A story for summer


summer, cottage, Canada, travel, story, writingSummer at the cottage in Ontario, Canada

EVERY SUMMER, I start thinking about the cottage. Each type of summer weather brings back a distinct memory of what that particular type of day was like at the cottage.

I might be walking in the park or near the lake in Toronto on a clear, bright, sunny day, with fluffy, high clouds overhead, and a crisp breeze snapping sails and flags, and I’ll know exactly what that kind of weather would be like at the cottage. In my mind’s eye, I see the gentle whitecaps on the open lake beyond our protected bay; and I imagine myself in a light sweater (or, if the memory comes from the late 60s, in a poncho), playing on the dock.

On days like those, my mom would do laundry in a fat, ringer-washer that sat outside the cottage. As she put the rung-out clothes on the line, she would invariably exclaim, “Oh what a glorious drying day!” At night, when the sky was clear, I would take the canoe out to the middle of the bay, and lie on the bottom watching the milky way churning above, so real and close, I felt I could reach out and stir it.

Oh what a glorious drying day!

On overcast days everything was different. I can see the grey skies over the deep-green lake and the trees and grass dripping with moisture. Warm, rainy days would find me and the other kids swimming in the shallow bay. There was something special about playing and swimming in the rain; we felt as if we were getting away with something, as if we had entered a special, magical, kids-only zone.

If the rain was really heavy, we would tip the canoe—the red canoe my dad built and varnished every year—upside down on the beach and hide underneath, peeking out to watch the drops splash the surface of the lake and make ever-expanding circles, mesmerizing to watch.

When I got older, I liked curling up inside the damp cottage with a book. I kept my entire collection of Nancy Drews at the cottage—all 42 of them, at the time—for such days. I would find a quiet corner, sip a cup of tea and invite my cat Marmalade to join me. I can recall the comforting sound of the rain as it spattered on the wood roof above me and made me feel cozy and snug inside—especially if a thunderstorm was rolling in.

On really hot and humid days in Toronto, when I feel imprisoned by the heat, that’s when I’m most likely to think of the cottage. I remember what it was like to walk up the long country road on a hot day to go to the corner store. The walk seemed interminable and I was always thirsty and bushed when I got to Tremblays Gas Bar. I bought a root beer or cream soda and Eatmore chocolate bar, and if there was money left over, an Archie’s comic book. Then, there was the long walk back and I’d head straight for the warm back bedroom that always smelled like wood to change into my bathing suit so I could jump in the lake.

I know exactly how the light changes from the vital burst of early July to the long shadows and melancholy twilights of late August.

No matter what the summer weather is like in Toronto, I can always imagine what it would be like at the cottage—how the lake would be, whether it would be calm and flat, or whipped into choppy waves. I know what the sky would be like, how the clouds would gather along the shoreline. I know exactly how the light changes from the vital burst of early July to the long shadows and melancholy twilights of late August. I know how the meadow plants in the field across the road—the weeds and wildflowers, grasses and bull rushes—would grow, reach their full height and then begin to dry out by the end of summer.

In the summer, I often think of the cottage, which is only a two-hour drive from where I live. But I can’t go there. After being in the family for about four generations, the cottage had to be sold almost 20 years ago; and since then both my parents have died. My siblings and I are all grown up, and two have children of their own.

Sometimes, it seems incredible to me, inconceivable, that I can’t just reach out and touch those days—the happiest days of my life; that I can’t go there, to that cottage, on that lake and find it as it once was, with the people who were once there.

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15 Responses to A story for summer

  1. Renuka July 22, 2015 at 3:26 am #

    Wow! What a story! You always delight me with your posts, Mariellen! I could picture everything in my mind – the sunshine, the rain, the tea and the innocence of a little girl. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful nugget of your life.
    Renuka recently posted..Where To Stay In Srinagar?My Profile

  2. MarianBaghor July 22, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    Thank you, Mariellen, this summer story is so clearly written and shared with a beautiful mixture of sadness and love, it’s a piece of beauty and I’ve shared and given it my thoughts on Google+

  3. veena July 24, 2015 at 1:24 am #

    i have the same memories and nostalgia for my father’s childhood home. when we would visit india each summer, it was the center of all of our adventures and misdeeds and memories. we had to sell the property in the early 1990s, and it is still weird to me when i return to coimbatore even today that i cannot go back there. thanks for sharing this post and for reminding me of those wonderful days!
    veena recently posted..loving lately: july 2015 edition.My Profile

  4. Violet July 24, 2015 at 5:30 am #

    What beautiful imagery, I loved reading this. Thank you for sharing, it allowed me to drift off somewhere beautiful while sat at work and a grey day. You always have it to go back to in your memories.

  5. Britt August 4, 2015 at 7:58 am #

    Such a beautiful piece of writing!

    I think Summer is one of those things that brings back special memories for us all. For me its days on the beach with my grandparents, my parents and my huge extended family.

    Summer is especially memorial for us in the southern hemisphere because it all means christmas time!
    Britt recently posted..Seoul: Why You’ll Never Run Out of Things to DoMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward August 10, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

      As a Canadian, Christmas always means snow (well if we’re lucky!). Hard to imagine a warm and sunny Christmas, ha. But it’s great to have those cherished memories no matter what the weather, cheers.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..How to travel safely in India webinarMy Profile

  6. Neno August 7, 2015 at 12:27 pm #


    Is lake Ontario even safe for swimming.

    Every time I am in Toronto locals always talk about how dirty and poluted it is.


    Neno recently posted..Rialto bridge ( Ponte di Rialto ). Where is it, how to get there. History, facts and good restaurants.My Profile

    • Mariellen Ward August 10, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

      Hi Neno,

      Lake Ontario is clean in many places, even quite close to Toronto. But the lakes where people have their cottages are small lakes, in the interior of the province. Ontario has at least 250,000 lakes, many of them very clean. The area where our cottage was located is called “cottage country” — an area of beautiful forests, lakes and rivers, villages and cottages.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..A taste of India in CanadaMy Profile

  7. Chella August 10, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

    it goes without saying that summer is the most anticipated season in the whole year. It comes with it a sense of enthusiasm and elation in the atmosphere across the land and it is usually a good time to enjoy the good weather and engage in sporty activities. i remember one of my best summers was when i took a vacation to the sandy beaches of Cebu. those are memories i will live to cherish in my life and i look forward to have better summers in the near future.
    Chella recently posted..Delayed Gratification, the Road to RichesMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward August 10, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

      Yes indeed, especially here in Canada where summer is warm and sunny — and winter is cold and snowy. But of course the idea of summer is the key point — the carefree, fun days we spend with loved ones.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..5 reasons to love Kumaon nowMy Profile

  8. Izy Berry August 18, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    wow Great post!! it almost make me cry i sware .
    Izy Berry recently posted..How to capture the best moments of your holidayMy Profile

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