I started the summer with seventy-two, and now I am down to seven days. It seems like yesterday and yet, it seems like so long ago. Summer is a magical time for me. I met my wife thirty summers ago and I get to spend my summers reinventing myself, year after year. Summer is a time for family, growing, trying new things, traditions, and enjoying being outdoors. Twenty years ago, the new summer cottage opened for the first time. I spent that first summer, or as much time as I could, up north moving rocks, planting lilies, working, and getting the cottage settled. I’ve been doing much the same around the cottage since; and I enjoy every minute of it. Summer is also the time when I remember my dad’s passing and my trip a year later to France and his final resting place. This summer, five years after my dad, my father-in-law passed away.
Ironically, it was five years ago when the deer ate the lilies.
B’s dad, my father-in-law was a man with a vision. B’s grandpa bought the cottage in 1951 or 1952 and it’s been in B’s family since. It’s on a narrow lakefront lot. The original cottage was a log cabin structure with four rooms, a stone fireplace, and plumbing that needed to be drained before winter. It was small and barely kept the winter out. It was cozy and cramped. Perfect for summer lake living. I remember visiting the old cabin a handful of times. In 1993, B’s dad decided he wanted a place that his grandkids and their grandkids could visit year round and he made plans to build a new cottage. It’s the place on the lake my kids know today. We are truly fortunate. He wanted a place where the upkeep and maintenance would be simple, especially the grounds. He planted grass on the front lawn and installed a sprinkler system. We planted day lilies around the front deck, along the main entrance in back, and atop the raised septic in back, as well. The lilies have grown and matured since and the cottage has been a gathering place for all seasons. Until a few years ago my in-laws would visit monthly, it was a place to get away. They’d spend a day working the yard or working inside and a couple of days exploring the area. Their favorite time, besides summer was Fall, and the Fall color tour.
The winter of 2008-09 had been especially hard Up North. It was cold and snow covered the ground from early November and late into the season. By March 2009, the deer were hungry and desperate for food. That winter, many deer did not survive, but some did because they found the lilies – and, I surmise other places to eat. Sometime in the late winter and early spring, deer discovered the day lilies along the front of the cottage. They dug up the roots and ate them leaving the leftover roots uncovered and the beds a mess. That’s how my in-laws found the day lily beds when they arrived in May ‘09. The deer didn’t touch any of the other lilies but they used the front beds as an all you can eat salad bar.
Today we can laugh, but it wasn’t funny then. Grandma was very mad.
I spent several days transplanting and moving lilies that summer and the lilies have rebounded, you’d hardly know they’d been a deer’s dinner five years before.
The past few winters I’ve watched deer pass in front of the cottage along the lake at night or early in the morning. Ivy has seen them, too. She growls and wakes us up when she see them. We’ve discovered deer poop in the yard every spring, but they haven’t been back for dinner, or any other meal we know of since.
When grandma was up at the cottage this summer she and I got to laughing about the incident as we sipped our morning coffee. I told her I remembered how mad she was and she recounted what a mess the deer left. She told me how she and grandpa spent the next day cleaning up the beds, putting soil back where it should’ve been, and marking the surviving lilies. I smiled and remembered my part in the day lily restoration project. I keep doing my part every time I visit.
I love looking at the lilies when they bloom. I love the different colors, how they frame the cottage and walkway. I love the story of how the deer ate the lilies. That summer disappeared before eyes. My dad passed away and W went from elementary school to middle school that fall, O does the same this fall. We have funny stories and great memories of summer, we also have sad memories, too.
I have seven days before I begin a new school year. This year I am moving content and grade levels. My kids are growing and moving on, too. It’s wonderful to have summer and summer memories to keep us going, to give us a laugh and a warm memory. Today is gonna be a great day. I’ve got a long list of to dos. So, I’d better get a going, or it will never happen. Making the days Count, one day at a time, one lily re-planted, one flowerbed weeded at a time.
Which flowers make you think of summer?