By Bob O’Connor
One of my kids went to a small private college where she stood out as one of the few middle-class students among the children of the rich and powerful. When her classmates would suggest spending the winter recess at Aspen or bumming around Europe over the summer, she would remind them that she lived in the real world where vacations were spent filling paint orders at Sherwin-Williams.
Then one afternoon she mentioned the family’s summer home and her roomies pounced: “We thought you were poor, but you have a vacation home!” So my solidly middle-class offspring used Google Earth to show them that our summer getaway looks like “Little House on the Prairie” without all the bells and whistles. “Wow,” they pitied. “You really are poor.”
At 700 square feet, Donald Trump will not be renting the place out as a summer White House, but we like it.
We bought it about 15 years ago because one of our boys was going to school nearby and we figured we’d save a fortune on room and board. Plus, he had a couple of buddies who were willing to pay rent; big mistake! College-age men are not fully developed human beings and they share a lot of traits with sloths and monkeys.
Our little haven became party central for the Southern Tier. I received a call from the local police chief asking if I was aware that they had received many complaints about loud noise and “rowdy” behavior. I feigned ignorance and never let on that I was actually related to one of the scofflaws. I promised that I would have a talk with my tenants and would probably evict them at the end of the semester.
Lucky for us, the beastie boys eventually graduated and we were left with a true fixer-upper. The lesson here is never rent to boys, even if you were present at their birth. Today my wife and I greatly enjoy our Chautauqua getaway. My granddaughters think that nearby Lake Erie is “grandpa’s lake” and all the playgrounds, gazebos and tennis courts in the community are my personal property.
Having a cottage does present certain challenges. We made the mistake of leaving the water on one winter and discovered a second lake in our garage that spring. It seems a small leak had developed in a water line and, over several months, filled our garage with two feet of water.
And why is it the local wildlife thinks they have squatter’s rights when we are away? We’ve had bats in the attic, moles and voles in the lawn and bees in the eaves. The other day I saw a spider the size of a Roomba scurry across the kitchen floor.
Then there are the robins, cardinals and bluebirds. We’ve had nests in our gutters, our chimney and even above the front door. Some mornings, our front lawn looks like the final scene from Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Getting away from the city to be close to nature is all well and good, but I don’t want to actually see nature; I want it to leave me alone.
The good, however, far outweighs the bad. Now that those noisy college kids have moved on, it is a very quiet place. We have nice neighbors and the nearby towns are filled with good restaurants and interesting shops. We are also close to the Chautauqua Institute, though we never go there. I feel the same way about culture as I do nature. It’s nice to know it’s there, but I don’t want to see it.
So, as another summer winds down, we’ll board up the windows, turn off the water and clean out the fridge. We will have a few more campfires (I use Duraflame logs) and take a few more walks along the lakeshore. The college kids are now returning to the nearby town. Just in case anyone asks, we will not be renting the place out.