Two weeks ago, I joined some family members in saying our final goodbyes to the family cabin at Shuswap Lake.
My grandparents have owned the place since well before I was born – the little, two-storey house nestled amongst some huge fir trees is where my great-grandparents retired and the road is named after them.
When they died, my Ooma and her sister decided to keep the place as a summer cabin for their extended families, my Ooma taking one month and her sister taking the other.
But in recent years, this arrangement has started to fall apart.
Health issues have plagued both sets of grandparents, eroding the ability to take care of the place on their own anymore, and the money is needed elsewhere.
My grandparents lack the money to buy the place outright and the number of relatives willing to come up and spend time there has dwindled in recent years.
We were all surprised when it sold last month – there are a lot of summer cabins for sale in that area – and so my side of the family, who had the place in July this year, had to make a late September trip up there to clean the place out.
It’s amazing the amount of items that collect in a cabin over the years. Other family members had already carted away some items earlier in September, but the place was still well-furnished.
Nobody wanted the plates, cutlery and numerous other small household items trucked up there over the years, offloaded by relatives as they got new things for their own houses.
My Ooma grabbed my great-grandmother’s old cookbook, with recipes carefully handwritten out, and I grabbed things I thought would remind me of the place: an old blanket that I used to wrap around myself when reading on the porch, the chip-and-dip plate we always used during happy hour and my favourite coffee mug.
I tried to take pictures of the place that would keep it fresh in my memory for years to come, but it didn’t look the same in its half-deconstructed state.
Besides, it isn’t really about the physical building, but the people in it and memories made.
The cabin holds 30 years of happy summer memories for me:
Learning to waterski, with my dad behind me holding me up by the collar of my life-jacket.
My first kiss – a brief, embarrassing affair with the neighbour’s grandson.
Playing endless rounds of Canasta (a time-consuming card game) on the screened-in porch with whoever was willing to sit down for a couple hours straight.
Staying up late in the bunkhouse – a separate little one-room building with bunks in it where all of the children slept – and listening to music and goofing off with cousins and friends. Around midnight or 1 a.m., someone usually decided it was time for a snack and I was often the one voted to run up to the house and tiptoe into the kitchen to get it.
Hours spent reading and dozing on a long, flat rock overlooking the lake.
The cabin brought the family together in a way no other place did, given that we all stayed there together, shared meals and did things as a group each day. Much different than the hurried family dinners back home where some family members would have to leave early to get home at a decent hour.
I’m going to miss the house, the Shuswap sunsets, the days spent lounging on our dock on the beach. I’m also sad that the next generation won’t get to enjoy the place and forge more memories there.
But in recent years, the place was used infrequently by many family members and so was not bringing us together the way it used to.
This is an opportunity to create new family traditions, ones that don’t rely on my grandparents financing the yearly upkeep of a residence and ones more of us will actively participate in.