By Beverley Cunningham

Sam sank into the Muskoka chair and uttered a deep sigh. What a day, he reflected. It was a small event, a glorious celebration. A happy tear danced down his wrinkled cheek and disappeared in the crook of his smile. The music echoed on and he surmised that the wedding party would dance into the wee hours of the morning.

Today, Katie lived her dream of a lakeside wedding, and it was truly more than she imagined. The sun shone and a gentle wind tickled her shoulders as she walked down the moss-laden flagstone “aisle.” Even the usually bothersome bugs seemed to accommodate – keeping to themselves in the trees and shrubs – understanding that this was a special day.

When Sam and Martha built the place decades ago, it was just a tiny cabin on a densely wooded lot. Every year, they tackled a new project, enhancing the cottage and grounds. And when Sam’s old back grew too tired to labour in the heat and humidity, his son, Robert, and then his grandson, Alex, took over, carrying on the tradition of a summer project. Now the family retreat could comfortably sleep 20 and tonight it was bulging at its seams, but no one seemed to care. All that mattered was that everyone who mattered was here, together, toasting to the future of this wonderful young couple.

Sam thought back on this remarkable day. His favourite moment was when Colin removed the veil covering Katie’s face and kissed her gently. The entire group jumped up whooping and hollering and … well you can’t do that in a church! Even so, Sam knew that God was present and blessing this union, along with Pastor Paul.

Then there was the wedding feast with all the toasting, joking, and of course, more kissing. Katie’s father, Alex, gave a toast to welcome Colin into the family.

“Colin, my boy, we’re so happy for you and our dear Katie, but there’s something you have to know. Our family has a very unique wedding night tradition to uphold here at the lake. It started way back in the 1930s by Katie’s great-grandfather, Sam McNeil. As the story goes … on Sam and Martha’s first night at the lake, a big black bear prowled around the cottage and shook these very walls to their foundation. Martha was so terrified, she wouldn’t let go of Sam all night long. In the morning, the bear was nowhere in sight and all was well with the world. Afterward, Sam referred to Martha’s embrace as the ‘honeymoon hold: sweetly and tightly and ever so lightly!’ He said that if you sleep and awake entwined in each other’s arms, you are destined for a long and happy marriage, just like him and Great-grandma Martha.”

Sam chuckled and thought to himself: God bless those kids for keeping his tradition alive. If they only knew that he was the one shaking the cottage walls! He wanted to be sure Martha cuddled close!

Sam was also deeply touched by Josh’s toast. Katie’s younger brother, usually shy, was unexpectedly expressive: “Please raise your glass in a toast to my great-grandfather, the man who made all this possible” he said. “Papa Sam was a true pioneer who fell in love with these waters and this land. This Lakehouse is a special place that has bonded our family – and created extraordinary love that is now passed on to you, Katie and Colin.”

Grandpa Rob continued reminiscing: “I chuckle thinking about the early days here. Remember the day Papa Sam chased the moose out of Grandma’s sunflowers? And the summer he caught the 30 pound muskie? And the afternoon we arrived at the cottage early and caught him and Grandma skinny-dipping? And we had to keep a straight face! I couldn’t have had better parents. I only wish they could be here to celebrate with us today. They would have loved this.

Old Sam smiled to himself. If Robert only knew! They had never left this land and wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

Sam sank into his chair deeply fulfilled knowing that his family was still closely connected to the land, the lakes and to each other.

So late at night when the loons are calling, the wind is whistling and the Muskoka chairs start creaking on the dock, relax. It’s just Sam sitting there with Martha, reflecting on the day and memories of their beloved Lakehouse.

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