to prepare it for the 4th. 

This July 4th the tradition of Norwegian Potato salad is a little more sentimental, my Dad’s dad, my grandfather, passed away in April.

Three years ago I made the potato salad for the first time and have continued doing so each year since. 

It’s little traditions like these that make you realize that people may pass away but there are certain aspects of their life that will always live on through us. My kids one day will probably learn to make that potato salad and I can only hope that they’ll one day pass on this secret Norwegian potato salad recipe to their kids too.

Denny and Naomi Natvig at Hay Lake, Northern Minnesota.