A Summer Place
I am sitting at the same table. Looking out the same view. Different cat. Different dog. The kids aren’t here. Not till next week. And the real kids, the ones that make space ships and escape plans and safari/atari’s, are their kids.
Of course we were really kids ourselves. The Boy Scout Girl Scout early running water was a stream Merv cleaned out to run clear, deep enough for a bucket to get water not mud, mostly. It was downhill from the tent, the picnic table and the fire pit. We heated the water in the old Dutch oven till we wised up and put our camp pot to use on the grate. The cast iron of the Dutch oven holds the heat, that is true, but it takes a long time to heat up and doesn’t hold much water. We advanced millennia in civilization moving onto the enclosed platform becoming a cabin around us. Up we went in glorious summer, and at its end, a well, a pipe, and a pump, in the cabin. At the sink. Right next to the wood stove.
Hans and Linda were Mom and Dad’s good friends but their youngest was contracting a severe case of ‘Back to the Land’ disease. I am pretty sure he has never recovered from it. I be we infected him that day he walked down the path and picked up the pick and shovel that Merv had laid aside for a few minutes to catch his breath. Hans was a big powerful man and his sons were becoming that too. Tall, blond, blue-eyed, powerful. When Mikey dug our latrine, he sized it to his own dimensions. Merv had to build a scaffolding to prevent us from careening into the hole. And he showed up again to dig the well.
Down past the topsoil. That was the effort of a minute. Pickaxe and shovel through the clay. That took a little longer. And then clay and sand. Then more sand. Then water. 10 feet down. A hand pump could manage that easily. The walls weren’t holding so Merv got Mikey to come out so he could finish the hole — it started to get a little risky. Before I had a chance to fully work out how life would be if Merv got buried alive he hit water. Lots of water. Pipe in. Pump innards in. Pipe laid under the ground, hole drilled into the floor of the cabin. More pipe. A frame for the sink knocked together from pine 2 x 4's. Sink dropped in, its predrilled holes for faucets closed with stainless covers. Cold water streaming out into the cabin. We did it. Ourselves. Triumph.
Getting the dishes done with the light of the windows was the schedule of the evening. Boiling water on the wood stove or the camp stove for washing and rinsing. Then the baby in the sink to be cleaned and cuddled and played with.
A functioning cabin, just in time. 3 kids, now 4. No way we could quit our day jobs. No way we could feed a big family on land with 2 inches of top soil. Where plants shrunk as summer lengthened. The cabin worked. The roof line let the sun in during the early summer, late summer. The low windows on the shady side let in the cool air. The high windows on the south side let out the warm air. The Dutch doors kept in the kids, kept out the critters. The sink, the counter, the wood stove, the cutting board, the knife, a place for the dishes. Safe in the winter. There in the summer.
But moving there wouldn’t work. We needed the dollars squirreled away from our teaching jobs to keep the building project going. And the family.
I made bread for a dinner party, a couple with 2 children that had a summer place on Lake Chautauqua. An all white loaf, a double loaf, braided, perfectly risen went into the oven.The fire with its old apple branches turned into beautiful coals. The bread came out golden and beautiful, the most beautiful loaf of bread I had ever made. The outside was perfect. The inside was raw. I peeled away what could be eaten and served it in as a bowl of golden crusts.
Our friends had a summer place. We had…a summer place?
Merv will do some work outside this morning. I will have my second cup of coffee watching the phoebe catch insects over the pond. Toast in the toaster. The sun is warming the cool air. Summer place pshaw! It is the Cabin! Home to memory! Home to beauty! To dogs and cats and fish and birds and a regrown forest! To camp and grandchildren and great feasts. To play and plays and concerts. To singing and campfires and tree houses. To hikes and sunken canoe races. And the kids are coming next week!