Fifteen years ago – give or take, my kids and their significant others decided to spend a long weekend at the summer place my parents built back when I was eleven. When our short hiatus was over, my son-in-law declared it the best weekend ever and suggested we do it for a whole week the following year. It has since become a tradition. The rest of my children have married now, all have kids of their own and our time together is every year more precious than the last.
The camp is tiny – originally intended as a temporary structure until my dad could build a real summer cottage on the high side of the island with a view down the lake. But then he got his first New Hampshire real estate tax bill and decided the 14’ x 14’ building was all we needed. With bunks on one wall and a small table in the opposite corner, he added a narrow porch along the front and called it done. A few years later, when my mom got tired of cooking all our meals over a campfire he added a small L-shaped kitchen on the back corner. When there were only five of us it was big enough, but today – not so much, so on the other half of the island a whole city of tents pop up every year to accommodate the ever growing family.
The fleet grows as well. Since this is an island we have to have a rowboat to get ourselves and all our gear out there. In fact, we have three rowboats, a big canoe, three kayaks and a Sunfish, and sometimes my oldest son brings his powerboat. The family grows even faster. It began with my five kids, one daughter-in-law and one son-in-law. Somewhere along the line my sister-in-law and her kids and their kids started coming and I now have fifteen grandkids. And my sister, her daughter, my brother and his son and grandson and my dad are among the crowd.
Every summer, I survey the bustle and joy going on around me and realize just how blessed I am. Unlike too many of my friends and acquaintances who live with dysfunctional families, siblings they don’t speak to, cousins they rarely see, kids who left the nest and never came back, I have it all. And everyone thoroughly enjoys being together for our annual week at the lake that we now call Mutt’s Nuts. We swim often, use all those boats in the fleet, play lots of cards, make puzzles, play a challenging game of croquet on an island with no grass and have a campfire every night. Every year we celebrate a holiday we don’t get to spend together. This year was New Years Eve, but other years we’ve had Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day and more. We’ve celebrated birthdays, baby showers, wedding showers and retirements.
Cousins who all live in different states get to play together and make memories and friendships to last a lifetime. Adults kick back and spend time together while their offspring are busy making forts, hunting for fairy houses and exploring the island and the waters around it. Dinner is always great as each family puts on a feast on their night to cook. Sometimes we make ice cream. I make waffles at least one morning and my daughter treats us to crepes on another. And there are always s’mores around the campfire along with the most imaginative story-telling when the kids talk us into progressive stories and both kids and adults participate. Wild high-bush blueberries are everywhere so things like blueberry pie, cake, scones and pancakes are common, along with other home-made goodies that some of us enjoy making even on vacation.
Then comes the final day. In a whirlwind, the dining canopy comes down. The boats all get hauled and stowed for the winter. Tents get folded up, and luggage carted ashore and piled into cars. One family at a time, the goodbyes are said and the place gets quieter and quieter until everything is so still I can hear even the faintest breeze rustling in the trees. And it’s just Duffy and me. Along with another year of memories and photos, and love.
And NOW... A few folk had to leave before we got the family photo taken, but this is most of the crew this year. And most years there are even more.