Until 2005 we owned a cottage on a lovely, clear lake south of Ottawa. For my children’s children, it was a fifth generation cottage. It was built by John’s great-uncle who, childless, handed it down to John’s father, and so on. Uncle George was Vice-Chairman of Ontario Hydro, and family history says our cottage – “Chaffey’s” – was built of rejected telephone poles – thus, a log cabin. About the same time, he was Chairman of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Commission. As he oversaw the gathering of Canadian antiques for a developing tourist site called Upper Canada Village, he collected alongside for himself. Much of his collection ended up in our cottage. So, as you can see, the emotional roots go deep.
But that is our physical “Chaffey’s”. The social was every bit as precious to us. On one side of us was a rambling old summer home also (still) owned by a fifth generation family. Their fourth generation – that is, the generation of my children – merged perfectly with ours. And then another family – again with age-appropriate children – began to rent a cottage up the road each summer.
Let me tell you about this group of children. The family beside us came from the NYC-Philadelphia area. They were Jewish by background and loosely Quaker by persuasion. The others, also from Philadelphia, were committed Roman Catholics. Both were mostly pacifists, Clinton supporters and fervently ‘pro’ the liberal agenda of the 80’s…Then there were my kids…And, oh, the conversations they had! Out under the stars late at night. In snatches, while playing “Capture the Flag”. Anywhere and everywhere.
They were all most idealistic and intellectually curious children. They had the same questions (though the answers were very different). And that bound them closely together. We not only survived, socially, but became like family.
Now let me fast-forward to just two years ago. Sharon, the matriarch of the Catholic family, has come to visit me while I am staying with my daughter in Brooklyn. We are sitting in a cafe eating lunch and talking about any number of things both past and present. She says to me, “Barbara, do you remember when one of your children said to one of mine,’You have a dark, wicked heart.’ ” I am taken aback for a minute, but I reply, “No, I don’t. But the Protestant answer to that, Sharon, would be ‘Don’t take it personally’ “
She looks at me and we laugh and laugh. It was a true answer (On one level. On the other, of course we have to take sin very personally, indeed!) And we share the same sense of humor.
Family usually does.