When my parents retired, they rebuilt the cottage into a beautiful four-season residence and moved into it on a permanent basis. Although it had changed completely from its simple beginning and use, we continued to refer to it as 'the cottage' in our family. I moved to Montreal when I was in my early thirties. The eight-hour drive from Montreal to Gravenhurst meant that visits were much less frequent but the cottage continued to be part of each summer. Emma and Chloé, now 20 and almost 16, got to know it from when they were babies.
If you are on Instagram and Facebook and noticed a reduced presence on my part in the past couple of weeks, it was because I was barely looking at my feed. Every time I saw a photo posted by a family member from the cottage, I would start to cry. So I stopped looking. I'm sorry if I missed other things.
As one friend noted, not being there means that my memories of the cottage will not be of its packed-up, empty state but the way it was over the years. Among the layers of things I will remember will be swimming out to a big submerged rock with my younger sister, Karen where we could stand and dive--'our rock' we called it. I'll remember laying on the dock on my stomach with Emma and Chloé when they were little, catching minnows in a fish net, observing them and then putting them right back in the lake. I'll remember the camaraderie and group nuttiness of the cousins--Emma, Chloé, Duncan, Mac, Katie, Erica and Sydney. I'll remember the beautiful sunrises and the late-night stars. Falling asleep to the lapping sound of the lake and the occasional haunting call of a loon. Reading books sitting in the big Muskoka chairs on the dock with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. The boat rides to get ice cream and long walks with the family dogs. I'll remember the gatherings, the chats and the laughter.
I spoke to my parents yesterday. They are in their new home in town, a place that is more suited to them now. They said that the family who bought the cottage seems to really love it so it is in good hands. I have managed to write this blog post without crying so that's progress. We will be visiting my mom and dad's new place sometime soon. As for the cottage memories, they will always be ours.