My mother passed away 17 years ago, and left me the family cottage. A cottage that my father built when I was a youngster. A cottage where we spent summer weekends, and holidays.
When my mother passed, I thought I would sell the place. I live on the west coast now, and seldom visit. My kids are grown, and although they love the place, it is difficult for them to spend much time here. So, several years after her passing, I arranged to meet a realtor at the cottage. When I arrived, I was horrified to discover significant water damage in one of the bedrooms and the bathroom. The rood had been leaking for who knows how long. I couldn’t sell it like that. My parents would have never forgiven me. I can hear them now.
So began a 17 year project to restore, repair, and renovate the family cottage. I would steal long weekends when working in the area, and spend a week or two whenever I could. Over the course of the past 17 years, I have put on a new roof, restored the water-soaked bedroom, replaced the bathroom floor, built new decks, installed a floating dock for swimming and moorage, reupholstered an old sectional couch and chairs that belonged to my mother, installed double-paned, picture windows, replaced the Franklin wood burning stove with a propane one that is more convenient and easier to use, and had an arborist trim the numerous pine, red maple, silver birch, oak, and cedar trees that populate the property. There is always something to do it seems.
When my mother passed, her girl friends brought a poem my mother had written in 1988 about the cottage, and placed it on the chapel stage during the service. I copied the poem and several of the pictures, had them framed, and mounted it on one of the cottage walls. In 2008, I wrote a similar poem highlighting the changes that had been made to the cottage. Again, I had the poem and several more current photographs framed, and hung it on the wall beneath my mother’s poem.
This summer, 2017, I wrote another poem called “I have seen it all”, attached several current photographs, and will have it framed and hang it on the same wall with the other poems. These poems, and I use the term loosely, have recorded the transition of the cottage, and its meaning to us, over the span of 30 years.
When my son visits, I encourage him to pen a poem about the cottage, but he refuses. He doesn’t think he can do it. Write a poem. I tell him I didn’t think it was in me either. And I’m not suggesting that I have a talent for it, but when I am here alone, the words come more easily.
He’s visiting next week. It’s time he continues the tradition.