By Bruce Stambaugh
The smoke from the evening campfire rose up and over the cottage my parents had built three decades ago. Stars and planets were beginning to twinkle through the broken canopy of the mixed hardwoods that clung tight to the steep hillside.
Through the thicket down the hill, the lake shimmered with the evening’s last light. All was still except for the crackle of the fire and a few katydids.
We humans broke the spell with inquisitive conversation. The couple with whom my wife and I shared this pleasant woodsy setting was new to the cottage neighborhood. For them, it was a dream come true to own a cottage an hour from home where they could find peace and quiet away from his busy construction work.
My father had made it clear that he wanted the cottage to stay in the family after he was gone. To honor that desire more than fulfilling my own dream, my wife and I purchased the cottage the year before my father died in December 2009. It has been a labor of love and restful retreat ever since.
Dad had had cottage fever for a long time. When a small building lot became available 50 years ago on his favorite fishing lake, he bought it for $500. I think he actually had to borrow the money to complete the deal. That’s how passionate Dad was about making his dream come true.
Design and construction of the cottage followed a decade later. Contractors laid the foundation, and built the massive sandstone chimney, which is the cottage’s centerpiece. Its earthy colored stone came from the Briar Hill scrap pile in Glenmont, Ohio.
There was nothing fancy about the cottage in either its style or structure. Basically a 24 by 24 foot square building, our artist mother realized setting the cottage on the lot diamond-like would enhance the view from inside and out. It was a most excellent decision.
After it was framed, Dad was determined to finish out the cottage on his own. In other words, he had lots of help from friends, family and hunting and fishing buddies.
Dad was way ahead of his time. He repurposed as much of the building materials as he could in the cottage. That included some white oak lumber he obtained on the cheap, and had planed smooth. It became the porch held up by beams he had salvaged from the old roller coaster at Meyer’s Lake Park in Canton, Ohio.
To Dad’s delight, many family gatherings were held on that porch. The problem was that Dad only saw the cottage as it originally was, not as it really was as it aged.
The porch, for example, began to deteriorate, despite Dad’s patching efforts to keep it repaired. As our families expanded with grandchildren, Dad’s organized gatherings became smaller and as tenuous as the porch itself.
When we bought the cottage and began the remodeling process, the first thing to go was the old porch. Dad wasn’t too happy with me. While he and Mom were still mobile, my wife and I gave them a tour of the refurbished cottage on what was to be Dad’s last Father’s Day.
Today we use the place as a get away to renew our spirits and connect with nature. Just like Dad, we particularly enjoy hosting others.
Like our new neighbors, we wanted Dad’s cottage dream to continue. Gazing upon that heavenly host of constellations, I think I saw Dad winking his approval.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2013