Victoria McQuarrie '12 | February 3, 2019
No one truly grows up. Not entirely. My proof is a humble cottage on a lake in northern Door County, Wisconsin, where four generations of my family have spent every summer.
The cottage is tucked just beyond the edge of the lake, at the end of a long, shady gravel drive. Fragrant cedar trees surround the property. The air is alive and thick with the symphony of insect song. Just beyond the front porch, dense forest gives way to blindingly blue water, which glitters and shimmers in the sunlight.
I haven't been here in three years. A career in California and cruelly limited new hire vacation days have kept me from this Midwestern paradise, but this summer I finally find myself standing in the cottage’s driveway.
As I breathe in the fresh cedar air and feel the gravel driveway crunch beneath my feet, memories surge forth. Instantly I'm 7 years old and 17 and 27 all at once. My adult world fades as I am pulled under the spell of summer. I forget that just yesterday my life was filled with work presentations, traffic jams, utility bills. It is as if the past decade — attending and graduating from Notre Dame, and the thrilling yet terrifying move for a job thousands of miles from home — was just a dream.
Then my husband Dan steps out of the rental car behind me, luggage in tow, and the spell is broken. My old life collides with the new. Dan and I are newly married, and his introduction to my summer childhood home is unsettling. He is a familiar character who doesn't belong in this part of the narrative. For everything we know about each other, this summer place is an integral piece of my story he knows nothing about.
Seeing him standing in the driveway, I am suddenly self-conscious about the cottage's humble quirks. Built in 1914, the quaint frame house has Norman Rockwell charm from a distance. But through a newcomer's eyes, I notice for the first time that the gray clapboard and white trim is peeling and faded. The ancient shingles are mossy. Through the precariously hinged screen door that rattles and slams behind us, we are greeted by the mildew smell of the orange and brown patterned carpet, a deeply unfortunate choice installed in the living room in the late 1970s by a color-blind uncle.
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