in the corner, and we’re trying to be the first to name the song when a new one comes on. “Hotel California!” my uncle yells, and he slaps a card down. In the kitchen, my mom and grandma are talking. I can’t hear what they’re saying, but their voices are relaxed and comfortable. Something delicious is sizzling on the stove. Tonight, my grandma is making her signature dish, lasagna. Every time we visit, she meticulously plans each meal, calling us a week in advance and asking what kind of yogurt we like or which cereal to buy. This week is a highlight of her year, and she wants it to be perfect. In the past, my mom has tried to bring up the possibility of having a plan for the house. The cobblestoned driveway is shockingly steep as it leads from the bluff road down to beach level, and during zero-degree Michigan winters, it ices over. The neighbor boy usually has to come and shovel the snow away from the garage, and it’s becoming ever harder for my grandparents to climb the steps leading up the hill to the mailbox. The house is getting along in years, too, and needs upkeep that my grandparents can’t provide. But every time the discussion is brought up, they are obstinate. “We’re staying here,” my grandfather responds. “That’s our plan.” I know what’s probably best for them, but, sitting on the outskirts of these conversations, I find myself quietly cheering for the house. I can’t imagine selling it to strangers. It would be like leaving a piece of my childhood behind. * On our last night of vacation, we’re gathered around the fire pit down on the beach. Years ago, my grandfather hauled rocks the size of basketballs here and arranged them in a circle. They’re now blackened where they face the fire, but this pit has stood the test of time. It’s completely dark out, the inky dark that you only get up north, away from the electric haze of large cities. I look up and see stars glittering like pinpricks on a velvet blanket. The distant lights from across the bay flicker on the horizon, turned wavy in the water’s reflection. Underneath the crackle of the flames, we can hear the quiet lap of the waves. We sit on lawn chairs and overturned canoes. The air smells like scorched marshmallows. It’s cool out, but the fire is enough to keep us warm. My grandfather pulls out a worn hardcover book of poetry. He reads the same poem every time we have a family reunion—it’s become a sort of silly tradition. He holds a flashlight under his chin and flicks it on. The beam casts the wrinkles on his face into shadow as he flashes us a maniacal grin. “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” he intones dramatically, and we all snicker as he reads the spooky tale of Sam McGee’s ghost, cremated after freezing to death on the Arctic tundra.