This past weekend was the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada. It’s known as the May Two-Four and it’s when we celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday, which is, you guessed it, May 24. For some reason this year the party happened a week early. Queen Victoria, in case you don’t know, was the current Queen’s (Elizabeth II) great, great grandmother.
But for most Canadians Queen Victoria’s birthday is the unofficial, official start of summer. When hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of cottage owners make the trek to their small and rustic (or large and luxe) slices of heaven, wherever in Ontario they may be, and ‘open’ the cottage for the season. Three or four months of mosquitos and black flies, BBQs, burgers, hotdogs, beer, potato and macaroni salad, potato chips, beer, skinny dipping in the lake, s’mores, beer, sunburns, sunsets and an endless parade of weekend guests. And beer.
What confuses and confounds me is why everyone waits for this, particular weekend. When the traffic is absolutely impossible and the grocery, beer and liquor stores, garden shops and nurseries are packed with people and their parking lots are filled to over capacity. Why put yourself through all that when you could go the weekend before, or the weekend after? Sure, it’s nice to have the extra day of a long weekend to get stuff done, but is one more day really worth all that hassle?
Not to me it isn’t, but then, I’m not a cottager.
So off they all go. Rushing home from the office to get ready. Gathering sheets and blankets and pillows and towels. Mops and brooms and vacuums and garbage bags. Cleaning products of every description. Tissues and toilet paper and paper towels and napkins. Shovels and rakes and hoes and trowels. Insect repellent, not that it really does much good. Candles and flashlights. Groceries. Kid-and-adult-friendly beverages. Clothing. Kids. Pets. And then comes the fun of trying to cram it all into the car. A pit stop for gas and they’re on their way.
Until they hit the highway. Which, predictably, is a parking lot. With luck they brought some stuff to amuse the kids.
Hours and hours later, they’re finally there. By now everyone is tired and hungry. Which means cranky. Stop for some burgers and head home to bed. Tackle the work tomorrow.
And is there ever work. Boy oh boy oh boy! The place has been empty all winter. Except for the odd critter (or critters) who’s taken up residence. Better get started, there’s tons to do. Sweeping, dusting, removing cobwebs, washing windows and floors and countertops and appliances (inside and out) and sinks and toilets and shower stalls. Making beds and cleaning out the garden beds, mowing, cutting, filling in more earth, planting and watering. Not to mention repairing and replacing anything and everything our harsh Canadian winters may have damaged or destroyed.
I don’t know about you, but my back is killing me just thinking about it. And did I mention, they do all this same work back at home, in the city, in their main houses all the time?
Which is something else I don’t understand. Yes, I get it. Cottage country is beautiful. And it’s lovely to have a getaway. A hideaway where you can relax and unwind. Fish. Waterski. Run around in shorts, an old T-shirt and bare feet. Park your ass in a hammock and sway.
Yes, a cottage is a sanctuary. Nothing beats the stillness. The peace and quiet. The sound of crickets and birds chirping happily away. Catching fireflies in jars. The smell of freshly-cut grass after the rain. But the work. There’s no denying how much work’s involved.
As for relaxing, how relaxing is it when you’re putting in your nine to five (and then some) all week … and cook, clean, shop for groceries, garden and do laundry … and then run around like a crazy person doing all the extra shopping for the cottage, fighting the traffic to and from the cottage and cook, clean, garden and do laundry there as well?
The fascinating thing is, though, these cottagers, these sunburned, calloused, blistered, splintered, bee-stung weekend traffic warriors are all happy, happy, happy and wouldn’t trade a second of it. They love it and look forward to each and every weekend, count down the days in fact. And to a man, woman and child they dread the Labour Day long weekend when the cottage gets closed up until this time the following year.
What am I missing?