Got Cottage?

I feel child-like excitement as we drive down this now-familiar lake road to open the cottage.

I love to read cottage nicknames, Cotton Patch and We’re Not Inn, for instance. It means we’ve left the real world behind.

We fall silent as we turn down the final drive to the lakefront road, then into our gravel driveway. Seeing the cottage for the first time in eight months … there simply are no words.

The neighbors aren’t here yet, except three doors down. They stay year-round.

Opening the cottage door, we behold a breath of last autumn. Truthfully, it smells a lot like damp bed linens.

We unpack cooking staples for the summer. The mice don’t get into the cottage since we redid the foundation. It’s just become a habit to take the spices home each fall.

I replace last year’s kitchen calendar. Away with September! In with June!

We wave to the neighbors now arriving. Even though it’s months since we’ve talked, we’re of the same mindset: return and settle in. We’ll chat tomorrow or the next day.

I think I’ll paint the rowboat this summer. No rush; it hardly gets used now since the kids got kayaks.

Our neighbors donned wet suits and put our dock in this morning along with nine others. As always, we’ll help them take all the docks back out in the fall when the water’s warmer.

I don’t believe our 94-year-old neighbor is still going to take her annual birthday swim across the lake. I’d take her picture but, as always, she refuses.

Note to self: fill in dip in backyard. Same 94-year-old neighbor says it’s where an old outhouse once was.

Must save aluminum foil, bread wrappers and Wegmans bags for wrapping up leftovers from all food that visitors bring and leave unfinished.

Slept out on the front porch last night. This experience cannot be duplicated on film even using special effects; I could feel the fresh lake air on my face.

Listened to the fish moving in the water last night. Carp muscle their way through the shallow water and sound like a child wading. Bass jump for insects and land back on the surface with a slap.

Skipping stones. I’m up to 15 skips, a family record. I’ve just heard the world record is many more; must work on technique.

That sure is a big “cottage” they built across the lake on opposite shoreline last year.

J and R showed up with two kids and four grandkids; tracked water all over the place. Oh well.

The kids loved the newly painted rowboat. It was used more this weekend than all last summer.

Aunt L brings drinking water in plastic gallon jugs. I think it’s easier just to grab six-packs of bottled water and toss them in the trunk

D and K are coming this weekend; must remember to ask them to bring paper towels and toothpaste. Don’t feel like driving into town just for that.

Cousin E has shrunk the lake with her kayak. Rowing across the lake was once an event. We’d row across, chat with our opposite neighbors, loiter and return, taking turns rowing – all over the course of an afternoon. This morning Ellen rose, put the coffee on, hopped in her kayak, and was over and back by the time the coffee was ready.

The ducks have acclimated themselves to our presence. When we first arrive they are afraid of us. As summer progresses they try to take over the docks and floats. By late summer they own the lake.

Watched the rainstorm come across the water this afternoon. Coming toward us was the perfectly defined front line of white water churned up from rain.

We measured the width of the beach; it’s wide for August. They must be letting water out.

August is cooling down early this year. We used old pennysavers to start the woodstove fire.

Tonight is the annual Ring of Fire. This is a big gulp; the State of Eden is coming to an end for yet another year.

Closed up the cottage today. How did we ever get all this stuff down here in June?

I say good-bye to the kitchen calendar.

Cousin E’s husband wants to bring his friends up here this winter to ice fish. Sure they can use the cottage. It will be strange to know others are here enjoying it in our absence. Do they understand the water will be turned off?

Driving to the cottage to leave keys and instructions for locking up. The place looks so different in the off-season. I feel like I’m stealing a glimpse of the bride before the wedding. Now I can’t wait ’til the marriage – June 1st and running water!

by Rich Gardner
Rich Gardner has been going to his cottage on Keuka Lake for 60 years.

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