The summer of love: How the cottage brought my parents together

The cottage my dad built in Westport, Ont. Photo supplied by Michelle Kelly.

In the final episode of the Cottage Life Podcast season 4, we chat about all things summer romance. This essay by editor Michelle Kelly shares her experience with love at the cottage. Check out the full episode to listen to the essay now and to hear bestselling author Carley Fortune talk about her two romance novels set in cottage country.

If it were not for our cottage, there would be no me at all.

My parents met as teenagers, in Westport, Ont., a small community just north of Kingston. My mom grew up on a nearby farm, and my father, a Torontonian, spent his summers at a farmhouse on the other side of the lake.

To hear my mom tell it, she wasn’t interested in him when they first met, at a dance in town, and she certainly wasn’t looking for a relationship. Having grown up in a village of only 700 people, she wanted to explore the world, not settle down with a guy she met when she was 15. So although they were friendly when they crossed paths over the course of those early summers, the sparks didn’t really fly.

Until the summer of 1971. My mom, by now a nurse in Kingston, ran into my dad at a wedding in Toronto. They each brought a date that day, but it seemingly couldn’t be helped that the two of them ended up deep in conversation all evening. (This did not go over well with the dates, but that’s another story.)

A classic summer romance followed, the two of them meeting up at the lake each weekend from Toronto and Kingston, trying to enjoy every moment before the summer came to an end. That fall, she was moving to Vancouver, and he was finding momentum in his career in Toronto. They parted in September with no firm commitment, but knowing that this was probably…something.

My father was never long on patience, and after months of cross-country romance, he knew that a grand gesture was in order. In the spring of ’72, he flew to Vancouver. He got a great hotel room down on the water and invited my mom for dinner. Mid-meal, there was a knock on the door. It was a delivery from Toronto—full architectural plans for a place of their own on the lake back home. Ostensibly, he was filling her in on what he’d been up to, but the gesture was really an invitation: come home, let’s have a life, here is where our family will be. This proved to be an offer that even my adventure-prone mother, thankfully, could not resist. She came home to their new cottage that summer; they were married in Westport about a year later. I came along not too long after.

This is my favourite cottage love story: two people falling in love with each other, and making plans to share that love in abundance at a little cottage by the lake.

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