The cottage has always played a big part in my family’s dynamics. It is a special place. There are so many memories attached to the place that it made it impossible for me to visit it in the year after Kevin’s death. In the early stages of our relationship, when we were still dating, I remember when he invited me to the cottage. I had met Kevin in a bar, he was playing in the band, and I was there with my mother and sisters. Yup, my mother – it was her idea actually. The bar was the Caribou Club, a large, rollicking, boozy club where Newfoundlanders would go to hear some downhome music, mixed in with a top 40’s band. Kevin was the keyboard player for the band, “Reflections”, and he’d also back up ‘Mean Gene’ the star performer who’d reel out maritime tunes, while pumping away on his accordion, to the delight of the crowd. Good fun, and my mother, a Newfoundlander, had wanted to go for the music and for the food. The Caribou Club had a full kitchen and they would serve up traditional fare, like cod tongue; yum, there’s no place like home.
This is where I met my husband, at the Caribou Club. It was his 28th birthday and he was feeling no pain. He was working his way through the club on his breaks, trying to kiss most of the women in the bar, or so he said. No small feat since the club was always overfull – I have no idea how many people, but well over 400. Anyway, Kevin succeeded in winning me over and within a few months he had invited me to the cottage. Word got out in the club and I was cornered by some women one night in the washroom. Drunk women I might add. They wanted to impress upon me that nobody, but nobody, got invited to Batch’s cottage – so I’d better not be jerking him around. Sheesh, the last thing I needed was to be accosted by some rabid females defending him. Anyway, I told him about the confrontation later that night. He found it funny, but did say that yup not too many people had been to the cottage, it was a place he liked to keep private.
So the cottage factors huge in my memories of him. We even spent our honeymoon there, and over the next 30 years would host a great number of occasions there. There were family dinners with upwards of 20 people. There were fireworks, games of Risk, card games, barbecues and swimming in the river. It was entirely a family cottage. The imprint of my father-in-law, Jack, is everywhere. He build the cottage from the ground up, using hand tools for the most part since the electricity wasn’t in place for a good many years. And my mother-in-law, a woman truly larger than life; even today we still call the main bedroom, grandma’s room. I can still see her on the deck throwing orange peels, banana peels, whatever, over the side, laughing and encouraging my kids to do the same thing. And then there is Terry, a nephew who died far too soon – I remember those times when he would eat too much, he’d try to lie down, his belly overfull, only to have my kids (or his brothers) jump and crawl on him. Or the time he did manage to pass out, the kids put a pork chop bone under his nose and then took photos. He was such a good sport, Terry was. We did silly things, fun things; all the stuff that large families do. Poignant memories of days now gone. Hard to face, but it would be far worse not to have them.
This year the cottage has become a focal point for the family again. Even though the gardens are overgrown, the siding needs to be painted, and there are a multitude of other maintenance issues, there is still a heart to the place, an essence that blends all the family back to one. I don’t know that we will ever be able to make it what it was, but while we gather there it’s almost as if those gone are there with us and are happy that the cottage continues to unite us.
What a difference a year can make. Last year the cottage was devastating to me because of its sentiment and I stayed away; this year I am drawn to it for that very reason.