My Cabin, My Hero
It was our long-overdue visit to the family cabin that miraculously turned our marriage around.
May 1, 2005
As we approached Lake-in-the-Woods, passing through the gate and over the old bridge, we rolled down the car windows. The shade of thick pines and the smell of lake water relaxed us all. Mama, my mother-in-law, was right; this was just what we all needed.
Photo by Annie Scott
My husband, Peter, pointed out the window as he drove, “That’s where we had mud fights when the lake was low. There! That tree used to have our tree house in it. One time Mama Jo and Daddy Mack let us sleep up there, but the crickets kept us awake.”
The house at Lake-in-the-Woods, Ala., has been in my mother-in-law’s family since she was a very young woman. Her father, referred to always as Daddy Mack, built the two-story structure in the early 1950s.
As Peter talked, I looked down at our little bundle of baby in her car seat, and imagined her running wild at the lake, just as Peter once had. Maybe the lake cabin is where he came to fall in love with nature, I thought.
Peter is a free spirit, a playful, adventurous and funny man. I once marveled at his sense of freedom, adoring this man who would whisk me off on a mountain camping trip with no notice because he just had to bag a particular peak.
Fun as he is though, when I became a mother, I found my perspective on freedom altering faster than his. He is a proud papa, but nesting has come slowly to him.
Peter built his career as a landscape photographer on his love of wild places. I had pretty much accepted that Peter would always feel most at home 10 miles up a trail with a camera in his hand and a heavy pack on his back.
But after Berit was born, I found that I preferred to be snuggling by the fireplace. Carrying a newborn along the trail did not appeal to me. I loved my husband’s endless lust for adventure, but I wanted Berit to have her daddy at home.
For the first time, our lifestyles seemed to be in direct and serious conflict. It was our long-overdue visit to the family cabin that miraculously turned things around.
There were 17 of us visiting the lakehouse that warm September afternoon: Mama, two of Peter’s siblings and their spouses, three close family friends and seven kids. It soon became clear to all of us that corralling children would be the main activity of the day.
As soon as we arrived they each clamored to be fed, and the twin toddlers seemed drawn like magnets to the back deck, 14 feet above the ground. The book and lawn chair I had optimistically brought with me stayed in the truck, and the canoe trip Peter and I had planned was put off for hours. Finally, the three littlest tots took their nap, and we escaped to the lake, leaving them with Mama.
We paddled our way around the lake, lingering in the shadier spots as Peter looked for turtles, and I closed my eyes, enjoying a rare afternoon of mommy-freedom. I was so blissfully relaxed bobbing in the water that I could have stayed out there until the sun fell behind the surrounding Appalachian foothills.
But Peter seemed uneasy. He kept asking what time it was, even though he knew I didn’t wear a watch. Too soon, he turned the boat toward home, before we had even circumnavigated the lake.
“Let’s go back. I want to see my baby,” he said softly.
And since that day, Peter has chosen to be home with his little family a lot more. He still does his photo trips of course, but often he takes us along, or stays in the backcountry for just one night, instead of his usual three days to a week. We are all a lot happier and at ease with our life.
Maybe that outing to the lake cabin with his daughter made Peter realize that he is no longer one of the children who can run free with no responsibilities. Now he warms bottles and keeps smaller family members from toddling off the back deck.
Once free to capture frogs, swim the length of the lake and not show his face at the door until his stomach told him it was time for supper, Peter has come to feel that holding an infant protectively in his arms is more rewarding than summiting the highest mountain.
Annie Scott is a freelance writer based in Northern California. Berit, a born nature-lover like her daddy, now coos excitedly whenever the family takes to the trail.
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