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At a time when other people my age are divesting of possessions, I purchased my first cottage. To be honest, calling it a cottage is a bit of an overstatement: It’s basically a two-room cabin, and even that description makes it sound more charmingly rustic than it is. I may be a little long in the tooth to be purchasing a cottage – I mean, cabin – but I’ll justify it by saying that I bought it with my daughter, so it’s for both of us. And possible future grandchildren. It’s the family cottage that neither of us has yet had in our lives.
Now I have my own little patch of wilderness in the Canadian North (see how quickly it became mine alone?). Well, maybe not exactly wilderness, since it’s practically within walking distance of a town with three pharmacies, two grocery stores and a hospital. But it’s more or less on a lake and in an area that could be legitimately described as cottage country, so I can say to my friends, in that offhand way, “Oh, I’m just going up to my cottage for the weekend.”
Now that I’m a cottage-, I mean, cabin-owner, is it my imagination, or do my friends and family suddenly seem to like me more? When we go out for drinks, I notice that they rush to pay the bill. It reminds me of a sign my sister used to have at her summer home: “You never know how many friends you have until you buy a cottage on a lake.” I’m wondering when would be a good time to confess just how small and humble my new place is? When I say cottage, I’m sure everyone is imagining long evenings cozily nestled with a book while a fire crackles in the stone fireplace (there isn’t one), bottomless glasses of wine on the floating dock on the lake (the lake is nearby, but actually not that close), late afternoon water skiing (I don’t think I can paddle my kayak fast enough), snowy weekends tucked under duvets (there’s no running water in the winter, but the outhouse is just down the road), and playing hooky while responding to e-mails remotely (there’s no internet). Surely no confession is required until at least after the first free drink. Maybe my conscience would allow me to hold out until my meal is safely paid for.
I’ve heard that bears, deer, beavers, mice, ticks, mosquitoes and black flies might become my new neighbours. Some of my friends are concerned about how I will cope with this. Well, I might be a city slicker, but I have had some experience getting rid of the odd house mouse and chasing raccoons and squirrels out of my backyard. Besides, there’s probably a quaint country hardware store in that little town close by, so I will be able to procure mouse traps or bear traps or whatever is required. In any event, I’m picturing myself basking in the sun, sipping a G&T and reading a novel. All the time. No room in that picture for bears or any other pests, large or small.
I’ve had to consider some logistics, though, such as what to put in the cabin. The previous owners thoughtfully removed every mismatched dish and scrap of falling-apart furniture they had accumulated over the years. That’s when I remembered all the stuff in my basement and ventured into the rarely visited dungeon with renewed interest. I wouldn’t want to call myself a hoarder, but let’s just say I never throw anything away. You never know when it might come in handy. Curtains that fit the windows in the previous but not the new house (I admit it’s been 18 years) are now just perfect for the cottage, er cabin, so wasn’t it clever that I saved them all these years. “It’s perfect for the cottage,” has become my mantra. It’s an incredibly liberating feeling to take furniture, rugs, pots, glasses and other bits and pieces from the basement and find a new use for them – it’s positively cathartic. In fact, my friends want me to shop in their basements. It turns out they, too, would like that liberating feeling.
The collection of gently used furniture, small appliances, etc., from several basements is now sitting in my living room, waiting for closing day. I’m surveying it with satisfaction, but also beginning to wonder about the next logistics issue: How to get all this stuff up to the cabin. Certainly the big tractor-trailer moving van required to shift an entire houseful of furniture will not be required. It’s really just a few things, I’m thinking, so maybe some friends and a small truck would do it. One of those drive-yourself vehicles. Pleasant memories of university days start drifting through my head, when the incentive of a case of beer and a few pizzas would get you some willing hands happy to move a few things from one apartment to another just down the road. But the more I considered recruiting friends with hip replacements, arthritic knees, tendinitis and a litany of other health issues, the more I started to doubt that this would be a realistic solution. And the thought of sitting behind the wheel of a U-Haul truck, driving three hours north was decidedly unappealing. That’s when I remembered my daughter. After all, she’s a co-owner, right? And between her and her friends, there must be plenty of human power to spare. Issue solved. Order the pizzas and beer.
Ahhhh. Cottage life.
Debra Scoffield lives in Toronto.