With new friends in a hand-built cottage surrounded by snow. This is how I spent my best weekend in Canada.
Classes are almost over and Spring is nearly here (though you wouldn’t know it). For the last weekend in March, I went on a mini adventure. My journalism friend Caroline invited me to her friend’s cottage with her boyfriend Josh’s group of friends. I was told to pack warm and bring food.
The adventure began in Kevin’s car. The guitar riffs from Hotel California played in the background while Caroline filled me in on everyone’s stories. Who does what, who dates who, and who did that funny thing that time.
The group is made up of mainly high school friends. They are all about three years older than me and most have full-time jobs in technology. Of the people I met, there are three couples and four singles.
And then began the stories of the cottage. For six years they have visited the cottage bi-annually. For Christmas and summer holidays. In the winter everyone skis, builds igloos, has snowball fights, and drinks to stay warm. In the summer they roast food on bonfires, swim and canoe in the lake, eat endless hot-dogs and never sleep.
We drive up snow-covered roads and over countryside hills and along a dirt path hugged by trees. And then we arrive at the most beautiful wooden home I have ever seen. I meet Jonny and he shows me around his family’s cottage. The place was built by Jonny’s father over thirty years ago. It is beautiful. Everything is wooden. Upstairs is made up of six bedrooms filled with three or four beds each. Ladders are everywhere and bunk-bed’s appear to be carved into the walls. A log fire in the living room keeps the whole home warm.
The cottage is rented out to large groups all year round. Sometimes students, or middle-aged friends, or big families. Sometimes the place is left in a mess and sometimes it is left cleaner than when a group first arrives.
Once the mini-tour was over, it was time for me to meet the people. So far we have Caroline, Josh, Kevin and Jonny. Then I meet Marta, Ian, Victoria, Shawn, Sophie, and Mikael.
We spend the rest of the night drinking, eating chili and playing games. Over the weekend, there is a never ending flow of food as everyone takes it in turns to make meals for the group.
On Saturday we feast on eggs, bacon and hash-browns. Then venture out into the wilderness. We investigate igloos made by the last group of cottagers. A snowman is built and named Arnold for his American-football shaped head.
We amble over to the frozen lake with beers in one hand and snowballs in the other. The lake is beautiful. I look around and all I can think is how perfectly Canadian everything seemed. The snow, the deer, the hiking hills and the canoeing lakes.
People tell me stories from past summers; of snapping turtles, catching tadpoles and being Kings and Queens of the lake.
That evening we played Sardines and it was awesome. Sardines is similar to hide-and-seek except one person hides and everyone looks, when you find the person you have to hide with them. The last person to find everyone is the loser. And in a cottage filled with hidden spaces and secret rooms, the game was one hundred times more difficult and one hundred times more fun.
Eventually everyone was sweaty from searching and cramming into tiny places. We played cards instead. Kevin made dinner for everyone, he called it ‘a modern aboriginal meal’. We devoured our food and continued the games late into the evening.
The games ended in the early hours and one-by-one we fell asleep. Caroline says they used to stay up all night and drink heavy and party loud. She says there used to be more people but many have come and gone over the years. The group dynamic at the cottage has changed as often as the leaves on the trees outside. Everyone has grown up and is dealing with the realities of adulthood; heartbreak, uncertainty, paying bills, and feeling lonely.
But the beautiful thing about this weekend was that it didn’t matter what everyone was feeling about their lives or relationships or jobs when they arrived. The cottage thawed everyone. And for a couple of days everything was more than okay. Everything and everyone were perfect.