Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Is it Worth it?

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Deciding to head to the cottage on this past Monday afternoon wasn’t ever the problem, making it happen was the tricky part. My oldest friend in the world, Debbie, tries to convince me every year of the benefits of spending a few days at her cottage. She always starts out by saying “You need a break and being up at the cottage would be the perfect escape.” Sounds good in theory, but theory is all it ever is.

We have known each other since childhood and have been in almost daily contact for the last 30 years or so. As such, there are no secrets – including the fact that I would never be mistaken for “outdoorsy”.

Every year I come up to the cottage for a day to help her either open or close the damn thing. It seems like mice are always involved in some way in these expeditions. We are either cleaning the remnants left behind by the little treasures at the beginning of the season or trying to prevent them from making the cottage their home at the end of the season. Don’t even get me started on the bugs.

Every year, in the spirit of best friend-ness, I come up for a couple of days and we hang out. Recently Debbie was at the cottage with her sister-in-law and the conversation turned to what we were going to do on our mini-vacation up north. S.I.L asked: “Do you and Pj just spend the days lazing on the dock?” “No” came the reply from Debbie “Pj doesn’t like sitting outside.” S.I.L goes on to ask: “I bet you guys must make some great dinners and enjoy a bottle of wine or two.” Deb said she kind of giggled when she answered “Um…Pj doesn’t really like food and doesn’t really drink.” All of which is true. (I have a profound aversion to red wine ever since a little train ride when I was 18 and going through former Yugoslavia.)

In addition to food, drink and sunshine I am not crazy about bad weather. Last year we were up at the cottage where I had just started writing my book when my cousin in Toronto called to say that there was a tornado warning in effect for the cottage area. You may remember the storm that tore up a horse farm on the northern end of Toronto. We spent the storm in the local store attached to a gas station playing scratch lottery games and eating ice cream.

This year’s trip had no less of a dramatic start. I was running late and when Deb arrived to pick me up at 2:30 or so, I still had to go to the grocery store and drop my car (Pinky) at the mechanic’s. Returning from the grocery store with provisions for my son who was holding down the fort, I said to Deb: “I’ll be right back” and proceeded to sprint across the street to my house. In a moment of miscalculation regarding the curb, I rolled over on my ankle, sailed through the air and landed on my hands and knees. (It reminded me of my time as a skater where the take-off into a jump was never the problem – the landing always was) To add insult to injury I was now sitting on and squishing the package of hamburger meat that had broken my fall. I yelled (a word that is not said in polite company) and Debbie came running. I wasn’t hurt. I had to try and figure out how to get up without putting my weight on my two scraped knees. It took a while partly due to the fact that my buddy was laughing so hard as to be of no help.

We did make our way to the cottage despite the traffic and the hassle. There has been only good weather; not too hot and the view from the end of the dock is perfect. It isn’t always the case but this year the trek here has been worth it. I am reminded by the sounds and smells of a time long ago. I could just as easily be 5, 15 or 50 when confronted by the sight of the stars in a clear sky or of a loon on the lake. The same can be said for the smell of the pine trees blowing in the breeze and the taste of marshmallows toasted on a stick by the campfire. I am glad that I came.

It has been a splendid few days and for once Debbie was right, it was the perfect getaway.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Pj Kwong

Pj Kwong is a figure skating expert and writer currently working for CBC Sports. Her first book, Taking the Ice: Success Stories from the World of Canadian Figure Skating (BookLand Press), will be in stores in September 2010.

Go to Pj Kwong’s Author Page