Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New thing #29: Waconda

For the last couple years, there was an old summer cottage for sale on a big lake in a little town not far from our home. We've driven by it many times and talked about how pretty the location was, but how impractical it would be to buy a place that needed so much work at this stage of our lives. We already have a beautiful home, and maintaining it is a full time job. And we all know about the soft housing market. So we did the right thing.

We bought it.

A wise woman once told Senior to imagine what his headstone would look like. She said the dates don't matter... what matters is the dash between the numbers. That dash represents what you did with your life. Now we may not leave a universal legacy, but we do want to live life to the fullest and enjoy each and every day. So with that in mind, Senior and I each wrote a list of goals we wanted to achieve in the next decade or so, and then compared notes. Our lists were surprisingly similar, which might explain why we've been happily married for so many years. And one of the things on both our lists was to live on or near the water. Even if it's impractical.

The house was built in 1916 and had been owned by only one family prior to us. They named it Waconda, which means "Great Spirit of the Waters" according to a Native American story. Helen, the previous owner, spent her summers there until her death at the age of 102.  One of the last traditional summer cottages on the lake, it sits on a shallow bay that is home to ducks and swans who are pretty annoyed that we have taken over their dock. We are still in cleaning mode so we haven't moved in for the summer. We're happy to spend a couple hours there or even to just stop by long enough watch the sunset. Neighbors drop in and say hello, like Betty, the helpful lady who told my kids that Helen died Right There on the porch, and the cheerful guy who told us that her dying wish was that the property stay in the family.

We kicked off summer with a Memorial Day picnic at Waconda. The kids alternated between relaxing in the sun and raking up the seaweed encroaching on the dock, flinging it up on shore in all its smelly glory. I got out our tippy little kayak and paddled around the bay, collecting the flotsam that washes in from the boaters on the lake. I now have 63 bottles of sunblock. Senior channeled his inner engineer and figured out how to make the floating dock actually float, then we all pitched in to launch it. I was proud of the way the kids took ownership of the place. If I'm very lucky, I'll get to see them share it with their children some day.

Our plan is to enjoy the cottage "as is" this summer. Well, after we bleach it from top to bottom. We've put our house up for sale and if the stars line up correctly, we'll eventually remodel Waconda and make it our full-time, lakefront home. I hope Helen approves.

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