Reminiscing about cottage life and reliving those sunburnt memories on the beach

Not every kid is lucky enough to have a cottage to go to during summer vacation. I was. Loading up our large furnace-like van in the overwhelmingly muggy Ontario heat was a challenge, particularly with two little girls screeching and pulling each other’s hair. It would take us three hours just to get organized, including setting up a small TV on a wooden stand in the back of the car.

After the stop for coffees, peach drinks and Timbits we were on our way. Mom rented plenty of videos and made sure we had colouring books and snacks, but we still always found something to cry about. I can see my mom now, wrenching around in her seat begging us to stop kicking each other’s seats while my dad drove silently. We were seated in completely separate sections of the car in attempt to isolate us.

Even so, we often pulled over on the side of the highway with our dad holding our favourite stuffed animals out the window, threatening to throw them away if we didn’t start getting along. Eventually we would become distracted, fixating on the whitecaps on the blue lake water, or better yet a crystal calm surface (meaning we could swim out further.) Long before turning off of the highway we would mistake the heat puddles on the sticky black-tarred roads for water.

Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe in Ontario, Canada, is home to a cottage, hand-built by my papa. It backs onto a big boathouse on the lagoon that flows into Lake Simcoe under an old bridge. The beachfront is mere steps across the street from the home that my grandparents built for themselves back in the ’60s. Kids and dogs run around everywhere. Friendly neighbors are scattered down the road chatting to each other and lazing the day away. A few boats speed by leaving thick wakes for the water skiers. The sun beats down hard, leaving our shoulders raw and red.

Growing up at the lake over the summers, I have experienced so many first times: first time fishing, first time slipping off of the bank of the lagoon into the water, first time pulling myself up on the wakeboard and water skis, first time skating on the frozen lagoon. I enjoyed hearing my papa play on his antique organs in the basement, and learning how to play the spoons on my knee.The shoreline of Lake Simcoe in Jackson’s Point, Ontario during late summertime.

Photo by Ashley Fazekas

Playing with the other kids on the street, savoring snowy Christmases and maintaining the cottage as a gathering spot for my large family to be home together, are among the amazing memories that I will treasure forever.

The first year I brought my boyfriend up for a week at the lake in the summer, he was excited to meet my family and experience this magical place I often described. During that week we decided that we would take out my uncle’s old canoe and paddle to the island “not far” from shore. I’d never had the chance to explore it before and we figured that we would get there in no time. I decided to stop paddling until we got to the end of the long shoreline. My boyfriend didn’t like that. Our situation turned into a stereotypical sitcom of the couple in the canoe having a full-blown argument, yelling and splashing.

We ended up drifting and paddling towards the island, but even as the shoreline shrank, the island in front of us stayed the same size. We had underestimated how far away this island was and before we knew it we were in the middle of the lake with no drinking water, hats, sunscreen, or protection from the midday sun. Eventually we saw my uncle’s motorboat coming our way with a search team of my concerned family members. We had been out there for nearly four hours! We got turned around and of course the boat flipped over and we both ended up in the water. We had to swim the canoe back to shore.

Later that night we were both sick with heat stroke. I couldn’t close my eyes without being transported onto a rocking boat. Oddly enough, this experience brought us closer together and it’s a memory we often reflect on.

The cottage is where I grew up, where my family continues to visit and where I learned important lessons. At the end of our trips to the lake, we got to go for one last swim at the beach. It was never quite as exciting. The fighting wasn’t as passionate, because we were pooped from our wonderful holiday and our lips were too cracked from the sun to talk as much. The sunburns, sounds of the waves lapping at the shoreline and the tadpoles nibbling at my toes are the things I long for during the winter months. Life on the lake in the summer is a true blessing.

afazekas@cjournal.ca

To contact the editors responsible for this story; Evan Manconi at emanconi@cjournal.ca; Bre Brezinski at bbrezinski@cjournal.ca.