Thunder Bay, Ont. writer Susan Goldberg is a transplanted Torontonian and one of two mothers to two boys. Follow along as she shares her family’s experiences.
“Mom, I’ve noticed something about when we come here,” Rowan says to me.
We’re outside at our friend Carol’s cottage, the waters of Hawkeye Lake lapping at the shore of the narrow beach, the sun beginning its slow descent behind us. Rowan has found a Frisbee and has been coaching me on how to throw it: “So, you put your pointer finger here, like this, and your middle finger here, and your thumb underneath and you just” — and here he mimes flicking his wrist just so — “you just, you know, toss it.”
I do. I toss it. I am — as a friend once called me in my university days — “Frisbeely challenged,” having never got the hang of sending those whirling discs of plastic sailing freely through the air. But right now, on the shores of the lake, with the neighbours’ dog keeping Isaac company on the dock, I’m starting to get it. I’m actually able to have a game of Frisbee with my kid. It’s exhilarating.
“So,” I say to him as we play, “what do you notice when we come here?”
“I’ve noticed we don’t fight as much when we’re out here.”
Oof. He may as well have thrown the Frisbee, hard, into my gut. Do we fight all the time? Am I a terrible parent? Will all he remember of his childhood is that he and I fought too much?
But then I exhale, and look at him, at my (nearly) fourth-grader, so happy out here on the lake. And I think that maybe what he means is that we’re all happier out here, that things are easier than they are when we’re not surrounded by all the baggage of all our stuff, our screens, our obligations.
Whenever Rachel and I toss around the idea of owning a cottage, we always dismiss it. Neither of us wants the headache of a second home: two properties to maintain, two sets of furniture, the doubling of all of our possessions, the added expense, the constant packing and unpacking of the car, trucking in the water. And, really, it’s a moot point: it’s not as though we have several hundred thousand dollars just looking for a home — we may as well idly toss around the idea of buying a Lamborghini.
And yet, we get out to somebody’s cottage — or, as they call them up here in Northwestern Ontario, “camps”— and Rowan is right. Things are so much easier. We’re all more relaxed, more easy-going, trundling from the sauna to the lake and back again, playing Pickup Sticks, finding the shed skins of garter snakes, tossing that Frisbee, lighting sparklers and roasting marshmallows and re-reading the Harry Potter series. We snuggle. The boys get out boardgames and play them with each other.
So, no, we have no plans to buy a cottage (or, for that matter, a camp). But I’m thinking that we may just need to think about renting one of these days. And, in the meantime, feel free to invite us to yours — we make charming guests, I promise.
We’re not perfect, but we’re even better out here.
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