I’m doing something unique at work these next couple of days. I’m taking a “digital storytelling” workshop. Today we worked on our scripts, and while this is not the final version, it describes an important place in my life, so I’ll share it as is for now.
My best friend growing up had a pet iguana that I would take care of whenever her family went on vacation. To thank me for my service, she’d bring back little tokens for me: a piece of petrified wood from The Badlands, a heart-shaped jewelry box made of shells from Cancun. She’d eventually ask me about my summer, and my response was always the same: “We went to the cottage. Again.”
To a 12-year-old, going to the same place for vacation every year was boring. I wanted the thrill of waking up somewhere new, the thrill of not knowing what I’d find. Because, you see, I knew what I’d find at the cottage: dead flies that had been trapped inside for the winter and needed to be vacuumed up. A beach buried under a carpet of leaves and bugs that would take an entire afternoon to rake. Stale cereal that had been inadvertently left in the cabinet all winter.
Of course I had fun, too, spending frenzied days with siblings, cousins, and friends tubing and skiing, swimming and napping in the sun. “But surely,” I imagined, “it was nothing like The Badlands or Cancun.”
A few years ago, my husband and I vacationed in Yosemite for a couple of days, and while it was indeed breathtaking, it was also crowded. Due to the traffic congestion, we rode around on shuttle busses with dozens of other tourists. One day on the bus, I remember thinking about the quiet back roads near the cottage where I learned to drive, sitting on my dad’s lap so I could see over the steering wheel, and realized that while the new can be exciting and wonderful, the comfort of familiarity is something I had taken for granted.
While I’m looking forward to the new places I’ll see and the new experiences I’ll have this summer, I’m perhaps most excited to tell friends who ask about my plans, “I’m going to the cottage.” I’m excited because when I get there, I know what I’ll find: My parents’ silver canoe for an early morning paddle through the mist. A slalom ski that still fits my foot perfectly. And a kitchen I know my way around, stale cereal and all.