More Than A View
For almost three decades now Iíve carried with me a bottomless pit of determination to get something back which I truly felt belonged to me.
It all began when I was expecting my first child twenty-seven years ago. My father, deep in the throes of a raging midlife crisis and empty nest syndrome, threw a hissy fit over what were actually a couple of minor annoyances up at the lake, and sold our family cottage.
The decision immediately became his greatest regret, and, I believe was one of the only things he died still kicking himself over; besides the fact that my mother didnít speak to him for weeks over it.
My parents had signed for the cottage on a damp and dreary spring morning for not much more than a song. The place was a dilapidated mouse-infested money pit, but it did have a view to die for.
I was about to turn sixteen, and in my narrow-minded youth, their decision to buy it was total vindication, as I considered them crazy based on some of the outrageous rules they had devised for me. However, my opinion didnít seem to faze them, and alongside my mom, dad and sister, I toiled away all summer.
By the time my late August birthday arrived, the place was pretty much unrecognizable inside and out, and swallowing my adolescent pride, I asked, much to my parentsí delight, if I could hold my birthday bash up there. It was the first of many, as the cottage quickly became the preferred venue for just about every summer family celebration imaginable.
Over the years, Mom and Dad bought all the requisite toys, which included a brand new six-seater bow rider and a trail bike. The cottage was the place I first fell in love, and where I learned to drive a boat, a car and a motorcycle, cast my own line, water ski, and play a mean game of croquet and badminton.
We also did a fair amount of sunbathing and were all as ďbrown as berries,Ē as my mom used to say, by the end of summer. Sometimes, craving a little rural excitement, everyone would pile into Dadís station wagon and head to the Country Cafť in town for lunch.
Wandering to our heartís content amongst the little shops along the main street, weíd never fail to make a stop at the bakery. Iím glad no one was testing our blood sugar. By todayís standards we should have all been dead long ago!
Evenings were spent toasting marshmallows around the campfire, playing Scrabble, acting out charades or playing family-friendly games of crazy eights, blackjack and every kind of poker imaginable. And during the warmest of evenings, when the moon didnít cast too bright a beam across the cool, dark water, you could almost count on catching the muffled giggles from those whoíd ditched their clothes to take a midnight plunge.
We woke early in the morning to Dad popping his head in our bedroom doors advising us to rise and shine if we wanted to eat. Since we hadnít heard of cholesterol counts, weíd show up to the breakfast table and plan the daysí activities over platters of bacon and eggs, and toast that was slathered with butter.
Those wonderfully happy times, which I now understand were the epitome of life flying by, were quite simply the best days I have ever known. The second we walked away from that place I truly understood what it meant to have my heart broken.
I made a vow that one way or another, I was going to get it back. I would right my fatherís wrong and reclaim what was rightfully ours. And so began the grieving process, which, Iíve decided, is something akin to having the world watch from the sidelines as you take a huge slap in the face, just when you least expect it.
More than a quarter of a century has passed, and my grieving has been somewhat diluted by lifeís stark realities. However, I kept my promise by diligently monitoring the real estate listings and making a yearly trek up there ďjust to see,Ē warning my husband that if I ever saw a sign on the property, Iíd be willing to post one of the kids on eBay in order to get my hands on it. He responded by giving me the same nervous little smile every time, but to his great relief, it has never once come on the market.
And now, to be honest, Iím tired of waiting. The baby I was carrying all those years ago is about to become a father, which, if you trace the family tree, makes me a grandmother. And yet itís taken all this time for me to grasp the fact that it wasnít about the cottage at all. Or at least not that particular one.
What I yearned so badly to recapture and pass on to my own family, was really just a place. A little piece of heaven where the good times we shared, the relationships we strengthened, the lessons we learned and the memories we created would live forever.
I hit the Internet a couple of months ago but didnít find what I was looking for until my son sent me the link to a listing. The place, which had a view to die for, was nothing but a dilapidated mouse-infested money pit. We signed the papers within an hour.
Even though itís less than a half-hour drive, I have no plans to travel down the long, dusty road to sneak a peek at the old digs this year. Itís been gone almost thirty years now anyway. And Iíve noticed that with the purchase of our new place, that endless longing and gnawing resolve, which has tugged at my heart all these years, is finally gone.
It is replaced by an understanding that taking it away from someone else would never have been the answer, I finally learned that it was only in recognizing the cottageís true gifts: the legacy of love it inspired, and the willpower it instilled in me in wanting so desperately to get it all back, could I pay tribute to it.
And as I look out at that view and await the birth my first grandchild, Iím almost certain I can see the reflection of Dadís proud smile and the ghost of loveís first kiss, in the glistening watersÖ.
Have a great day...