September 17, 2014
At the tender age of 17, I helped my dad build his retirement house.
It’s a beautiful, world-class cottage nestled on South Pender Island, the southernmost of the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. It’s one of the most gorgeous places in the world. My parents go out for a few weeks at a time three or four times a year, and my Portland-based sister and her fiance head up anytime they have a three-day weekend.
The island itself is a quiet place with only a few thousand year-round residents. It’s overflowing with buttery names: Poets Cove. Hope Bay. Magic Lake. Gowlland Point. Mount Norman. Mortimer Spit. Gah! It’s enough to drive you mad.
Name your average snotty teenager who wants to spend a month of his valuable summer building a cabin thousands of miles from home. That’s right — you can’t. And yet, in the summer of 2007, there I was helping peg together this wonderful retreat. (Of course, I don’t recall being given the chance to not work on it, but that’s how having parents works, right?)
I spent a few weeks with my dad assembling the frame, and then a few more weeks the following year working on building a deck and some house framing. The Christmas and New Year’s of 2009-2010 saw the Gaterud clan gathering for the first all-family event in the cottage. “I could get used to this,” I thought.
And then, for reasons financial and banal, four years passed and I didn’t return to the island. “Oh, you have to get out to Pender,” my sister would say. “Oh, we just spent the day lounging on the deck with the dogs,” my parents reported often. “It’s been just beautiful here,” my dad said recently. “Two weeks of sun and 65-degree temps. Just perfect.” You can imagine the gradual wearing-down of my patience with these glowing reports, especially during the depths of a Minnesota November. “Glad it was nice,” I’d say through gritted teeth.
Now, at long last, I get to return to the house I helped build for my first vacation at the family retreat. I’ll be out all next week visiting my sister in Portland for a few days before my friend Ellie and I steal her car and drive up to Pender. I shall be drinking Canadian beer and eating Dare Maple Leafs in the middle of a forested island. The forecast is looking good for sun. I can’t check my email (Canadian roaming, data plans — sorry! It’s expensive!), so I’ll be unplugged — a joyous development written about elsewhere on the Peepshow. I’ll probably go kayaking and encounter some otters.
If that’s not delayed gratification, I don’t know what is. Adieu!