My love affair with summers on the Lake began the first year my husband and I started dating. He was very excited to take me to visit his family's cottage on Lake Michigan. I had never been to Michigan. I'd never seen a Great Lake, I had no idea what I was missing!! Donald secured a date on his mother's calendar for the two of us to sneak off to the cottage and have some alone time at his most special spot "Up North". Funny enough, after a day or two alone, relatives started "stopping by" to "grab something" or "check something". (They live THREE hours away!!) His beloved adult nephew came first, and then his older sister showed up, and at last his oldest sister arrived. My not-yet husband was convinced this was a coincidence. I was convinced it was not! Years later, my sister-in-law and I laugh about this...my soon to be mother-in-law had sent them to meet "the girlfriend" and scope things out!!
That summer began a new summer tradition for me and then for our children. Summers where family come from California, Vermont, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Colorado, and various other places the grandchildren have lived from time to time. Summers are about the extended family together, on the "big lake" at the cottage. Those of us who have joined the family over the years have gleefully joined the family traditions. And over the years, as our generation has become the elders, we have adapted a few traditions to meet the needs of children and grandchildren. Things like wi-fi have been added to allow family members to stay connected with work.
The cottage was built in the early 1960s and all the basics are the same. There have been a few tweaks and a few very small updates, but for the most part, summers are spent in the 1960s. The kitchen is intact with the same pots, dishes and silverware. The orange metal canisters show signs of love, antiqued by a few dents and rusty areas. The Corning Ware to feed a large group has withheld the test of numerous tipsy dishwashers and a lot of passing around by teenage boys. The plastic drinking glasses come in the shades of the distant past...avocado, orange, turqouise, and maze. In fact, that avocado color theme weaves a path thru the linen closet in the towels and sheet trims.
At any given day there could be 3 relatives at the cottage or 23. A cot and a crib at the ready for overflow and small grandchildren. The intricate puzzle of "who will sleep where" is carefully constructed on a daily as-needed basis, trying to accommodate everyone's needs. The toy closet contains family favorites that are sprinkled on the living room rug, a play mobile circus and a train set are the favorite amongst the little ones.
Card games start when the first rise and go until the last go to bed. Breakfast and lunch are a free-for-all, make your own, go out, pair off in any mismatched group of parents, kids, aunts, uncles, cousins. Afternoons are spent off on adventures, on the beach, or relaxing.
Dog eared books go round and round the family. Mysteries tend to be the favorite but certainly not the only genre. Cocktail hour starts at 5. FIVE. On the dot. Be there or miss the fun. Platters of hors d'oeuvres go out on the deck, canvas captains chairs circle around, family return from the beach, aunts' houses down the beach, swimming in the lake, fishing etc. Stories are told, family bonds strengthen and fun is had. On some evenings uncles have been known to produce either fireworks or a cannon to the crowd's delight!
Sit-down dinners happen every night. The long dining room table is added on to by various leaves and card tables. Colorful chairs are added and the table is adorned with ....1960's finest. A fabulous but not fancy dinner made by that night's enthusiastic volunteers and is served buffet style. And we all sit together, as a family, and be a family.
Nights are filled with playing with children, games, cocktails watching the very late sunsets on the deck, a poker night with the uncles here and there, or a very special evening of Michigan rummy.
Looking forward to more days like this next summer.