Monday, July 5, 2010

Cottage Cheese

One of the things I love about “Up North” in Michigan is the view of a Great Lake glimpsed from the highway between all the trees and little cottages. As a child I loved those cute cottages, painted pink or blue or green, with their little porches, lawn ornaments and decorative mailboxes, and of course the “cottage sign” with clever wordplay of family names, like ‘Sand Castle’ or ‘The Footes’ on a foot shaped sign.

In my mind these cottages were for the rich people. My family vacations took us to the state parks, in the tent, or better yet, the van. No luxurious pop-up campers for us. Since then, I’ve actually been inside a few cottages, and rethought my notion of wealth. But I love these itty bitty houses, with a kitchen where you can cook and clean while standing in one spot and bedrooms that sleep five with four on bunk beds, one on a cot, and nowhere to walk. The walls and fireplace mantle festooned with years of souvenirs, beach combings and yard sale finds, in every style from country to coastal, and every era from the 60’s on.

Recently though, the trend has been to demolish these little cottages, and build new behemoths in their place with picture windows as large as the original house’s foundation and grandiose architectural details like turrets, towers, and pillars. Goodbye cute, adios charming. Welcome home, pretentious.

Not trying to fault the owners. Perhaps like my husband’s family, the house now belongs to several generations of families and they’ve outgrown the space. Or they’re simply trying to maximize the value of their property. And some of the homes are lovely and tasteful. Well ok, maybe only one or two. But somehow, that strip of land between the highway and the lake, with trees taller than its width, just doesn’t blend with lovely and tasteful. Something about those scraggly pines and random tree growth needs those shabby, tacky, wacky, cottage cheesy houses.

I do have to admit that A/C would be nice. I’m outside on the deck at our itsy bitsy natural-air cottage. It’s much cooler out here, so I’m writing at a laptop computer and being anti-social. (Not really, everyone else is just watching random TV, and while they may be missing the witty sarcastic comments I frequently direct at the inhabitants of the screen, it’s also possible they’re not.) I don’t want to go back inside with the heat—I doubt I could sleep in that stifling bedroom at this hour with the amateur fireworks that use loudness to compensate for what they lack in size. Especially with the beam of the neighbor’s lawn lighthouse flashing in the window every seven seconds. But I’m about to surrender, because the glow of my computer screen is drawing in flocks of winged insects and I keep thinking I’ve made typos, when really it’s mosquitoes. So, goodnight little buggies. Go check out that lighthouse.

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