I think of the cottage as my second home, and in many ways it is. It has become kind of suspended in time, and when we walk in each year, we pick up where we left off. The months it spends in the cold and the dark keep it preternaturally young. Or maybe old. I’m not sure which.
Nostalgia lends a certain generosity to the viewing lens; we finally replaced couches that had been here twenty years. They were that red and green Santa Fe pattern that was all the rage probably, well, thirty years ago. I remember buying them; you could get a whole room of furniture – couch, chair, love seat, coffee table, end tables, lamps – for five hundred bucks. It looked it; those deals are the equivalent of a supersized meal deal, with quantity failing to take the place of any quality, but the abundance makes your heart jump at the thought of filling a whole room – checking so many things off a list – in one swoop. Sold.
Ari is taking a critical eye to the place this year, or more exactly, an owner’s eye. He’s lent a hand on a new deck, and wants in on the discussions on maintenance and upkeep. I like this; it’s the only way this place made it to the second generation, and very few make it to a third. My father’s dream was passed to his daughters, as was his goal that this place should unite, not divide. As much as we cherish the vacation time and understand how lucky we are, we also know we are keepers of so much more.
While Roz and Gillian and I often overlap for a day or two, we’re mostly up on our own time. As a result, we each hesitate when it comes to ditching anything. Generations of kids have created a lot of handiwork and collected a lot of games. Nobody knows what someone else’s treasure is so we carefully keep things on the shelves. Board games that only one of us knows the rules to anymore, others missing the money (“just take it out of Monopoly”), a dozen decks that almost have 52 cards in them, pompoms, googly eyes, popsicles sticks, glue guns and a plastic cup labelled RIP full of dead batteries.
Ari held up a bunch of popsicle stick creations. Gilly had carefully set them aside, a veritable flotilla of totally un-lake-worthy ships that had been born one rainy afternoon years ago. “I made this crap. Can I throw it out?” he asked. I laughed. I’m sure Gilly had been unsure if they were keepers or not. “Ditch them,” I told him. He held up something else, but I shook my head. If my kid didn’t make it, I wasn’t making the call.
He knows I won’t part with the coffee table he teethed on; he believes it to be of historical significance himself. I explained that you can’t toss cottage art made by others, because it is the foundation of cottage lore, and without the stories you don’t have the history, and without the history you just have a rental. I sometimes dream of a space you’d find in a magazine, a rustic oasis whose rough edges are only those that have been engineered to be there. And then I look around this place and know it won’t happen, and I wouldn’t let it.
“What about this?” Ari asked, holding up another artifact.
“Stop it. One day it’ll be your kids who made this stuff and you’ll understand.”
From the other room, I heard Taryn sigh, and giggle. Ari smiled.
Pretty crazy when you can see the next generation.