I was fortunate as a child to spend each and every summer at our family cottage just a few hours north of Toronto. My grandparents cleared the land and built it by hand over 50 years ago. We’ve spent countless birthdays, Easters, even weddings (my own included) at the cottage.
Although I was never much for water skiing, I would be the first one in the water swimming after breakfast, only coming in for food and a quick re-application of sunscreen throughout the day. Aside from swimming, I would only feel comfortable in the water when putting around in our canoe.
The cottage lake isn’t that big, in fact I swam it a few times during lake wide regatta’s. It would be nothing for my cousins and I to each hijack a floatation device of some sort, and leisurely make our way around the lake. One hot summer afternoon I recall pulling up that big red canoe to shore (and as a kid it really was massive), and seeing something I’d never really paid attention to before. Along the side, near the front, spelled out in crude carved lettering was “George’s Joy”. My Grampa’s name being George and Grandma’s being Joy – a play on words that I’d later notice at various spots around the cottage property.
That old canoe was used and abused for many years to come. It was patched up, repaired, even duct taped, after being taken out on countless early morning fishing trips, used as a spring board for water battles, and for romantic evening paddles around the lake.
To this day, I get butterflies in my stomach as I drive up to the cottage with my wife and kids for the season opening. Our property immediately recognizable – set apart from the other nearby cottages, with the sign out front “Welcome to George’s Joy”. Too cold to go swimming just yet, the kids pull out the paddle boat, row boat and yes, the old red canoe – barely even able to stay above water. But much like everything else in cottage history, the canoe has become a thing of family legend.
As time passes and new generations enjoy the cottage and that big red canoe, it makes you reflect on how incredible it is that these things made of wood, nails and glass can create and house so many memories. My hope is that my children, and their children’s children never lose sight of this, and that they create their own red canoe of experiences and memories.