The silence is what I listen for, if that makes any sense. Driving north, it’s not until the rock cuts north of Gravenhurst that I even believe this is possible, given the chaos and noise I’ve left behind in Toronto. It’s not just the traffic and the construction. My ears are still ringing from the constant pandemonium of a large family with kids coming and going, borrowing cars, cooking, watching TV, eating—cooking and eating again.
Waking up the next morning with just the songbirds and the lapping water of lake catching my attention, I know I’m not dreaming. I’ve arrived. It’s a perfectly silent morning in Muskoka except for the sounds of nature…and a lot of clattering… clattering in my kitchen?
Mice perhaps? I hear a pan being placed on the stove. Must be really large (and smart) mice. Okay, now I smell coffee. If this is an intruder, he must really be making himself at home.
I stumble somewhat downstairs (yes, there’s a staircase in our cottage, sort of a wrap-around dog’s hind leg affair that insurance companies use as an excuse to “not insure”). It’s 6.45 am and I’m greeted by a vision in my kitchen that truly only a mother could love.
He’s tall, tanned, shaggy, with half a beard and bleached blond hair; jeans cut off between the ankles and the knees (almost even), a lumberjack shirt and hiking boots that look like they might have walked in on their own. He does look clean—and happy. It’s our 23-year-old son, literally home from the forest. A carton of eggs and a package of bacon had been emptied into the frying pan and there’s enough coffee in the pot to hold a community meeting.
“Hi mom,” he announces cheerily. “I just finished taking a group of kids out on a canoe trip—heading out later this morning with another group . But I wanted to come by and make you breakfast first.”
He then explains that over the years, there’s been more than one occasion when he and several close friends (like, over a dozen) have descended on the place, partied into the night, and then made their way into the kitchen the next morning as they followed their noses to the source of fresh coffee and usually pancakes.
“I always associate the smell of coffee with waking up here and knowing that you’re in the kitchen making breakfast,” he explains, “so I wanted to give you back the experience.”
Like Santa Clause, he did what he came to do and turned to leave before I’d finished my second cup—all before 8 am. All he left behind was a pile of eggshells and evidence that his jeans had been trimmed back another couple of inches, possibly in an attempt to even them out.
Despite the fact I wasn’t intending to get up at the crack of dawn, and I don’t usually eat 6 eggs for breakfast, it was a very touching moment. I think back on it every time I’ve woken since to the silence—recalled the morning he was standing in my kitchen, spatula in hand—and missed (okay, more than a little bit) those delightful sounds of family chaos and continuous motion.