Summer is drawing to a close and things feel fall-ish. The air is crisper and leaves are dropping, creating piles of gold across the grass. The school doors have opened and children have returned to days of early rises, school bus friends, teachers and recess.
While I make school lunches… okay, that’s the husband’s job. While I work to oversee mounds of homework and drive children to piano and dance classes, I reflect on the summer that was. Did I use it wisely, those weeks of humid heat and long, languid days? The children did some camps and I went to work, but our yearly standout vacation is a week at a rented cottage. Each summer since 2005, we’ve loaded up the car and headed to a cottage with five other families. Yes, you heard it right. Six families vacationing together. That’s 12 kids and 12 adults for a total of 24 people. Sound like chaos? It used to be.
When the kids were all small, cottaging was work. We had to count heads every few minutes, station someone by the water at all times, make sure they got fed regular snacks to forestall tantrums, and strap life jackets on to the weaker swimmers, whether they wanted to wear them or not.
The children are now teens and preteens and they practically disappear into the water the moment we arrive. For us adults, it has become downright blissful.
On the first day of every cottage week, the hours stretch before us, meals yet to be enjoyed, bonfires yet to be lit and books yet to be read. But too soon those hours are gone. How does cottage time go both slower and faster than time spent at home?
The sun goes down on the last cottage evening and we stand by the lake for an annual photograph. One with the children, one with adults and one with all of us, sun kissed, relaxed and smiling.
We’ve created lasting memories: tubing behind a jet-ski; swimming in inky water beneath a starlit sky; hours of chips, beer, and competitive euchre (that last one’s the adults, by the way).
The bonds of friendship that the kids have with their cottage pals are unmatched with their non-cottage chums. There’s something about holding hands while jumping into a lake, still as glass, that cements a lifelong kinship.
Upon reflection, I do think I used my summer wisely. At least that cottage week, anyway.