If could create my own scented car air freshener it would be called “the cottage.” It would be a blend of the smells that take me back in time to our last week of summer spent by the lake in Bobcaygeon.
It would be a unique combination of the aroma of Sturgeon Lake water on my skin, a whiff of bonfire smoke in my hair, the sticky sweetness of Kawartha Dairy ice cream and gooey marshmallows eaten off a stick. Add the smell of sand I sifted just to feel the fine granules slide through my hands. That is what living in the moment smells like. For accents, I would invite the familiar musty scent of the cottage, reminiscent of seasons past, until we fill it again with life and laughter, coffee, toast and bacon. Lingering on the edge would be the trace of autumn, the way the breeze changes and you can almost smell the leaves changing from green to red and gold.
I would hang this air freshener from the mirror in my car, so I could hold the memory as the lake and the cottage fade off from its view, and we head home, with our two teenagers each looking out the passenger windows, heads full of thoughts neither will share, each trying to lock in the memories until next summer. We would collectively breathe in the smell as an unspoken sadness lingers. But it wouldn’t be a sadness as heavy as loss or as final as endings. It’s more the nostalgia, a melancholy that comes with the inevitability of change. It’s not a goodbye; it’s until next year.
We know it well, because it has happened this week every year since my babies were actually babies. This cottage week has become an important tradition for our family, which is admittedly weak at traditions. This reunion is a week of friendship, fresh air and the happiness of life free of routine (beyond the mandatory morning coffee on the beach).
All the way home, along the back roads and the highways, our thoughts turn to adventures ahead. There is an unmistakable sense of anxiousness, a nervousness that defies description. Change is coming. There is no time when this feels more evident in my family than the start of a new school year.
And then there is the rush of extra-curricular enrolment: sports, dance, theatre, you name it. The colour-coded fridge calendar is about to overwhelm, again. And that’s life. Parents, students, teachers, we’re all in this together. Let’s all take a collective deep breath. Exhale. We are going to get through this first week of school together, because change is hard but it is inevitable and, most times, for the best.
Every time I get in my car to drive someone somewhere or head to work, I would breathe in the cottage and be reminded of the water, the sunshine, and the feel of the sand through my fingers. It would remind me that while so much changes in life, so much more stays the same. Breathe that in.