Growing up, we would go to the lake several times during the summer. My grandparents owned a small, cozy cottage on Lake Chautauqua in Western New York. We'd spend the day in the shallow, rocky water searching for mussels to try to pull apart or roll on the gentle waves in our inner tubes.
Fishing was a given. Gramma was an avid fisher who not only could fillet a mean perch, but could catch one just by winking at it. If you went to the cottage, you had to fish. It took me years to learn to string my own worms, but still never had the courage or ability to get the fish itself off of the hook.
I loved sitting and staring lazily at a red and white striped bobbin riding the waves. Waiting until it came in too far past the best fish spot and reeling it back in only to throw it out again immediately into deeper waters. It wasn't about how many or how big; it was just about the soothing, relaxing time of fishing with Gramma. She'd show you the best way to cast the line and where it was easiest to catch a fish. She knew when a shiny little minnow would catch a bigger fish and when the little worms were better.
Far too often Pop would have to get his waders on and walk into the water to dislodge my hook from the rocks in the shallows. He never complained, just chuckled that it was only fifteen minutes since the last time.
It wasn't really summer unless we had spent time at the cottage. Eating macaroni salad, chicken barbecue and chocolate chip cookies while sitting on the dock. Laying for hours on the green cloth hammock stretched tight on the poles while staring up at the clouds floating by. Laziness was a virtue at the cottage.
Last year they sold it to their long-time neighbors. Most of the family has moved far enough away that we didn't always make it up even once a summer. The new owners have renovated it beyond recognition of it's original style. Instead of dark paneling, piles of old magazines and the musty smell of a too-long-closed-up room we arrived this week to find a fresh, airy, light vacation getaway. You can still see the original walls, but that is about all that has survived the transition.
The deck which used to sit off the front and face the water is now completely enclosed and a new deck added. The kitchen, with its ancient appliances and cramped cupboards has become a bright new room with updated everything and a beautiful, chic stand-alone island. The whole place has a feel of sunshine, pale blue water and summertime instead of a dark, cold fishing cabin hiding in the woods.
I loved the old cottage. I loved the musty smell, the coziness, the familiar piles of old games, books and knick-knacks. I loved hearing the easy-listening channel on the radio all day. I loved sitting with a pair of binoculars and looking at the boats sailing or speeding by. I loved digging through the closet to see what random junk could be found for play. I loved meeting the whole family for a day of talking and laughing and eating, fishing and swimming. There were years of happy memories stored up in that cottage.
I also love the new cottage. We'll still only be able to come up here once a year, but it feels more like a vacation now with the added benefit of modern conveniences. Instead of musty, it smells like fresh water and just plain clean. Instead of fish heads nailed to the boards on the porch, there is framed artwork inside. We don't have to haul in a bucket of water to flush the toilet and the shower has continual hot water. We can watch movies on the HD flat screen and still listen to the waves crashing on the shore. We can cook and bake and grill and eat with brand new appliances.
We are the first customers this cottage has ever lived with. It seems fitting that we get to gently break it in and give it some new memories.
The old was good. It was very good. But the new is good too. Maybe the new is even great. See for yourself.
Cottage from Anne on Vimeo.