I am currently rehydrating after a boozy cousin’s cottage weekend. This was the third year that my cousin generously opened up her cottage to extended family for the long weekend. There were many bottles of wine, margaritas and slurred songs around the campfire. There were organized games including a high stakes game of capture the flag played around a wood chipper for an extra element of danger. The games usually end in controversy, ours being a family of type-A, competitive overachievers.
The first year I was apprehensive about a cousin’s weekend. I am the opposite of a type-A and far from an overachiever. Games involving teams and competition stress me out. I do everything in my power to avoid being seen in a bathing suit unless it is by strangers I will never meet again. I worry that I will revert back to my shy childhood self, complete with coke bottle glasses and dorky outfits. Somehow though, through the skinny dipping, the booze and the lounging I managed to carve out my own place. I realized that I love these people who are all quirky, sweet and fun in their own way.
The weekend provided many opportunities for relentless teasing and future blackmail. My glamorous urban cousin nearly drowned herself and those within her splashing vicinity during a midnight swim. A few of us were having a starlit skinny dip when there was a blood curdling scream.
“Oh my God! What the hell is that?” she screamed.
She practically levitated from the lake in her haste to get away from whatever was attacking her.
From the horror in her voice I expected a bull shark (known to swim in fresh water, although never in Ontario) or at least a snapping turtle. It turns out is was The Sweetie, serenely floating on his back.
“Good God”, she panted as she tried to recover, ” Why are you so stealth? I thought you were a loon!”
Typically, a loon on a lake does not invoke shrieks of terror. It feels like a lucky thing to spot one, akin to seeing a peaceful deer in a meadow. Of course, as I teased her mercilessly I didn’t admit that I was nervous about going kayaking because I was afraid that spiders might crawl out of the kayak while I was in the middle of the lake. I would certainly drown in my desperation to get away from them. My squeamishness towards insects also resulted in attacking two relatives with bug spray that I was wielding like a can of mace. Enjoying the wilderness does not come without casualties.
Crazed loon attacks and deadly spiders aside, there is something magical and quintessentially Canadian about the cottage experience. It is in our collective blood. Seeing the water as still as glass early in the morning, plunging into a cold lake and sipping beer on a dock embodies a Canadian summer in all its glory. It felt extra special to share the experience with family members and feel truly connected. It is true that you can’t choose your family. Because families usually have a few duds we often create a tribe of our own. I’m lucky that my tribe includes family and I feel stronger for it.