On Sunday morning, Jim and I got up early, picked up Jim’s dad, and travelled to Jim’s family’s cottage at Davidson Lake near Dumfries, New Brunswick. Jim and Gordon were going to build a new set of front steps for the cottage in preparation for it to be sold. I went along because I’d never seen the place where Jim had spent many happy hours in his childhood, and also because I desperately needed a day away from the kids! Jim’s mom, Shirley, told me as I was leaving that if I got cold in the cottage, I could just sit in the car…the forecasted high for the day was about 60 degrees…I would be fine in my T-shirt and light fleece sweater!
Shirley had inherited the cottage from her mother, but had made the difficult decision to put it on the market – things had changed drastically in the area since the ’80’s. Stores and restaurants had closed, family members had passed away, and the water to the cottage had been cut off due to safety concerns.
As we got closer to our destination, Jim and Gordon pointed out landmarks: “That’s where the corner store was.” “There was a diner there.” “That’s Aunt Allison’s family cottage.”
We pulled up beside the small maroon structure, and Jim unlocked the front door – he retrieved two large water jugs from the kitchen, which we would fill at the lake to flush the toilet while we were there. Returning from our water run, we unloaded the lumber and tools from the back of the van, and I went inside to check things out. My first stop was the bathroom…I’d been crossing my legs uncomfortably for a while! There were approximately six squares of toilet paper left on the roll…I felt that could pose a problem, and relayed my concerns to the others. Gordon asked me if I’d looked in the breadbox. Sure enough, there were two more rolls of toilet paper in the flowered tin container in the kitchen! Gordon explained that they kept it there to avoid mice using the paper products to build nests!
The cottage itself was small and tidy. One bedroom held a double bed and a set of wooden bunkbeds, and the other bedroom had another bed. Puzzles and board games were stacked on that bed. There were two more single beds (and a lawn mower) in the living room. I imagined what it must have been like in the ’70’s when Jim, his sisters, and his cousins were running all over the place.
It was cold! I helped myself to a chenille blanket folded neatly on one of the beds in the living room, wrapping it around my shoulders like a giant shawl. I settled into an armchair in the living room…next to the chair, a stack of Reader’s Digest condensed books and paperback romances leaned against the wall. A set of coasters was perched on top of the pile. I pulled out my own book, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, and immersed myself in the life of the African missionary Price family for the next few hours.
Outside, Jim and Gordon set to work on their project. In the past, working with his dad had sometimes left Jim frustrated. Today, however, Gordon seemed content to let his son take charge of the task at hand. I think they both enjoyed the work, although it was a strenuous six hours! Thank goodness Shirley had packed some bug repellant wipes – the blackflies and mosquitoes were threatening to carry off the power tools!
At lunchtime, we ate the sandwiches and cookies we’d brought along, and the men got right back to work (I reminded them both to take their insulin! – just call me “Mom”). They planned as they went along – discussing how high this should be, and how wide that should be. There were a couple of mistakes made in measurement, which they managed to work around without a hassle. I was proud of them.
About 5 p.m., the job was done, with the exception of painting the new steps. Gordon and Shirley would do that the next time they came back to do the final cleanup on the place. We reloaded the van, taking the remnants of the old steps to burn in our occasional back yard bonfires.
I suggested we stop for something to eat – I was starving. Gordon suggested the “Big Stop” outside Oromocto. When we arrived, it seemed like everybody in town had had the same idea! Not wanting to wait in line, we looked for another place…we stopped at the Oromocto “Jungle Jim’s” – their food in Saint John was good. I had an excellent Philly Chicken Melt with sweet potato fries and cole slaw. Jim and Gordon both ordered something called “The Bathroom Sink,” a plate piled high with deep-fried yumminess: buffalo wings, onion rings, mozza sticks, chicken fingers, chicken taquitos, and fries (there were carrot and celery sticks too, so they got their veggies!). Poor Jim couldn’t finish his onion rings, so I came to his rescue – that’s what girlfriends are for, after all!
We finally arrived back in Quispamsis about 8:30…I told Shirley she had been right about the cold (frankly, I thought she was nuts that morning!). Arriving back home, I was relieved to find that the house was still standing and nobody had died in our absence. I talked to the girls for a couple of minutes, then headed up to bed…5:30 a.m. comes early on Monday morning! I was thankful to have had a day where I didn’t have to cook or do laundry…I hope to have another day like that soon!