We went to the family cabin this past weekend. Cabins are wonderful things - when you are a visitor. This particular cabin has been in my husband's family for now three generations. When his father owned it, he was in charge of the expenses and maintenance. My husband and his brother would assist with the physical labor, but by and large, other than cabin opening and cabin closing, the work wasn't overly time consuming. The cabin wasn't owned by us. Our usage was always based around my father-in-law's schedule. We were, in essence, visitors.
Now that my father-in-law has passed away, the cabin is legally owned by my husband and his siblings. The brunt of all the work, all the decisions, all the labor, and all the expenses fall to this collective group. And their families. I was struck anew by the amount of work it takes to maintain a cabin. This past weekend was the first time anyone had been up to the cabin since it was winterized and closed up last fall. There were mice to evict, cobwebs and spiders to destroy, a general closed up odor to air out. Surfaces were scrubbed with Clorox. The sinks, tub and toilet were also scrubbed and de-spidered. Cabinets were emptied and dishes were washed…with Clorox and hot water. Pesky mice - they will pee on anything! Trees that had fallen over the winter were dissected and converted to firewood for next year. The yard was raked. The screened porch assembled and the dock was wrestled into place. Then there was the start of the cabin inventory - what needs to be fixed and in what priority; what items in the cabin can be given away or tossed; what items need to be purchased.
This took a looooong time. I kid you not. And we're not finished. For years the cabin has been the happy dumping ground for anything that was no longer wanted at my FIL's house. And for his father before him. You can imagine what kind of things we found. Ancient coffee percolators that don't work. A food processor that predates my birth. Plastic Raggedy Anne and Andy place settings that no on uses. Enough lawn chairs to outfit a battalion of parade observers. A set of bathing trunks that have seen better days. And this is just some of what I found in the kitchen and one closet. I lost steam around the time my hands started to permanently prune up due to exposure to water.
It's going to be a long summer. Every time we come up there will be something to fix, another drawer or closet to inventory, and more wildlife to convince they belong outside. I had a moment when I was inside washing mugs and glasses that have never been used in the eighteen years I've been a part of the family. Is this what cabin ownership is going to mean? We work hard on our own home only to turn around on weekends and head three hours out of town to work on the cabin? Are we never going to be able to relax? Ever again?
As I was having my private breakdown, I noticed the bird feeder just off the back door and the kitchen. The bird feeder is on a post and is supposed to have two clear panels that are open about an inch on the bottom. Feed fills the feeder and birds are supposed to perch on it and eat the seed. At some point one of the sides had broken and it's now a little cave on a pole. One industrious robin has built her nest in the feeder and has layer several eggs. I watched her as she cared for her eggs, sitting there keeping them warm and safe. Then I noticed some chipmunks roughhousing in the wood pile. And when I sat down to look out at the lake, I saw my nephews, pretending to help my husband and his brother wrestle with the dock. The joy on their faces was priceless.
Sure, being a part owner in the cabin is going to mean more work than we're used to. But it's still a retreat for family. It's away from the city and on a clear night, the sky is awash with stars. The only noises you hear are your neighbors and the occasional boat or car. It's peaceful here. And if can also be full of laughter. As it was last weekend.
Cabins are wonderful things, when they are filled with family and laughter.