Next Generation Cottage Life

As I attempted to roll over quietly–a futile move on my part due to the sagging mattress I was on–I crashed into Cortney in a valley in the middle of the full-size bed. We both muttered “ope. sorry,” and wiggled around making all sorts of ruckus in pursuit of the least offensively uncomfortable position to catch at least a few hours of sleep.

Even with Tylenol PM, sleep eluded me. I started doing some math: when did my family first start coming to this cottage, and how many years have I slept in this ridiculously lumpy, flimsy excuse for a bed?

My parents and I had been talking about cottage vacations that afternoon. Cottages Up North (Michigan talk for anything in the state that is north of where you live) were our family summer vacation traditions since before I can remember until I was going into high school (which means I was 14 and my brothers were 11 and 6). We took a few years off from cottages and went on “real” vacations: Sea World, Disney, Cedar Point. But after a few road trips, we realized we are cottage people.

Cottage with friends means UNO!

My family has been going to the same cottage on and off for 25 years. The mental math I did while I couldn’t sleep (and rechecked when I was well-rested) showed that my youngest brother (the little wiener kid in the photo above) was Charlie’s age when we first rented that cottage in Pentwater.

While some things have changed–our friends have also become adults and have lives of their own and no longer “cottage” with us–others have very much stayed the same. For one, the cottage means playing cards: Uno (of course), Go Fish, and Old Maid. There is also a LOT of time for pleasure reading.

I always bring a suspenseful read with me. This was this year’s pick, but in high school I flew through many Mary Higgins Clark novels up north.

Other things are quite different. As kids, we would spend the afternoons lying on the dock with a book and flying around the lake behind my dad’s boat on the tube.

My dad’s current boat is really too big for the small lake where the cottage is located and it’s a bit of a pain to trailer it all the way up there too. So he brings his little fishing boat and takes my boys fishing. This year with the high waters in Lake Michigan, our small lake was ridiculously high too, so there was no where to lounge on the deck without getting constantly wet from boat wake, so the boys fished there too.

Eddie and Charlie fishing with Grandpa while Grandma watches. 20 years ago that dock had a bunch of teenagers lying all over it.

And because we had the boat and tubing and a larger area on the dock when we were kids, we didn’t go to any beach even though there are two very close. Now, our kids will sometimes swim off the end of the dock, but we also pack up and head to the state park beach on Lake Michigan.

Charlie can spend HOURS in the sand.

We spent over three hours each day at the state park beach. Our kids almost can’t get enough of the sand and waves. My parents came too, but we gave them permission to leave before us if they were sick of it (my dad was probably sick of it before he got there).

Seriously. I think Eddie spent both days in that same spot.
Being able to be on the beach this year has been AWESOME. I love being close to Lake Michigan in the sun.

When I was a kid, my parents would encourage long walks/hikes and riding bikes, but as a whole the teenagers did a lot of sitting around, eating snacks, and being lazy.

Badminton with Grandma

My own kids have no lazy in them when we are at the cottage. They want to take walks and ride bikes and go fishing and take a boat ride and play badminton or whatever other outdoor games Grandma packed in the “Bag of Fun.” We had to bring their electronics along just to give the adults and hour of peace!

Tossing bags with Grandpa
Sweet quiet thanks to his “ear muffs” (head phones + cheap MP3 player loaded with Queen, Imagine Dragons, and Kidz Bop) and a stick he can whittle with the tab of his soda can.

We have all become much more inventive and flexible as cottage-goers too. Twenty years ago we slept, ate, played cards, read books, and played in the water. Now we have little people to entertain. No fire pit? No problem! S’more on the charcoal grill!

Want to play baseball, but there is no diamond? No problem! Tree stumps can be used as bases and Grandma makes a great catcher!

And of course, when we were kids, my parents didn’t take us and our friends for ice cream because that would have been insane. But my dad LOVES ice cream…and he loves to spoil his grandkids. So ice cream each day from Grandpa it is!

Peppermint Stick for the eldest
Moose Trax for the middlest
And Strawberry for the littlest.

Cottage life with little kids might even be more fun than it was as a teenager…well…maybe not. But it’s different and that is awesome.

Are the beds uncomfortable? Yes. Yes, they are.

Does the water smell weird? Yes, so we bring bottled water and avoid full showers for a few days.

Do we feel gritty and greasy and gross by the time we leave? Absolutely.

But man, we make the best memories at the cottage.

Grandpa and Grandma with Eddie, Charlie, and Alice

Thank you to my parents for helping us have ridiculous fun and for bringing the awesome of the cottage to another generation.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. Growing up, many of my friends had family cottages near Lake Michigan (or other smaller lakes), and I was always happy to be their guest! It’s wonderful that you have these great memories, even with the weird smells and lumpy mattresses…those are the things that help make them memorable. 🙂 And, now your kids get to experience cottage life, too.