"we had a small radio that we would put into the window so we could listen to whatever the radio station in PEI was playing..."
These aren't fancy photos, some of them are from Mum's photo albums, some from a go-pro with a smudge on the screen, some from my phone but that doesn't matter here. Not today. In honour of Canada150 I have a story to tell. It's about the best place on earth. Our family cottage on the shore of the Northumberland Strait in Nova Scotia. Brule. My grandparents (long live The Colonel and The Swan) built it in the 1940s and my goodness if those walls could talk. My cousins children mark the 3rd generation to spend summers on that beach protected from the outside world and all it's worries and woes. In nearly 70 years not one television has found a home there, growing up we had a small radio that we would put into the window so we could listen to whatever the radio station in PEI was playing Juice Newton's Queen of Hearts and Paul Simons Kodachrome will always put me right there on the deck laying in the sunshine with my sister, cousins, aunts...My uncle owned a corner store and we kids always looked forward to his pick up truck driving down the lane because he would hand out tiny brown paper bags full of candy - Fun Dips and Astro Pops (man those things stuck to your teeth!). Swimming all day in the ocean, playing on the sandbars, devouring Archie comics, jumping off the diving tower over and over again and picking cattails from the marsh to be used later that night as fiery torches. Jellyfish stings, mosquito bites, and sand covered roasted marshmallows that you dropped beside the bonfire (maybe because the ghost stories were just that scary!) but ate anyway...just because.
"Waking in the morning to whoever was up first crumpling newspaper and lighting a match to warm the chill out of the air..."
A couple of years ago I introduced Matt to this magical heart and soul of our family. The thing that struck him the most was that our cottage has become a time capsule and that's the most fitting description I've heard. Inside those walls hold 70 years of family timepieces- a modest structure that holds more love and good memories than any other place I've been in the world. Walking up the stairs to the front door is just the same as it was for me 30 years ago- there used to be a bucket by the door to rinse the sand off before you went inside. Behind the door is a collection of hats of all kinds some with feathers, a sailor hat, a hard hat and those hats have been to many a party and brought many laughs. The front bedroom where I can remember my Grandmother putting on her lipstick, crawling into bed with her in the mornings for cuddles or folding the Canada flag on the bed each evening only to bring it out the next morning to ceremoniously hoist it up the flag pole. I had forgotten about that until this moment. The bunk room where the kids slept, where my sister fell and cracked her little head off the dresser, where the boys from down the beach would quietly scratch at the window at night to try and lure us out to have adventures, where I recovered from having my wisdom teeth pulled. The walls filled with framed photos of us, collages, my Grandfathers welcome to the bar after passing his law exam, an autographed fan from some old CBC celebrities and of course as all good Canadians a photo of Trudeau. Ashes of pets, sand dollars and paintings of the cottage. A fishing net strung across the ceiling in the living room over the rafter beams holding treasures galore. The fireplace where I learned to build a great fire a skill I hold dear. Waking in the morning to whoever was up first crumpling newspaper and lighting a match to warm the chill out of the air, the smell of bacon frying in the kitchen. We grew up there all of us- childhood turned into teenage years with so many deep talks at bonfires, and our little beach gang sneaking cigarettes and bottles of beer onto the sailboat and going to "feed the seals". The boys would skateboard while my sister and I would hang around listening to Led Zeppelin, Guns and Roses and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Those were our 'wonder years' they were our Kevin Arnolds.
"...many drinks have gone down, many games of crib won and lost and many a hushed secret shared."
Whenever I can I make my way to NS for a couple of nights shared with family. I look forward to the smell that hits me the moment I walk in the door- it has never changed. My Uncle makes the worlds best Ceasar so it's usually top of the list as we stand in the ktichen and catch up - and I recall bathing in that sink when I was really small, or the multitudes of good old Nova Scotia kitchen parties that have gone on, someone playing the spoons, someone else the washboard the old radio accompanying us with the Rankins or Stan Rogers. The door frame that shows all of our growth charts with our names and the year scratched into the wood. The hustle of family dinners- collecting ocean water to boil lobster, setting the table - oh that table many drinks have gone down, many games of crib won and lost and many a hushed secret shared. I'll invite you next time, you will always be welcome to weave your way into our blanket of memories- but be warned... as you step into the tiny bathroom, move the old rock/door holder and latch closed the door- be sure to cover that tiny hole on the back of the door with a towel or we'll spy on you ;) and thank your lucky stars that the shower has finally been covered on top- or you would find yourself properly initiated with a bucket of ice cold water when you least expect it.