I am sitting on the dock at one of my favourite places in the world: “The Cottage” – a place that we do not own, belonging to our friends Tanya and Mike, and their kids Maya and Owen. However, after spending every summer of their young lives here, it is a place that our kids consider to be theirs. When they were younger, they would argue when we told them that ‘we don’t have a cottage’, and that this place that we frequent so often isn’t equally shared amongst us. (Despite their young cries of ‘that’s not fair.’ or the tattle telling of “Mommy, Maya said that the cottage is hers, and not ours,” expecting me to set the record straight.) Perhaps, like me, it seems that a place that holds some of our best family memories must somehow belong to us – if memories could broker ownership, it certainly has been earned over the past ten years and our friends here are truly loved like family. Tanya, Mike, Maya and Owen are our “Ontario family” – filling some of the void that distance has created from my sister and brother, nieces and nephews. I for one – although dedicated to family – also believe that you don’t have to be related by blood to become loved like family.
In many ways, these ‘adopted members’ of our family have been here for us through every step of this growing-a-family stage of our lives. For both of our families, we have supported each other through four home births, building chiropractic practices, struggling through life’s challenges, and celebrating the wins both big and small. We have cottaged together, back-country-camped together, and vacationed together. Our children have grown up like cousins – complete with squabbles and touching moments of togetherness.
Ten years ago, it all began as I remember sitting on this same quiet dock (albeit a smaller and older version). I was two weeks past graduating from chiropractic college – but unlike my friends, my thoughts were far from that part of my pending life. I was weeks away from giving birth for the first time and the prospect of our soon-to-be birth was both exciting and daunting. At the time, none of our friends had yet started families, and I felt like we were blazing a new trail.
And so, in one of my favourite places in the world, surrounded by water and nature and friends, I remember spending much of that weekend in quiet reflection, journalling, swimming, and going for walks. Primarily, I was connecting to the enormity of the pending changes in our lives with the birth of this baby. And although at first I was nervous going 2 hours away from ‘home’ when I was imminently due, by the end of the weekend of being connected to myself and to nature – I had come to fully trust that this birth was something that I could do. Three weeks later, Ethan was born – at home, as planned – and our lives as a family truly began.
Fast forward ten years, and our lives have continued to expand. With the addition of Audra, and Maya and Owen, time has evolved us all. Now we can sit on the dock and watch our crew swim across to the beach to play. We can tell them to ‘get a snack’, ‘go play outside’, or do a multitude of independent tasks. Last night after the kids were all in bed, for the first time in ten years – we adults left the proximity of the cottage to sit on the dock, socializing further away from our sleeping brood – knowing that they were now all old enough to find us if needed. Instead of planning our days around nursing babies and nap times, we can plan for excursions in the boat to waterski, tube, explore and play. We watch our kids test new levels, playing harder every given year. They have all grown through the phases here of being newborns, to taking first steps, first jumps into deep water, and many other evolutions that come with the passing of time. We watch as they grow in age, maturity and adventurousness – and wonder at how fast time goes. Our time as parents has become freer, more playful, and more fun. The past ten years have flown by, full of such amazing memories. It never ceases to astound me.
And now my quiet, reflective time on the dock has been wonderfully transformed in the blink of eye as our kids take advantage of an adult on the dock. The serene water is now rippling with waves from the jumping kids and their cries of joy. The solitude here lasted longer than I expected – replaced with the wonderful summer scene of water, fun, kids and play. And I, for one, am grateful for my time here, and the lifelong memories our kids will have of one of the most magical places on earth: The Cottage.