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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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cottage adventure

As I've mentioned before, Jeff and I had planned another trip to the cottage this past weekend, this time with my sister and her family. Sara (6) and Annie (3) were both super-excited; Sara had apparently packed her knapsack a week in advance and had also created a special "Welcome" sign to hang on the cottage door. We left our cars in the parking lot and took a few minutes to put on our heavier winter gear. Bundled up, I went over to where Annie and Sara were still waiting inside the car and waved. Annie hesitated before asking, "Are you Mommy or Auntie Debbie?" She couldn't tell, my face was so covered up. :-)

The plan was for us to pull Annie and Sara on sleds across the frozen lake along with our supplies, and also carry backpacks. Warned by the slush experience last weekend, we decided to opt for trying the trek with just our boots...if needed, we could switch to snowshoes or skis. As we headed across, however, we found conditions worse than the weekend before. There was more slush, making it extremely difficult to pull sleds loaded with supplies and children. Annie fell out of the sled I was pulling once as I tried to pull the sled out of the slushy ice. She just lay there, wrapped in blankets and layers of clothing, patiently waiting for me to pick her up (I felt like an INCREDIBLY BAD AUNT!). Sara and Annie were VERY good the whole trip despite the biting cold wind and interminably slow progress.

After about ten minutes of puffing and panting, straining against the ropes that dragged the sled behind me, I knew that there was no way I could possibly make it across the ice all the way to the cottage. More and more slush seemed to be freezing on the bottom of the sled at each step. I called out to Jeff, who was pretty far ahead, but he didn't hear me.

Very soon after, I heard a scream from behind. I turned around just as I heard Ruth yell, "I'm going through!!" My heart did a huge flipflop and I saw her in the ice; one leg had gone through all the way up to her hip. She struggled against the weight of her heavy backpack, trying to get out; fortunately she had been holding ski poles, which helped break her falling through even more. As Kaarel went over to help her, I turned back and screamed for Jeff as loud as I could. To my immense relief, I saw him turn and start to head back.

I told Annie (who was sitting absolutely still in the sled, eyes wide) to stay in the sled and stumbled through the slush back toward Kaarel and Ruth. I felt like I was in one of the nightmares where you're trying to run, but you feel as if your legs are caught in molasses. What if the ice broke some more and Ruth fell all the way through? What if Kaarel started to go through while helping her?

Ruth got out, but her entire leg and boot was soaked through with ice-water. Ruth and I headed back to car to get her some dry clothes. Sara and Annie didn't seem to fully understand what had happened.

"Are you okay, Mommy?" Sara asked in a quavering voice.

Ruth tried to give a cheerful smile. "Yes, Sara, I'm just a little cold."

Jeff and Kaarel wanted to try to make it all the way to the cottage with the girls, and said they would turn back if it got too difficult. They ended up turning back after about twenty minutes. Ruth and I were much relieved, since we realized that we would have to be crossing the lake in the darkness otherwise...a scary thought, considering the circumstances.

Eventually we all made it back to the car, exhausted and immensely disappointed. Ruth's leg had gone completely numb by this time. She had to wait for her pant leg to defrost before she could get changed into dry clothes; the water-soaked material had frozen solid (!). I couldn't help but think how lucky we were that the accident had happened before we were still in the bay, rather than out on the lake where we would have had no choice but to continue to the cottage. I also couldn't help but think...what if it had been one of the girls?

Rather than drive back to Toronto, we all decided to find a place to stay. And not just -any- place; we deserved to treat ourselves to something a bit nicer (we all needed it!). We ended up booking a luxury suite at the Deerhurst, one of the top-ranked resorts in Ontario. Two bedrooms connected by a central area, two fireplaces, jacuzzi, full kitchen, huge living room/dining room area. Sara was delighted by the jacuzzi; she had stripped off all her clothes and was running around naked and laughing within a few minutes while the tub filled with hot water. We had a full stereo system, two bathrooms, two TVs, VCR, dishwasher, washer and dryer. We spent the weekend tobogganning, skating, snow tubing, swimming, hot tubbing, watching rented movies, snoozing, doing crafts and playing games in front of the fire. We cooked all our meals in the suite; we already had bought the groceries.

So the weekend didn't turn out so poorly after all. I will, however, be somewhat more suspicious of the ice from now.. I think we got complacent because we had made the crossing for so many winters with no mishap. We were lucky...and will be much more cautious in the future.

Today's Blatherpics:
1. Sara and Annie wait to be pulled across the frozen lake in sleds.

2. Our suite was on the 3rd floor of this Deerhurst Resort building.

3. Kaarel and Annie have a tea party.

4. View from part of the living room.

5. Sara in the pool.

6. Enjoying the hot tub in the public swimming area.

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