I fell in love last week.
With a lake, I hasten to add, not a person.
Q., E. and I had our week at the cottage, our just-the-three-of-us vacation, our indulgence after our tax refund came in and I told Q. I needed to get away in August.
It was everything I had hoped for and more.
We’d rented a cottage twice before: once in 2009, when we invited friends up to help celebrate my thirtieth birthday, and again in September 2011, which was our first real vacation as a family of three, even though it wasn’t entirely relaxing given E. was four months old and needed a ton of attention and wasn’t napping for longer than thirty minutes at a time.
In 2010 and 2012 we were down under visiting Q.’s relatives and in 2013 we were overseas in the UK for the entire summer. In those years, a cottage vacation seemed like too much of an indulgence on top of all the travelling that was already planned. But this year we said the hell with it and booked the cottage anyway, even though we would have already spent a month in Australia.
I’m so glad we did.
It was the first vacation since E. was born where Q. and I were both able to relax at the same time. There were long points in the afternoon where we would be down by the water, sitting in Muskoka chairs, having a drink, and E. would just be pottering about on his own in the shallows or on the little beach, making elaborate sand structures. Occasionally he’d need help turning over a bucket or he’d want to point something out to us, but for much of it he was able to PLAY BY HIMSELF.
The cottage itself was perfect. Super child friendly- right down to the large collection of sand toys and the step-stool tucked under the bathroom sink. Just the right size- it slept six, but we think it would have felt crowded at full capacity, especially if the weather turned. A good grassy area for E. to run around on (provided we liberally dosed him with bug repellent to prevent mosquito bites). It even had a play structure, which E. played on for a while, but he was mostly interested in going down to the water.
We took him canoeing almost every day, including quite a long paddle to find a set of waterfalls. We took him hiking in the park where we hiked when he was a baby. We did shorter hikes than last time (2.0 and 1.5 km as opposed to 11 km), but he walked them on his own two feet (with relatively little complaining). We drove into the little town nearby and rode the steam train. We bought treats at the German bakery just down the highway. We drove down a road in the twilight hoping to spot deer and found them (as well as some bonus raccoons).
“I like hiking,” said E. at the end of the week. “I like canoeing.”
Good thing too, kiddo, because your parents love both and we’ll be doing a lot more of each in the future.
We had some of the best weather on the summer- hot enough to swim (even if only a quick splash in the afternoon to cool off) and almost no rain. The mornings got a bit chilly towards the end of the week, but the afternoons were generally fine and sunny. E. covered the beach in sand constructions: a sand train that had 20+ cars by the end of the week; a sand snake that I made (that was so realistic it made Q. jump when he first noticed it); a sand plane; a sand dump truck; a sand guard castle; a sand tugboat. For each construction E. painstakingly climbed down the three stone steps to the water to choose rocks for wheels or eyes or decorations.
He was happy.
We were happy.
For the first couple of mornings there I woke up early and snuck out of the cottage down to the lake, where I watched the sun come up and burn the mist from the water and listened to the loons.
My jaw didn’t ache.
My face wasn’t set in hard lines of worry.
I knew that in an alternate reality, if things had worked out, we weren’t supposed to be there, but for once the knowledge didn’t hurt. It felt right to be there, and I was able to be present in the moment with the family I had.
Towards the end of the week I started sleeping longer. I missed my solitary visits to the lake, but knew my body needed something else. One morning E. came into the bed and lasted in there about an hour before his constant wriggling meant Q. and I had been kicked one too many times. We made pancakes and read books and played cards (Q. and I were soundly trounced in a round of Go Fish by E. and his stuffed dog). By the end of the week Q. and I were picking up real estate brochures and looking over maps of the area, indulging (again) in the fantasy that one day we might be able to have a cottage of our own. Living in such a big city, we both yearn for that escape. Driving back home we could feel our tension rising, our busy lives reclaiming us, with each foolhardy action by a driver in front of us.
“I want to stay at the cottage for the rest of our lives,” E. said on our third day there.
Me too, kiddo. Me too.