Summers don’t last forever.
I had a great time in Nova Scotia last week. MA and I were on a “working vacation” and we worked hard — in between breaks for old friends dropping by, rarely seen cousins stopping in, and prospective cottage buyers pulling into the driveway for tours.
What were we working on? MA’s mother grew up in a small town on the northern coast of Nova Scotia, about 2 hours from Halifax. When MA was in grammar school, her parents returned to town, bought a couple of acres and built a cottage. There, MA spent her summers running amok with local kids, learning to waterski, how to sneak out of skylights, and the best way to mix rum with various and assorted juices. It was a full-curriculum summer school for many years. The annual visits became fewer and farther between, until MA’s mother died at the end of the summer after we graduated college (in the early 90’s). The cottage remained mostly empty, save for a few summer visits from MA and me, her own young family, and her father (but infrequently). The day had now come to sell the cottage, and so we went up to clean it out and get it empty, ready for the next phase of its life.
It was hard to empty the home that was really her mother’s place. Her presence was all over the cottage. We boxed up cookbooks with her handwritten notes, a quilt that she had made, found blueprints for a bar that she had planned to build in a downstairs corner, newspapers that contained notices of her participation in town events. It was also full of elements of MA’s childhood — and education. We gazed up at skylights that MA’s friend figured out how to climb out of, peered under the deck where they hid –MA and co. — when breaking curfew, looked out over the Harbor at “Southside” where two barns and a small farm house glowed with the setting sun.
There was a lot of finality to the four days in town. MA noted that she was able to close some of her “circles:” We met the new baby that Cousin D and his wife gave birth to almost 18 months ago (“baby,” used loosely) — and heard stories of why this cousin wasn’t talking to that cousin, what happened to this aunt or that uncle, who was still married and who had moved on. We stayed at the B&B of dear friends of MA who served as a second set of parents during those summers long ago — the man who drove the boat when she learned to waterski, the woman who opened the door to MA bearing freshly picked raspberries and begging for a pie. We sat on the deck of the summer cottage (and started Happy Hour about five hours earlier than customary) with MA’s oldest and dearest “townie” friend: the now 40-year old “boy” who proclaimed MA his first love but has enough sense of history — and of himself — to be happy for the wild summers of innocent fun and fond memories of staying out too late, of mostly innocent “partying” down on the shoreline, of holding hands under a tarp in a trailered boat in his dad’s driveway. She revisited lots of circles.
As the sun set over the harbor on our last evening at the cottage, and as we watched the two barns on that far away farm glow with orange light, I was wistful for MA and her summer memories. She is far removed from those carefree summers (we all are, in our own ways), but she treasures them enough to both close the book on them with a smile andfigure out a way to get her kids to a similar kind of summer place where they can learn to waterski, climb out skylights, and pull one over on her on harmless summer nights spent with townie friends running wild.