Summer Cottaging Above The Forty-Ninth Parallel

Ah June – summer finally, in the place we live, where for a brief time we are tricked into forgetting how far north our ancestors managed to settle – up here above the forty-ninth parallel. I love summer, the exquisite season of heat, long days, sweet flowers, and travel back and forth to the briefly warm lake.

My lofty goal is always to stay at our lakeside cottage for longer and longer stretches every year. A dear friend reminisces fondly of how, as a kid on the last day of school her mom would have the station wagon ready, and then would ceremoniously draw the curtains on the city living room for the summer, before they all piled into the car for two long months at the lake. I long to be of that ilk but am unable to achieve it – always called back to the city for a worthy occasion.

And so I make these epic drives – our cottage isn’t an easy two or three hours away – no, we built our retreat a seven hour drive for my husband, but what stretches to a crazy ten or eleven hour journey if I am doing it on my own.  We’ll gather on the edge of the truly mighty Shuswap Lake (889 miles of shoreline) this July long weekend.

boys dive Three of our four kids will packed rushed bags and join us from different directions to barbecue, boat, debate musical tastes, and laugh late into the warm night, with sticky smores on our finger tips (okay, my finger tips). There’ll be other weekends packed with family or close friends, and after one full of farmer’s markets, bear sightings and cool swims, I’ll choose to drive back to the city. No matter how early my jump into the lake is – the one to refresh me for the epic trip home – by the time I’ve tied up the kayak and canoe, watered the thirsty geraniums, gathered up errant towels and bathing suits, taken the whip cream and sausage that would go smelly from the fridge, pulled the blinds and found the car keys under a hat – noon will be ticking in. My first stop is for a latte over ice and those super healthy cookies to take for the road at my favourite, EcoTreats in Scotch Creek.

fruit in car Time travelled from the cottage – twenty minutes. Okay – get moving. Next stop – absolutely favourite fruit stand for juicy cherries or early peaches that I’m convinced are tastier than any to be found in the entire city back home – time travelled – another hour and a half. Concentrate now – third required break is from boredom of driving – so the town of Revelstoke.IMG_3233

I’ll wind my way into town and here I get out and move around, usually walking and talking to whoever I catch on the phone, circling the Alpine style streets of tall homes and flowery yards before I find one of several bakery cafes for another iced coffee drink and something gooey and sweet to help me with the longest stretch over the
Roger’s pass and over the Rocky Mountains. During this hour and a half of high mountain driving with no services, I tell myself, for the zillionth time, to pretend I’ve never seen it before and so to pass the time being spellbound by the epic beauty – but I have seen it and seen it and seen it – so when that part of the drive is over I am so ready to ease the car to a stop in Golden, B.C. Golden of the amazing wooden bridge and the last
B.C. fruit stand. By this time the fruit that I’ve already bought hours back smells ripe and succulent in the car, but I pack in more – some green pears, some tart apples and a medium sized watermelon.golden bridge

My good husband is calling now, reaching me in this slice of cell service, never understanding how I cannot be home already. I push on, strict with myself now and contemplating a five hour energy drink for what is still a three hour drive. The little plastic pink bottle makes me feel awake just by looking at its magical capabilities all sealed shut in the cup holder. I manage to make it down through the mountains, past Field and Lake Louise, even Banff, but stop at Canmore just have to use the Tim Horton’s washroom and I don’t even want the six mini donuts that I reason can help the teeny bit of travel I have left to go zipping by. Oh, and I wash those down with an Ice Cap, calling my honey to tell him -that I don’t understand it either. Perhaps, I’m lifted up by aliens somewhere along the route, who are after my bounty of fruit and the secrets of relishing a short summer, and then deposited down on the highway again. I mean really, how could it take me twelve hours to do this cross country bountiful escapade?

(To read Text Me, Love Mom – the book about the hectic chaos of four kids being launched into the wide, wide world – during that next stage of parenting, click on the following links: Link to Amazon.ca http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Link to Amazon.com  http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712 )

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Teenage Sympathizer

Hey, I have so many mom friends and relatives who have a son or daughter graduating high school this June.  I love all that buzz of buying ‘that dress’ or do you rent or buy the son a suit? – and banquet tickets, famous commencement speeches, and then the after party and after, after party … It makes me think about the chapter I wrote in Text Me, Love Mom about the first time our family spun our way through all that…

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.

– Hesiod, Eighth Century BC

One Wednesday late in June, my husband,Will, arrived home and politely inquired as to why so many of our daughter Zoë’s friends were gathered in our backyard again. He had yet to notice that the boys were in their boxers. Forever a teenage sympathizer, I handed him the ice for his drink and said calmly, “Some of them just wrote their last exam. I think they’re feeling celebratory. Let them be.”

“Will there be another party when the rest of them write their last exam?”

“Seriously, Dad, this isn’t a party,” Zoë told him, wrapping a towel around her bikini-clad body. “It’s just a few of my friends celebrating a bit.”

Zoë’s a good kid. If it were a party, she would certainly have let us know. Eight kids having a water fight, with the boys in boxers and the ones of age knocking back a few beers, followed by a session of whipping up nachos in the oven accompanied by rap music, was definitely not a party.

Just then, two of the more manly looking boys skidded by the kitchen window in their boxers and socks. As Zoë’s dad leapt out the deck door to grab them — not that there was much to grab them by — I became a full blown supporter of their… youthful charm. “Come on. Come on. They just finished high school. Twelve years. Of course, they’re giddy.” Zoe’s much younger sister, Lily, and her friend, Heidi, waved at Will from their post in our dilapidated tree house. The younger girls looked entertained, as if they had balcony seats to a reality TV show.

Will waved back at Lily and Heidi but yelled at the others to get dressed or all thunder would break loose. They might have been unfamiliar with that expression, but the guys rushed back into their jeans. Will stepped back inside to demand further explanation. “Wasn’t there a party for this already?” he asked Zoë. He turned to me. “Didn’t they call it graduation? Wasn’t that the night we spent a zillion bucks dressing Zoë up so she could sit at a banquet for two hours, have three dances, and then change back into her street clothes in a washroom cubicle like a superhero, before vanishing for the real celebration out of our sight? Furthermore, wasn’t there a party here three days later, after we watched five hundred of them march across the stage?” His excitement was elevating to match theirs. “And what the heck was last Friday? Wasn’t there a whole lot of teens in a celebratory mood here then, too?”

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“Oh, Dad, that was the last day of classes. Cole’s friends were here, too.”

Will pointed to a tall boy from four doors up the road. “Cole’s friends are here now, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Dad, you can’t count Jacob,” Zoë said. Jacob, our son Cole’s closest friend, was now helping to distribute the nachos. He was almost a member of our family, but then that was true of our younger son, Hudson’s pals, Robin and Mark, from around the block, and Lily’s entourage of blonde twelve-year-olds — Heidi and Charlotte, who were Jacob and Robin’s sisters, and Mattie from across the street. This was a popular strategy with our four kids — pointing out that the number of friends that each of them has over isn’t that out of line — say two or three a piece — resulting in Friday nights with a dozen or more kids sprawling about the house.

“That was the last day of classes,” Zoë explained again to her clueless father. “This is the last day of exams…” She lowered her voice and stuffed a nacho into her mouth, mumbling, “… at least for some people.” Zoë and a few others still had four more days before their last exam and then it would be their turn to be giddy and celebratory… and in their underwear.

“You see,” I said, “maybe this is the universe’s plan to help us let her go away to university in Vancouver. If they drive us insane over the summer, it will be easier to separate.” I choked on the s-word. I really did need to grow up. I needed to be a Shirley Partridge type of mom, hip but mature enough to set some rules, take back the stereo and put on some Fleetwood Mac instead of Bowling For Soup, and take her shopping for school supplies and a sensible raincoat. As a responsible mom, I would study tourist guides of Vancouver with her and teach her how to grocery shop for ripe melons and reasonable cuts of meat.

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But I wasn’t ready for all that. There was something magical about the summer after high school. I felt more like Lorelai Gilmore, the mother-as-friend from television’s Gilmore Girls, than my generation’s sensible Shirley Partridge (though she was a singer in a pop band). The moods of the kids around us were contagious. At that point, we still had Zoë’s eighteenth birthday party to plan, as well as some sort of big family gathering before she officially went away. Forget the grocery shopping lessons, bring on the nachos, I thought, kicking off my Clarks so I could take a run through the sprinkler.

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