When I was a kid, our family vacations consisted of my family packing up our vehicle and towing our boat “up north” to an inland lake and renting a cottage for a week.
This continued until I was in high school when we took a few summers off to do “regular” vacations like go to Disney and hit up Cedar Point. By my sophomore year we were back to cottages…one cottage in particular in Pentwater.
My family went to this cottage for about 8 years before it was apparent that my siblings and I were becoming adults with busy summers of doing other things.
Last summer, my brothers and I asked my parents if we could do The Cottage again. We missed it. We missed the lake, the boating, the meals together, the Tootsie Pops that my mom always brought, and the family game time each evening.
Last summer we reignited the tradition, this time with spouses and children in tow, and needing two cottages to house us all rather than just one.
This year we gathered again for five days and four nights.
That time gave me many blog posts (and a bazillion photos). I’m not sure I’ll ever flesh them all out, or post all the pictures, but there were many realizations and experiences this year that need to be “written out”.
For now, however, I will give you a quick glimpse into the pattern of those five days….
Every morning, my parents got up first and sat outside in their bag chairs reading and drinking coffee. Eddie and my nephew Jack were usually next up followed by me, Cort, and Charlie. Slowly my two brothers and their wives and my baby niece Maria would wander over from their cottage.
Someone would make eggs or pancakes or bacon or toast. There were numerous pots of coffee consumed. It was always a nice slow start to the day.
Every single day we followed breakfast clean up with putting on our bathing suits and heading to either a tiny beach on Bass Lake or over to the Big Lake (Lake Michigan) for a couple hours of beach. Some days we played in the sand and water, one day my dad put the boat in and pulled a few of us around the lake on the knee board, and one day we drove/walked to Lake Michigan for a big morning of sun and waves. But every day had a beach in it.
After the beach was lunch time. Lunch time was usually around 1:30 or 2pm. Then Charlie would take a nap.
Between Charlie’s nap and dinner we filled the time with walks, relaxing, playing, and of course games. My mom bought Old Maid and the kids (all of us) LOVED it. It got quite competitive with lots of hooting and hollering whenever anyone picked The Old Maid.
We ate outside every night as a big family of 12. Each family was in charge of one dinner…that included bringing all the food, cooking it, and cleaning up. The Sluiters were in charge of Food on the Fire Pit Night (hobo pies and hot dogs) and also for one big breakfast. I think our meals were a hit.
It seemed like dinner was later and later each night. We would play until it got to be around 8pm and then the Sluiter kids…or at least Charlie…needed to be cleaned up, pajama-ed, and put to bed. Eddie usually stayed up late with us to play a card game or sit by a campfire, but because he and I shared a little bed, I usually went to bed when he did…around 10pm.
Don’t get jealous…it was hard to sleep with a windmill-like child on a lumpy tiny bed. I didn’t sleep great, but at least we had cool nights so we didn’t add sweating to why we didn’t sleep well.
The weather was perfect, the days were long, and it’s always great to see the smiles that our boys bring to the faces of our family.
There is so much more to be said about those five days, but for now this is what I remember…we still had structure to our day, but that structure was all about relaxing.