Flowers have been ripped from the window boxes and beds. In the shed and in the boathouse, deck furniture and lawn games and lifejackets have all been stowed away, and tomorrow, my dad will perform the unenviable task of taking out the waterline. The property is ready to go into hibernation for another winter.
Spending Thanksgiving at the cottage is always bittersweet, in part because it’s a farewell until next spring, in part because it unfailingly brings on a flood of memories of my grandparents.
In my childhood, Thanksgiving weekends were always spent at the cottage, and were special because both sets of grandparents were there with us. My mom’s parents owned the cottage so were often there, but on Thanksgiving, my dad’s parents would join us as well, everybody packed into the cabin’s 900 or so square feet.
The turkey, clad in foil, then wrapped in chicken wire, was cooked underground in a pit overlooking the lake, all day long. The pit is still there, but now never used. It’s been a long time since most of my grandparents were alive, the last of the four passing away early this year.
As kids, my sister and I would collect leaves and branches to decorate the stone mantle, augmenting the gourds and pumpkins my maternal grandfather brought with him from his farm. At dinnertime, my paternal grandmother would pile helpings of turnip and other fixings I didn’t care for onto my plate.
“Try it, you’ll like it!” she’d exclaim, but I never did.
One year it snowed enough that we were able to have a snowball fight in the yard.
I sit at the table holding my youngest daughter on my lap thinking about my grandparents and everything that went with them – joking, drinking, cards, cigarettes, music. Four people she’ll never know, but memories of whom, for me, dance like ghosts in every part of the cottage.
A generation later, there are still three generations gathered under one roof, but now my parents are the grandparents, I am the parent, my children are the young ones. I feel thankful to be here with my family, and also grateful that I am fortunate enough to have a place where multi-generational memories exist.