The roads are no longer posted. The snow is almost gone, except in the deepest woods. It must be time to open camp. Opening camp and closing camp in Maine are events along a spectrum that swings from spring to fall, warm to chilly and happy to sad.

My dad, in either season, would say, “Lots more fun opening than closing.” If he said it while we were opening, we’d smile and laugh. If he said it while closing, my mom would say, “Oh, think of the wonderful times we will have next year.”

My husband and I were fortunate that we got to open and close three camps, all within a half-mile of each other. As we grew up, we helped with his mom’s and my parents’ camps, and then when our youngest child turned 1, we bought our own place to add to the responsibilities. We actually got pretty good at this opening and closing thing. I have a system now, complete with plastic totes and lists of just what to do. I wash windows in the spring and fold linens in the fall.

Both events have their blessings, but in the spring, when we open our camp, I take a moment and celebrate my husband’s Great-Aunt Lila.

In 1917 my husband’s great-great-grandfather built a camp on the shores of Sebec Lake, a beautiful spot with a beach and a deep spring around the point where he could moor his boat, the Ida Jane. He was the proud father of one son (my husband’s great-grandfather) and three daughters.

Everyone enjoyed the lake and the beach, but around 1936, my husband’s great-grandmother decided she really didn’t want to spend each summer bunking in with her three sisters-in-law and their families and asked for a bit more space. She asked her husband if they could build their own spot next door, which they did. And more wonderful memories ensued.

When I entered the family in 1975, my mother-in-law owned her grandparents’ camp, and the three great-aunts had the camp next door. Aunt Lila was the youngest aunt by quite a few years. An early widow, she took on the responsibility of bringing her elder sisters out each summer.

She would load up her car with food, clothes and any other supplies necessary and would make the drive to the lake. Upon arriving, she would exit the car, leave everything in it and go placidly down to the shore and just sit in an Adirondack chair. She might see a loon, she might enjoy a sunset, but she definitely just enjoyed being there. Unloading the car, washing windows, chasing out the mice – all that could wait. She took a moment or moments to savor the experience.

So tonight when we arrived to open, I left everything in the car and wandered down to our shore. I brushed off a chair that got left out in October and just sat down. My husband said, “Remembering Aunt Lila?”

I smiled and said yes.

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