The things that go
bump in the night
are us

John Mahoney

ever, in my most crazed fantasies, did I ever think I would lay me down to sleep in a tin box. But last year, in a moment of mid-summer abandon, Jane and I bought a used 24-foot camper trailer to be our summer home.

We were on the tail-end of a splendid week's vacation at Lake Seymour, a clean and lovely lake in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, and we weren't ready to go back to our log cabin homestead in Canada.

Mergansers on patrol, Lake Seymour, Morgan, Vermont

"I wish we had a camp here," sighed my spouse, who just four years previously had almost gone bonkers from boredom when we rented a cottage a few hundred feet down the shore. "I'm not ready to leave."

I was having the same secret thoughts but never reckoned she'd buy into them. Two lots down, the owners had torn down their ancient camp, and the land was looking unkempt and ragged. It needed a lover, or two.

Fastforward: I managed to rent the lot, found a used camper trailer, had it hauled to the lake, and Jane and I set up weekend housekeeping. How quickly life moves, sometimes. And how attitudes can change.

Thankfully, she settled in and learned to laze away a hot summer day. Which left me free to do the same. In the shade. With book and beer at hand, feeding body and soul. You don't get much closer to paradise in this life, Bob.

But, inside our new summer home -- hereinafter called the tin box -- you do get closer. And, even if you've been together through thick and thin for 37 years, you must learn new coping strategies to survive this closeness, this unavoidable togetherness. Especially in the dark, or when it rains.

Let me explain.

If you exit the tiny combined toilet-shower-tooth brushing place with lack of grace you may well bash the cook person tending the compact gas range.

If you yank open the narrow wall closet you may thump the person getting a cold beer from the compact fridge.

If you thrash about in the two-person bed -- notice I do not call it a double bed -- you may cause your bed companion to mash his/her face into the unyielding ersatz wood paneling of the tin box.

If you are the person hauling all the water from the spring up the road, you must learn not to resent every flush of the toilet, every prolonged tooth brush rinsing. No, you must learn to accept your lot, like other beasts of burden.

When you undress, hang it up or bag it for the wash -- get it out from underfoot and out of sight. There is little room for a summer's worth of the NY Sunday Times -- or a week's inventory of dead beer cans.

But these are nothings.

Last week our fine neighbors took our tribe -- sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, us -- for a sunset ride around the lake on their spacious pontoon boat. The water at the shallow east end was like glass.

For the first time in our lives we all saw a mother loon and her two hatchlings gliding near shore. The male that I had photographed five years ago was out in the middle of the lake, getting supper. The Mad Hammerer had long ago packed up and disappeared. There were no annoying seadoos abroad. I thought: "We are well and truly blessed. It can't get much better than this."

A parting thought -- when we bought the tin box the last thing the former owner said was: "Don't forget to shut the roof vents when you leave for home. You'll regret it if you do."

How right he was.

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Copyright © John Mahoney 1996 /Log Cabin Chronicles/8.96