The Winter Cottage

The summer cottage teems with life. Every window and door is flung wide open, welcoming in a variety of insects that will later end up caught in the same spider webs that lurk in the same corners year after year after year. Damp beach towels hang from every available inch of deck railing. A small armada of non-motorized watercraft rests on the grass lining the shoreline. Nearby, the perilously slick, algae-covered boat ramp waits to claim new and repeat victims.

Summer weekends at “the lake” turn adults into children who run themselves ragged playing in the water. The days are long and loud with conversation and laughter. They melt into spectacular sunsets, which quiet us down until the final rays of light leave the sky. Then, we move on to campfires or the townie bar down the road.

The winter cottage is essentially the same, but more sober. The portable radio that normally blares oldies for all those in the surrounding area to hear is packed away in the garage, next to the kayaks, lifejackets and deck chairs. The beer refrigerator contains only the summer’s undrinkables – florescent Mike’s Hard Lemonades and a dubious amount of “Beast” Light. The normally robust selection of potato chips is down to one bag of stale Pirates Booty.

A cottage capable of sleeping 20 accommodates two, maybe four people on most winter weekends. Turning on the television helps fill the space, but it doesn’t have the same effect as our signature brand of shout-talking. Visiting the cottage helps us get through the long winter by serving as a reminder that summer will inevitably return. The sailboat’s trampoline may be frozen now, but in a few short months, we’ll be sitting on it just inches above the water, hugging the line between sailing and capsizing. We eat the stale food to make room for the fresh boxes of cereal and pancake mix to come.

There are a few mainstays we can always count on, regardless of the season. The spiders will always return to their corners and the mayflies will always end up in their webs no matter how many times we Swiffer them away. Driving across the penisula along Chief Kuno Trail will always be the longest mile of the trip. My Dad’s Tacoma will always be the only vehicle I expect to see parked in the driveway. The sun will always set across the lake, spraying its signature palette of pink, red and deep purple from a faraway place beyond the ugly wind turbines and their garish, flashing red lights. The Fox Lake Police Department will continue to troll past our shoreline, hoping to catch us in the act of what we perceive to be innocent hijinks.

It’s my hope that we will always return here and act like the children we will always be, given the right circumstances and freedom to do so.

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