In the 1940’s my grandfather bought a small fishing cabin along a river in North Carolina. Now, before you get too many romantic ideas, you need to know that the house was so rustic and so bare, that when my grandmother would come to visit, she would stay at the college up the street. When my mother was a young woman, she and my father came up here in the winter…once. They pumped bathwater from the well, but by the time they got the buckets to the house, the water was frozen solid. That water stayed frozen in the buckets, inside the house, for the whole week they were here. That tells you a little something about its level of, um, winterization.
When I was a little girl, my grandfather died and left the house to his only child, my Mother. And I have to say - that one winter excepted - my Mom was in her element here. She had learned to fish with the best of them, and to this day can still hold a fly rod like a boss. Not one to cook at home in Atlanta, up here, Mom could fry up a freshly-caught trout like nobody’s business. In the mountains, my parents were free of the duties of regular life, and my siblings and I had their full and undivided attention. It was absolute heaven.
My parents renovated the house in the late 1980s. They hired a mountain handyman to do the work. And while there are some definite quirks here and there - and a hundred stories about how it almost went completely sideways - he made it much more livable all year round, and put in two bedrooms and an extra bath upstairs, essentially doubling the living space. And he sealed out the mice. Well, some of them anyway.
Time passed, and my life came calling. First college, then a busy career, with moves to New York and California. And while it was harder for me to get here, I came every chance I could get. It wasn’t every summer anymore, but it was as often as I could. Sometimes family was here, sometimes not. Whether I was alone or if every bed was taken, the house was always full of joy and love and wonderful memories.
In 2002, my husband and I were married here, right on the front porch, surrounded by friends and family who moved heaven and earth to get here. Within a few years after that, our boys were born – blessed with being one half Californian and one half Southern. Watching them play where I had played and love what I had loved, I began to understand that we had to find a way to get here more often, and that if we could, we needed to create for our boys what was so lovingly created for me: a home away from home where family came first, and being in nature together was the only real entertainment to be had.
My husband I bought the mountain house from my Mom not too long ago. And while it makes absolutely no sense that we own an un-rentable summer home 3,000 miles away from our primary residence, we continue to set reason aside, and do everything we can to secure this place for another generation.
Now, this place is where my boys spend their summers, just as I used to. My Mom joins us for a few days around the Fourth of July, and usually at least one of my siblings makes their way here, too. But most of the time, it’s just the four of us, no X-Box, no babysitters. We play board games, fish in the river, and eat until our bellies almost pop. We stay up late and sleep in. We sit in rockers on the porch and listen to my husband play the banjo. Basically, we just love each other up. And it is now, as it was then, absolute heaven.
So, is it selfish to steal away with my husband and our sons for a chunk of time every summer? Maybe. But I know this is a fleeting moment in time. Their grown-up lives will come calling soon enough, just as mine did. But before that happens, I want to stuff their little brains and hearts full of the same kinds of experiences and family goodness that I had. Basically, I want the time. If there is one thing that being a parent as taught me, it’s that the days may be long, but the years are painfully, achingly short. And dang it, if those years don’t seem to be speeding up as they get older.
Will we be able to keep this place forever? Who knows. Is it a smart investment, made on sound financial footing, to own a remote fishing cabin, an entire country away from where we actually live? Hell, no. But does this place and the time it provides mean everything to our family? Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes.