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RUSSELL WANGERSKY: Summertime, summer tides

Holiday cabins, Eastport, N.L., Aug. 11. —
Holiday cabins, Eastport, N.L., Aug. 11. — Russell Wangersky/SaltWire Network

The tide comes in, the tide goes out.

Friday afternoon, and it’s coming in.

There are parking spaces next to each of the cabins, small SUVs backing in, their back hatches yawning wide like steamed clams, disgorging swimming pool noodles and coolers on wheels and knots of sweaty car-worn children. The parents are checking out their small cabins while the kids press faces and bodies against the chain link fence around the pool.

There’s a family of six in one cabin — a single bedroom with a hide-a-bed in the living room — and everyone is staking their turf. Someone shouts “I want to sleep under the table!”

A toddler has collected all of the plastic trucks from the sandbox and has them parked in a line, facing outwards, under the deck in front of his family’s cabin. “Not fixed yet,” he intones quietly, under his breath. “Not fixed yet.”

Big clouds are scudding by quickly overhead, and it’s cool when their shadow falls over you, hot again the instant they pass. The air smells like humidity and cut grass and, when it huffs out from inside the cabin, lemon-scented from aggressive cleaning products.

The small shallow end of the pool is packed tight with squirming, shrieking children; on the other side of the buoy line, it’s calmer, the swimmers more spread out. All of the deck chairs are full, their occupants splayed out and sun-stupid. With their eyes closed, faces turned skyward, you don’t need much imagination to think of the bright red they are seeing on the insides of their eyelids.

Swimmers tire, barbecues are lit, sunscreen is squirted and re-smeared.

The early evening rings with the call of the deck-bound parent: “Brayden! Brayden! Bray-den! Bray-den!”

There’s a family of six in one cabin — a single bedroom with a hide-a-bed in the living room — and everyone is staking their turf. Someone shouts “I want to sleep under the table!”

As twilight falls, kids who’ve never met before Friday night have coalesced into a hide-and-seek game, working together to get to the play fort that’s home base. By Saturday night, they’re like old friends.

There’s a shared bonfire by the office, sparks snapping and jumping from sappy split wood, the smoke sometimes blowing back across the semi-circle of fire watchers. Coughing rises, abates.

Then it’s dark enough to play spotlight. Home base stays the same as it was for hide-and-seek, but now the bright white of LED flashlights sweeps across the cabin fronts, and it’s hard not to have flashes of old war movies flit through your head.

One small girl keeps getting caught. “Why do I always get caught first?” she asks, but no one tells her.

It’s easy, though: she doesn’t seem to remember that she’s wearing sneakers with bright blue lights in the heels that flash with every footfall. She’s completely failed camouflage.

Excited voices rise and fall. Small rushes of children come around cabin corners, staying low, looking for their spotlight-toting hunters. Shrieks. Laughter. Then, crying.

One child rushes over with news: “You got to come, Mom. One of the kids was hiding on the ground and Ronnie stepped on his head! His head’s hurt!”

“Does the kid have parents?”

“They’re in their cabin.”

“Well, go get them instead, OK?”

The kids get bundled inside soon after, and after the echoes subside, parents nudge out into the deck chairs, beers and vodka coolers in hand, slapping offhandedly at the mosquitoes. Adult voices blend into a single constant murmur, broken only by the occasional squeak of the front doors and the particular clink of empty bottles sliding back into cardboard cases.

Eventually, bed beckons.

The sheets and pillowcases are rough and line-hung, still smelling of outdoors, and the curtains billow in the night wind.

Later, thunder picks at the windows.

Sunday morning, and everyone else is still asleep. There's a pink ride-on toy, batteries failing, issuing a short soft whisper of music before falling silent, then starting over again from the beginning, like automated decades of the rosary.

The tide, about to change.

And when it does, things happen quickly.

Kids wake and find themselves belted into car seats. Luggage rafts out the doors, trunks fill, gravel crunches under tires, and everyone’s gone. A flip-flop’s left behind on the walkway.

Beds are stripped, linens washed and hung on the clothesline, the round bellies of the fitted bottom sheets filling with wind. The empties are collected, the lemon cleanser at the ready to wash away any remaining stain.

It’s already hard to remember what it was like.

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 36 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at — Twitter: @wangersky.


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