“My dad loved being off in the summer. Projects big and small, gatherings and family trips were commonplace. How many of us can elaborate on how a single event could make us want to be young & innocent just once more?” Enjoy!
“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’Mara
In the year 1976, my father made a deal with his brother to meet him half way. Well, that’s what I was told when we started out, and despite my incessant questioning, there were no answers from the front row. At 14, patience was not my virtue. I don’t know how we survived in that hot car, while skirting into the belly of highway 41.
Sandwiched between two rolled up sleeping bags and my aunt Marguerite’s heavy purse, my mother calls back to ask if we want a piece of fruit. Resourcefulness is my mother’s middle name, as she hands us the old paring knife with the broken tip. While his family sits noshing away, my father rolls down the window to enjoy a smoke. The sky grows misty as the road narrows into the rift. Known as one of the higher points of the Canadian Shield, Haliburton, Ontario, is a cottagers dream.
Visibly exhausted, the four passengers roll out of the car at our final destination. The lake of long and winding waters, called Kashagawigamog, awaits our 2 pm arrival, at Chateau Woodlands.
Our cabin in the woods nestled in the Haliburton Highlands, holds the best memories. I’m not sure how we locate our lodgings, but the cool water and great out-doors beckons me. The nine hours between us matter not, as my aunt Sylvia & uncle Art slap our backs in hugs of greeting. Our shining, smiling faces grow warm from laughter as our legs come back to life. The men set to work understanding the lay of the land, while the women make the cabins their own, with familiar linens and blankets from home.
With so many activities at our fingertips, it’s overwhelming, and difficult to absorb so much good in one place. The very best home cooked meals, three times a day on perfectly spotless dinnerware, are shadowed by the one good eye of a very old woman, dressed in black.
After dinner, my dad and I follow a trail along the rocky outcroppings till almost dark. He buys me a red sweatshirt that I’m glad for, as the cool nights & spiders of cottage country, come to life at dusk.
As we rounded the trees, my uncle calls us in for a game of pass the ace. The cabins glow, draws us into the warmth of belonging, with wild laughter I’ve never heard from either relative. It’s the height of summer. The moon is bright on the water. Life is full. My family is crazy. It’s good. It’s enough.
Next morning, my uncle Art is skinny dipping with the loons. His wife calls down in a short, quick chortle as the man streaks up, and behind closed doors. The steam from my father’s bath rolls off the walls, as the women head out for day shopping. The air is electric from one shop to the next. My aunt Marguerite is determined to pay her way anyway she can, and buys me an air mattress without telling anyone.
It was my father’s idea – to bring us all together – I learned, as we went up the crowded street. Somehow my father meeting his brother half way, meant so much more than the air mattress that, I happen to still own. And the love my father felt for his siblings was so strong and good, that I’m proud to know those moments will live forever in this story.
I’ve tried to locate the family behind the operation, but this too has passed. In my childhood home, the adults played cards into the wee hours of my mother’s kitchen. I’ll admit to hearing those same warblings in the minutes before sleep, in all the homes I’ve lived since. The voices of assuredness, of ‘don’t worry – I’ve got you’ – feel the same today as those, years ago.
Last month we had a chipmunk zipping across the yard here and it brought me back to Haliburton, the shuffleboard games, and that long walk with dad. So, out came the peanuts and tonight when I looked down at the feeder, little Burtie was noshing away. That summer was my introduction to the powers of red. Knowing that a tiny part of the cottage had followed me here, would’ve made them all so happy. And you can be sure that the spirit of family is alive and well amongst the cousins, who beat down the door to send me these photos of their folks and keep the home fires burning.
Lisa Gray…749 words….Story for Writers –‘How I survived the Covid’– Copyright @ June 2020
Lisa is a member of the Cornwall Writer Society, a group that meets at the Cornwall Public Library on the 3rd Monday of each month from 6:15 to 8:15 pm. For more information about this or any program at the library, please call 613-932-4796. To reach Lisa, email [email protected]
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