My most treasured childhood memories are from the summers my family spent at a family owned resort on Lake of Bays. While the property seemed vast to me at the time – it did boast a field (where we played family games of baseball after dinner each night), a tennis court, a small beach, a big dock (complete with a slide and a diving tower), and a variety of cottages (each one distinctly different from the others and all inhabited by a seemingly routine set of families each summer). Each member of the family that owned it, a melange of brothers, sisters and their spouses, specialized in something different around the resort. Ross was an unbelievable gardener (I think it’s because of his gardens that I have an affinity for dahlias to this day) and master of maple syrup (yup, there was a bona fide sugar shack a ways up the road from the resort – the perfect destination for family morning walks) but also took care of the marina that was part of the resort. Helen was in charge of the office and all the bookkeeping. Doug and Don helped out with a variety of things, including maintaining the little “pop shop” – there were a few fridges kept in a small building filled with every flavour of soda – guests could walk in, take what they liked, and record their purchases in a small binder atop one of the fridges – I still associate the sugary sweet taste of cream soda with summer up north. And then there was Lillian. She was the baker – and that’s all I’ll say on her now, because she will be the focus of an entire post in a few days.
Anyway, my point in telling you all this is so that you get a sense of this place. It was big enough, but safe enough that my parents allowed my brother and I to really test our independence when we were up there. Trips to get a pop to go with our lunch first started out with mom or dad accompanying us, but then as we learned to write, progressed to us being allowed to go alone.
One gorgeous sunny summer day, after a trip into town to get groceries, my dad returned to the cottage with 2 inflatable dinghies – one for me and one for my brother. I vaguely recall us naming them, but can’t for the life of me remember what we named them. These boats were quite possibly the best thing to happen to us in our young lives. We spent hours in these things – Paddling about, jumping in them, out of them, turning them over and jumping off them.
And then, as only a nine-year old girl would, I decided to use mine to “escape”. I was / am an avid reader, and I decided that nothing would be better than to sit in my boat anchored off the shore reading whatever novel it was I was engrossed in at the time. And so I prepared. I sliced some peaches and threw them into a container. I found a suitable rock and some rope and tied the rope around the rock, and tied the rope to the boat. I piled my peaches, book, “anchor” and nine-year old self into the boat and rowed off shore just far enough for my anchor to work and my parents not to call me back to shore.
Several minutes into my great escape, I realized my plans had been foiled. Rocks and rubber dinghies do not mix well. My anchor had torn a small hole in the bottom of the boat, and my raft was taking on water. I returned to shore and shed copious amount of tears as my boat was taken out to the garbage. The fact that my brother still had his boat only added to my bruised ego.
Fast forward 30 years. As I was swimming with the kids at the only family cottage my kids know, I saw my dad approaching with what looked like my old rubber dinghy. Sure enough, it was! To see my kids paddling about, jumping in, jumping out, and jumping of the same boat my brother and I had done the same with (my brother’s a good egg – while I know the arguments over sharing the boat weren’t always the nicest, he was good about letting me have some turns with his boat – so long as an anchor never went close to it!) made my heart sing with joy.
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