Years ago, before there were any grandkids, my children, and I spent a long weekend at the island cottage in New Hampshire. My son-in-law declared at the end of the three-day weekend that it just hadn’t been long enough and next year we should all come for a week. We’ve been doing it ever since. Of course that first weekend there were just a half dozen of us, but over the years spouses have been added, my sister and sister-in-law and their kids and now grandkids. This year there were twenty-eight of us but other years even more. Some come for the whole week and others who can’t get away for an entire week, still manage to show up for part of the time. This year we missed my two oldest granddaughters, one who married an Army Medic who is stationed in Maryland and the other moved to Florida and couldn’t get enough time off to come so far.
If you are picturing an “English” cottage – the kind with dozens of bedrooms, cozy fireplaces and vast manicured lawns - don’t. This cottage began life as the 14-foot square platform for a tent the year I was twelve, then became a “temporary camp” with a larger one to follow. But that was before my father got his first tax bill, which is outrageous since New Hampshire gains all its tax revenue via real estate taxes. The bigger camp with such lovely facilities as running water, warm showers and real beds never happened.
But that doesn’t stop us from having a fantastic time together. Everyone has their own tent. The cottage is treated like a clubhouse with a kitchen and we eat at a sisteen-foot table under a twenty-foot canopy. We take turns fixing dinner, there is always at least one waffle breakfast and one featuring crepes. My grandkids love spending a whole week with their cousins in and out of the water, playing dress-up, exploring in kayaks, doing crafts and just having fun. The adults play just as hard – in boats, in the water and at cards. And every night ends with a campfire and s’mores and sometimes ghost stories that have the kids begging to sleep with mom and dad instead of in their own tents.
This year was no different. A little over a week ago we all began to arrive. Three college age grandkids, eleven grandkids from one to thirteen, fourteen adults and three dogs. Tents popped up everywhere and the usually silent island became a hive of activity and the laughter of children. One nice thing about an island is the freedom the kids have that they don’t get at home. They can find hideouts and explore along the shore, and just be kids without adults watching every move. Sometimes one just has to laugh when they decide that dancing in the outhouse is fun – or something equally beyond the imagination of the adults.
We also celebrate a holiday every summer – a holiday we don’t usually get to see each other on. Last year was Easter and eggs were hidden all over the island. The year before everything was about fairies – fairy houses, fairy wings, fairy bubbles. Another year it was Halloween and the kids put on their costumes and went trick or treating to all the tents. This year was Valentines Day all week. Mail deliveries were made when no one was watching and the kids had a grand time checking their little red mailboxes every day. Sometimes there are birthday parties, and wedding or baby showers. Years from now some archeologist will have to wonder what all the tiny glittery things in the shape of hearts, wedding bells, baby rattles, pacifiers, stars and over the hill slogans mean. We aim to keep them guessing.
But now it’s hard to believe the week passed so quickly. One by one the families took down their tents, gathered their gear, and rowed it all back to shore to be packed away in their cars. And once again I woke up alone on an island that was a quiet sunny haven in the middle of the lake with just the gentle lapping of water along the shore. And we’re already looking forward to 2016. Happy Mutt’s Nuts!
P.S. Mutt’s Nuts, for anyone who is curious, is a slightly tamer version of a British expression that refers to something really great – The Dog’s Bollocks.