For six decades, assorted members of my “people” have been heading north to Maple Lake. For YEARS I have attempted to negotiate strenuously with my childhood friend to go with me. Finally the stars — well actually, swim team, dance class, and work schedules — aligned so that my lifelong buddy and her two children could accompany me. Unfortunately, the time they were available meant that the four of us would be opening the cabin for the season. Unlocking the cabin door after a -30 degree winter in the Canadian wilderness is always an adventure, and experienced cottagers know that turning the key to the cabin door might unleash the unexpected. In our case it merited a commemorative t-shirt with the words “I Survived The Cabin Opening."
Our nine hour trip began after Cam’s swim practice and telling Sherri that the nail polish needed to stay home because shiny “petal pink” would attract snapping turtles. It was the first of many times to come that I would see the “face” from my dear friend. Due to our late departure we arrived at our destination at 1 am. I suspected Sherri wanted to turn around and head home after navigating the gravel road entry to our place in pitch darkness. Seeing her face when we opened the cabin door made it official. What we saw was “just plain nuts,” which frankly I thought was very apropos for anything belonging to my family. A squirrel had taken up residence over the winter and although he or she was nowhere to be found, evidence of its ‘homemaking’ was everywhere.
I was able to convince Sherri and her offspring not to run out of the room screaming with the prospect that things would look brighter after a good night’s sleep. I told them that in the fall I wash the sheets, make the beds and put a protective plastic cover over them. I sent Sherri and the kids off in search of our fragrant candles (couldn’t hurt) while I went into what was to be our room, lifted up the plastic and discovered a layer of perfectly placed acorns left by our furry friend. I quickly scooped them up and hid, I mean placed, them in a dresser drawer. I had things looking “normal” only to look up to see Sherri standing before me with a Yankee candle filled to the brim with acorns.
So much for things getting better in the light of day; the hot water heater didn’t work, preventing us from taking a much-needed shower after cleaning up rodent poop, the pontoon boat that was supposed to be delivered from storage, wasn’t, and the plastic bin that held our toilet paper supply was found with the lid and contents M.I.A.
The kids were anxious to get out on the lake, so I called my retired buddy on the other side of Maple, Mr. Troutman (or as my kids say “TROUT MAAAAAAAN” which causes me to smirk every time I say his name). He agreed to help me put my little 9.9 Johnson outboard motor on the fishing boat. “Trout MAAAAN” arrived, looked me in the face and asked, “Do you have any lower lube” to which I responded, “I am a cancer survivor without ovaries or a uterus. What do you think?” Once he clarified his question and the motor was in place, Sherri and I took the kids out to the “big” lake. We had just checked out the beaver dam and were on our way home when the motor died. A word of advice: if you find yourself in a similar circumstance NEVER say “Well, at least it’s not raining”.
Later that night I insisted Sherri and the kids relax by the fire while I made popcorn. I put the oil in the pan, turned on the burner and POOF — two feet of flames shot up and nearly singed my eyebrows off! It was then I discovered where the missing toilet paper was. Mrs. Mouse had used it for bedding inside the stovetop for her now “flambéed” family. With all of us already teetering on the brink of being thrown into group therapy, I made the executive decision not to share this recent development.
We did manage to have some fun kayaking, swimming and bonding, and I am a big believer that in time you can “find the funny” even in the most horrendous of experiences. In the meantime, the t-shirts should arrive in 7 to 10 business days.