Monday 1 August 2011

Summer Vacation

Who doesn't love summer?  Sunshine, swimming, backyard barbecues, garden fresh tomatoes.  I love, love, love summer.  This year I love summer more than I have ever loved it before.  Why?  Because this year, for the first time since I had children, I am exempt from the dreaded trip to the cottage.  As we speak Frick and Daddy are away in the Great North and I am sitting here enjoying my coffee in relative peace as Frack plays quietly with his action figures.  And it is awesome!

The Rotten family happens to be fortunate enough to own some of the most beautiful cottage country in the Canadian Shield.  Imagine large hunks of rose and amber granite jutting out of the earth covered in grey-green lichens. Ancient oak and pine forests with thick, unspoiled carpets of emerald green moss, cheerful little red amanite mushrooms growing at their roots.  Deep, cold lakes forged by glaciers thousands of years ago and teaming with fish.  Every time I look at it I am deeply proud to be Canadian.  But I fucking hate it there.

I know it seems pretty ungrateful.  Having access to this is a privilege that very few can afford.  Daddy's family graciously lets us use the property for free provided we are willing to do some cleaning and maintenance while we're there.  Sounds like a sweet deal, right?

It starts with the drive.  In order to access such primeval beauty you have to drive pretty far from civilization.  And with two kids under the age of ten that means about four to eight hours of all the classics: car sickness, bathroom stops, escape attempts, small fires and the incessant fighting, whining and complaining that goes on once you've run out of junkfood to pacify them.  By the time we finally get to the cottage we are all tired, pissed off and in sore need of a drink.

At the cottage there are no computers, video games or TV shows which makes this a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time together as a family.  It also means that, as parents, you are solely responsible for their entertainment at all times.  The combination of these things pretty much guarantees an entire week filled with more fighting, whining and complaining and, if you're not vigilant, acts of vandalism.  When they're like that I would love to send them off to find fun on their own but outside isn't safe.

The cottage itself is nested into a sort of cliff with a fairly steep drop directly into the lake.  I have to resist the urge to force them to wear their life preservers at all times, even in their sleep.  It would be so easy for Frack to take a fall on the path and end up tumbling down into that lake.  They can't run around on the deck because the only thing protecting them from accidentally falling off of it into the lake is some flimsy chicken wire.

There are no beaches with sand for them to dig in.  There are no playgrounds.  There are no other kids.  They can't go for a walk because they could get lost in the woods.  Unless there is an adult to take them around and show them fun they are pretty much limited to playing inside the cottage or the screened in porch.  Then why don't we adults spend time with our kids entertaining them?

We do.  But we are living up there for a week which means cooking, washing dishes from cooking, cleaning the kitchen from cooking, making beds, laundry, and then cleaning up after the mess the kids make or getting them to clean it.  Just like at home, our time for them is limited.

The maintenance is often minor.  For the big jobs the menfolk of the Rotten family usually plan a getaway that will also involve some hunting, some grilling of meat, and some beer-drinking.  But sometimes an emergency comes up, like the time the septic tank broke, and you wind up spending your vacation digging a trench in the woods for a new septic tank while your sweat attracts every blood-feasting winged insect for fifty miles.  And then finding new and creative ways to safely shit until it's sorted out.

But at night, once the dishes are all washed and the kids are in bed, the grownups get a chance to have some alone time.  The moon is shining down on the lake.  The loons are laughing eerily on the water as it softly laps against the docks.  We sit by candlelight having a glass of wine, enjoying the beauty.   Daddy gives me his come-hither look and I go to kiss his neck....and get a mouthful of Deet.

In order to survive in a land where the insects have feasted primarily on the thick hides of deer and moose for millenia, and are therefore apt to take a chunk of human flesh away with them, you have to douse yourself religiously in Muskol.  Like Jersey Shore/Axe Body Spray dousing.  So you both end up killing your mood as you wallow in your own citronella reek.  Yeah, this is no vacation.  This is hell.

It is beyond me why Daddy insists on going there every year, but he seems to love it.  This year I begged him to not make me go.  I just can't stand it anymore! This year while he is up there with Frick, I am staying here with Frack, my working toilet, potable tap-water and decent fucking city-mosquitoes I can keep at bay with a minimum of effort.  Frack has no one to fight with, I've done no housework and we eat whatever can be cooked on the barbecue and so far?  Best.  Vacation.  Ever.

1 comment:

  1. We had a cottage like that. The beach was not sandy, but full of jagged rocks that could cut your arm off if you slipped. It became a sort of game for us - who can make it into the water without hurting themselves. I'd live it when my dad would take my sister up and me and ma would have a nice vacation with central air and a pool. No rocks, no bugs, no crying sister.