On this very snowing winter day I would like to share a summer memory from my youth.
When I was twelve years old I was invited to spend three weeks at my girlfriend’s cottage on Big Bob Lake. It was three weeks of sunshine and water, back flips off the dock, Noxzema and giggles. It was also a summer of change. I was a pre-teen bursting to be allowed to wear makeup and discover boys. This was the summer vacation that I pushed established boundaries. This story is my recollection of the frogs and logs incident. I still feel shame and guilt to this day and I don’t really know what I did wrong.
Marilyn’s cottage was in the Haliburton Highlands. It was a small three bedroom cabin perched high above the lake. It had been lovingly built by her father and it was still a work in progress. That summer the interior ceiling was still to be installed. All of the bedroom and bathroom walls were seven feet tall and ended in open space. All sound traveled from the bathroom into the living room and into each bedroom. At night you would lie there clearly listening to every cough, every squeak in a bed. We all listened in as the toilet paper was torn from its roll. No whisper went undetected.
Every window in the cottage looked out into the thick green forest. The lake was obscured from view.
That didn’t stop Marilyn from knowing what was happening out on the lake. She had a unique ability to identify boats and their owners by their sound. The high pitch wail came from Dougie Thompson’s sea flea motor. The low drone was the LeMatt’s inboard motor. Many a time we would be sitting around her dining room table when off in the distance a motor boat could be heard. Marilyn would give me a look and whisper whose boat it was. Then, if we could be excused from the table we would be off flying down to the dock.
Marilyn’s parents were strict. There were lots of rules to be followed without question. We were expected to get up bright and early, have a morning dip in the lake and complete an hour or more of chores after breakfast. Our freedom did not start until mid morning. Freedom that summer meant escaping out onto the lake. We were always seeking to get out of sight from Marilyn’s parent’s judgemental eyes.
Marilyn was entrusted with the family’s boat, a ten foot aluminium with a 6 horse power Evinrude motor. Standing up with one powerful yank she would pull on the starter cord and the motor would kick over. I was always so impressed with Marilyn’s independence and skills around boats. She would point the bow out, around the point and within minutes we were free and skipping across the waves. Bam, bam, bam … the waves would pound the bottom of our craft. I can remember that delicious feeling of hanging your fingers over the gunwale and grabbing the warm water as it surged past.
We would usually start by circling the lake. We would dip into all of the inlets and check out who was around. Sometimes we would just drift aimlessly and just enjoy the sun. If it got too hot we would jump overboard. The sun’s strong rays would bead up any residual droplets. Other times we would sing. Our project that particular summer was to memorize all of the lyrics to “My Fair Lady”.
Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
We pretty much wore the same thing every day: our bathing suits with one of our Dad’s white shirts over top as a cover-up. These shirts almost hung to our knees and we would roll the sleeves up and keep the top three buttons undone giving the impression that we had nothing on underneath. How bad ass? Our look was part Gidget and part Brigitte Bardot. Marilyn with her long brown legs definitely pulled the look off better than me.
On that particular afternoon of the frogs and logs incident, the weather was really hot and clammy. The two of us were just trolling around in the middle of the lake. Marilyn heard Steve Parlay’s 15 horse power Johnson motor long before it came around the point. He had Ricky Day with him. Our attention was glued to their boat as it first began to circle our in increasingly smaller orbits. With thrilling anticipation their boat edged in and finally came along side ours. Wow. The boys had landed. There was a surge of adrenalin felt by all of us.
It turned out that Steve Parlay was quite a confident lady’s man. He was a talker. We exchanged names even though we knew that they knew who we were. Steve said he owned a motor bike which he was fixing up. He wasn’t old enough to have his driver’s license but this was very impressive anyway. I recall that he pulled out a pack of cigarettes and reached across to our boat, offering us one. We initially we said no. Someone might see us. It was then that Steve suggested we take our boats down by the dam where the lake narrows into a river. It would be private down there. He joked in a sexy naughty way that we could check out all of the frogs and logs down there. Marilyn and I locked eyes and we both giggled. I noticed that Marilyn’s neck was quite red. It was the start of one of her dreaded blushes. We could read each other’s minds and both of us were thinking the same thing. We wanted to go. We knew it was forbidden for some reason but really what were we doing wrong? Marilyn sheepishly said yes. At this point I felt almost sick. There was a great hollowness in the pit of my stomach.
Suddenly it was happening. The boys started up their boat and headed off. We followed, giggling all the way. Marilyn and I came to a quick agreement. She liked Ricky and I liked Steve. What a hoot. What an adventure. Then across the lake, just a speck in the distance we both spotted Marilyn’s father standing at the edge of her dock. His long arms were waving back and forth; signally to us to come in.
Dum de dum dum. We gave the guys a sheepish wave good-bye and we headed home to face the music.
Wow was Marilyn’s father mad. He wasted no time hearing our side of the story. We were directed right up to the cottage and grounded from the lake for two days. Apparently we should have known it was not alright to go down to the narrows with two boys. Her parents did not even know about the cigarettes. I have never been able to come to terms with this incident. Were we guilty of doing something wrong or was Marilyn’s parents over reacting? I guess it was a little of both.