My calendar has been a lot less full these days. It’s the nature of my lifestyle during COVID-19 and my life in general as a writer: I have unstructured time that I use the best I can.
Today I had an alert from my calendar: this is the weekend I’m supposed to open the family cottage.
The cottage is an inherited asset shared among my siblings and is a lifelong gathering and living place for the Klein family — summer only. Its located in Thunder Bay, Ontario, just a block from Lake Erie, just fifteen minutes from the U.S./Canada border, a full 30-minute drive from where I grew up in Buffalo.
Every year since my father passed away in 2014, and a number of years prior as well, I make the five-hour journey to Canda to open the cottage. My sister Susan, her partner John, and I were a team. Sometimes Harriet came with me. We took down storm windows and arranged yard furniture and hung the hammock. We wiped stuff down. We inspected for winter damage and made needed repairs. Then to the Brimstone down the road in Ridgeway for beer and food.
It’s a half-day of work and a weekend of camaraderie. My brother Peter and his wife Ann have a place across the road. The beach is a block away. Maybe when I was younger I’d be swimming near Memorial Day, but now a walk along the shore is inspiring enough.
Growing up, I spent every summer in Canada. It was a world away from Buffalo, like a summer camp with your family and best friends. The earlier Klein cottage was much more rustic: handbuilt by my father and his buddies, slowly submerging into the ground. That’s the one I grew up in.
Years later, I get to the new cottage in May to open it for the season, in October to batten it down for winter, and in between for a weekend or two to relax: swimming, tennis, jigsaw puzzles, riding bikes, being with family. We try to intersect our visits, my sisters and I, so we all get to see each other. Oh, and cocktails and beer and the other accouterments that make a family party.
I don’t need to go to the cottage often, but I do need to go. When I travel there I bring a lifetime of memories and a fondness for this summer getaway that’s embedded in my heart.
The only problem: there’s no cottage opening this weekend. The border between the U.S. and Canda is closed. I’m living in the time of COVID-19. This is my coronavirus diary.