Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back to Woodland

by Michele
      Traveling to Woodland Beach on the Labour Day weekend was bittersweet. I love the area on Nottawasaga Bay: the breeze off the lake, the crashing waves, the smell of oak and poplar trees.

      When I see acorns on the ground, I'm a kid again. My mom took us by the hands and we filled paper sacks. We spread them on the picnic table, gave them characters and drew faces on them. We'd laugh as she took off their "hats" and made them dance.

Mom and I at Woodland

      We spent endless hours daily on the shore. Only hunger persuaded us to head back to the cottage for suppers. We would load into the car, bathing suits itching where sand had intruded to make its mark. On top of the old car, the giant tractor tube perched. My father drove at a snail’s pace and held it with one hand on the short drive from water’s edge to the cottage, but it was worth it to play on that tube. After supper, we'd head back down again, ice cream cones in hand to feed the seagulls and watch the sunset.

The Old Cottage
       My grandpa Pete built the first cottage the year I was born. Apparently, on Sunday morning when the whole family was off to mass, Pete stayed behind with me. At six months old, he'd tie me onto the old rocking chair with a bed sheet. He'd go about his business, sawing and hammering and give the rocker a push when I'd start to squawk. That cottage was magical to a small child, filled with secret spaces and steep stairways. The oil-burning furnace on the main floor was actually open to the bedroom loft. We were not to go near it, but could peer inside and see blue flames. In late October of 1967, some hunters borrowed the cottage and drying their socks on the oven door, set it ablaze. With the area deserted and no volunteer fire department in place, it burned down in minutes, the cutlery falling to the ground in neat rows. My heart-broken grandparents were in Montreal at the time they heard the news.

       For love of Woodland Beach and in hopes of retirement there, a new cottage was constructed on the same site. This one was home-like, insulated and winter ready. We spent many family years there before it was sold. By that time, I was long gone from Ontario.

Second Cottage

       On Labour Day weekend, I was saddened to think of how many family members are gone. Those sing-a-longs around the fire pit seem like eons ago. Familiar cottages are now timeworn, some ramshackle. Even the beach itself is changed. Gone is the white expanse of sand; in its place are weeds and rocks. My son and his cousins will never know that place and this saddens me. Time, as they say, marches on, and I remain grateful to God for time well spent at Woodland Beach.

Woodland Beach now...

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