Some of my best memories growing up in Michigan were the weekends our family was invited to any of our neighbor’s cottages. I can place myself there this instant, the smells of nature as the lake and trees mingle to make their own air freshener, the little cottages with a musty odor, bugs in the bathrooms, screened porches for the kids to sleep on, and best of all boat rides where someone taught us how to waterski.
In the seventies having a cottage didn’t mean you had to be rich, maybe only a little smart with your money to aquire a cute little place on a lake nearby to spend the weekends. I confess I envied all the neighbors as I watched them pack up the station wagon on Friday afternoons to get away to their cottage. I so wanted to be able to do that. It was the change of scenery that invited me to try new things and think big thoughts that beckoned me.
After my parents divorced my dad bought a little cottage for his main residence on one of the lakes we had visited with our neighbors. I was so excited! Finally we’d have a cottage of our own. I imagined I would spend every weekend there day dreaming about life, but almost immediately after he moved in I became a teenager and being separated from my social life at home was torture.
I did spend weeks on end there during the summers and those are great memories for me. Several other kids were there too so we banded together and made up a lot of fun and even got into a little trouble. I loved being free at the lake then, like I love it even as I’m grown now.
My dad still lives on this lake with my step-mom Audrey. It was enchanting for me to return last week for the day to visit them and see the old place again, but this time alongside my children’s fresh eyes. They’ve been there before but it was so long ago they don’t remember. Not much has changed, but they keep it so perfectly maintained and tidy.I was impressed. I recognized the sparty totem pole that was in our basement, the tiffany lamp styled in MSU, the wood stove that heats the place in the winter, and the old driftwood clock I remember him bringing home when I was a child. It’s good to connect the past with the present. It really had me floating a little bit.
Dad and Audry have a pole barn up on the other side of the street. My dad tinkers, and I love that about him. They take several snowmobiling trips in the winter together and so he works on the sleds up there in the pole barn. He has maps connected on the wall to make the whole upper peninsula of Michigan, where he’s highlighted in orange all the trails they’ve covered on their snowmobiles. The whole peninsula is nearly marked up in orange! I was so surprised to see how ambitious they are with those trips. They also make it to a few nascar races every year when they aren’t hauling their camper somewhere up north to camp with their dog shorty. I think they are enjoying their life, they are happy and they are really good to eachother.
As we drove away, waving and smiling, my boys all agreed they were so happy they got to see Papa Tom’s place. They chatted for a while about how cool it is that they do so many things together that they enjoy. I had to agree they are cool indeed.