Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever by Mary Roulette February 1995 The wagon wheel chandelier was the first thing we saw when we walked into the great room of the cabin, and we were not sure whether we loved it or hated it. The year was 1995 and the vacation home advertisement in Newsday read so well, at the time anyway—a three bedroom log cabin on the water in Mattituck with a three hundred foot catwalk connecting to a dock offering a water paradise gateway to the Long Island Sound. Upon reading the ad, we were in LL Bean Heaven. It was rustic, the way we liked life in 1995, with plank wood floors that creaked loudly when you walked on them, an open stone fireplace equipped with mounted antlers, circa 1918, stamped by the still thriving New York Athletic Club. With an original 1937 galley kitchen boasting a shiny pink formica countertop and a subway tile bathroom (also circa 1937), knotty pine paneling throughout, solid bunk beds in one of the extra bedrooms, an outhouse, and an antiquated guest cottage with an outside shower, what more could we ask for? “Sold” was our immediate reaction, and we had not looked back, at least not until recently…. The introduction to life on the North Fork of Long Island that commenced for us in February 1995 was the beginning of a quintessential journey, an unexpected positive life altering experience. As often as our lives would allow it, we reveled in the bucolic drive down Main Road to Mattituck adorned with fields of daintily dangling grapevines, the palm trees of the East End of Long Island. With the 1990’s upon us, youth on our side, parents alive and relatively healthy, and our immediate young family in tow, we christened our comfortable purchase of North Fork real estate with family parties, holiday dinners, and many memorable casual get togethers. Most of these momentous affairs culminated with alcohol aroused promises to repeat the good time very soon; longer than average reassuring good bye hugs practically guaranteed the commitment. No two weekends in Mattituck are alike. Some are festive, socially fueled performances. Others begin, develop, and conclude with hedonistic hibernation. We are no longer outliers here. Like the meticulous bundling of an osprey nest, our interests and imaginations are nurtured with each visit. Living life to the fullest comes naturally to us whenever we are out in Mattituck. The annual Mattituck Strawberry festival with its electrifying fireworks display, lazy summer afternoons at Veterans’ Beach, the transformation of the Mattituck A&P into Walbaums, the revitalization of quaint Love Lane, the intoxicating trips to the myriad North Fork wineries, the memorable Mattituck Fire Department 100th Anniversary celebration on September 8, 2007, the putridly pleasant waft of low tide, and the annual Greenport Maritime Festival, all unassumingly convinced us that our 1995 “Sold” decision was one of the best decisions we ever made. 2011 or Thereabouts After a decade and a half of decorating decline, our once idyllic log cabin is pining for a well-deserved Pottery Barn makeover. Clearly, the painfully outdated furnishings of our rustic cabin have been insulated for so many years due to their initial charm compounded by our action packed existence while enjoying the magic of the North Fork. This convenient state of oblivion has in recent times taken a turn for the worse, primarily due to the sobering effects of an inevitable medical condition known as the onset of old age. The weekend getaway venue has changed, along with our anticipatory AARP needs and our “been there/done that” family dynamics. Sadly, we have eulogized and buried three of our four parents. The padded diaper bags of the 90’s have been replaced by padded Mac notebook carrying bags. 529 conversations have segued into 401K conversations. The innocent thrill of keeping a captured turtle overnight in a spackle bucket is an ethereal delight of the past. It is evident the time has come to revisit our surroundings and how they relate to the future. Summer 2012 A senior spark ignites. I come to terms with the realization that I am ready to replace character with convenience. Similar to the Newsday advertisement in 1995, the ad for the Cutchogue cottage in the early summer of 2012 is enticing—completely renovated three bedroom cottage on the water with central air, master bedroom with bath and a two car garage. Prepared to cross swords, I read the ad to my husband who is destined never to recover from the Mattituck fever that struck him in 1995. As expected, his reaction is one of skepticism laced with denial, as he responds: “We can make this place work. We can breathe new life into it. We owe it the chance.” In an effort of open-mindedness, I weakly respond: “Maybe.” October 29, 2012 Despite days of severe weather warnings of the onset of a hurricane coined “the perfect storm”, we decide to drive to Mattituck to brave the inclement rain in our waterfront cabin. The drive is rough with winds gusting at us from all angles and a driving torrential rain teams down on our SUV as though we were driving through a carwash at forty miles per hour. Shortly upon arrival, I concede to white knuckle exhaustion and the lack of power and selfishly fall asleep before the worst of the storm hits. October 30, 2012 My husband, the early riser, takes a drive to view the destruction from the storm slowly returning home to report his findings to me. “You won’t believe it—Claudios is under water, there is flooding everywhere, huge trees uprooted, no stores open, no traffic lights…..By the way, the house in Cutchogue you were interested in last summer has a tree through its roof and a twenty- five foot boat on its front lawn. The house took a beating.” Groggily, while looking at the particle board pieces on the kitchen floor that have flaked out of the bottom of the seventy five year-old countertop, I try to process the extent of the devastation he is describing. Simultaneously, we look out at our yard which is scattered with tree limbs and debris, our biggest casualty from the storm of the century. Again, he says: “We can make this place work. We can breathe new life into it. We owe it the chance.” This time, I respond: “Definitely.” MR: July 25, 2013