Tanya Enberg: Unexpected Mother


Surviving Small Spaces: The Family Edition

Or How Two Adults, A Toddler, And A Dog Vacationed In a Tiny One-Room Cottage

Or How Two Adults, A Toddler, And A Dog Vacationed In a Tiny One-Room Cottage

“I’ll try it for a day or two, but I doubt I’ll last a week,” I said to my husband.

We’d just arrived, along with our two-year-old son and Maggie-the-dog, to a teeny tiny Georgian Bay cottage we’d rented for a week.

The cottage was 500-square-feet, snuggled into the aptly named Snug Harbour.

Everything was tucked neatly into one square room, all except the bathroom, which was outside, and a far smaller bunkie, where my son and I slept.

But we were in glorious Georgian Bay and I should’ve been toppling over with giddy exclamation marks!

I was not.

After dissecting the premises, we learned there was no safe way to reach the water to go for a dip.

The cottage, perched high on a craggy rock formation, was certainly big on drama, for other than the boating dock, every point leading to the water’s edge snaked down from a vertical drop.

There is something about vertical drops and two-year-olds that just don’t mix. Oh, yeah . . . the potential for injury or death . . . that’s it!

I looked around and couldn’t imagine staying.

What I did imagine was the unimaginable—our son falling off a cliff or wiping out and hitting his head on some rugged piece of granite or teetering into the rocky water below.

As I contemplated the cramped and potentially dangerous getaway that stretched out before us, I could summon up only one descriptive—stress.

What happened next, however, was surprising and nothing short of spectacular. In fact, I had some of the best times I’ve ever spent with my family.

We puttered around in the motorboat and explored the water, wandered the Pancake Islands, and spent many lazy afternoons at quiet, tucked away beaches accessible only by boat.

From our vantage point we watched a pair of minks scoot by and a family of oily otters dive elegantly under water.

We hiked the stunning Franklin Island, along with the postcard-perfect Snug Harbour Lighthouse, and picked wild blueberries. We leisurely barbecued steak and perfectly salted garlic potatoes and took the boat out to get ice cream cones that melted and dripped down our chins.

We canoed to the marina for dinner one night and drank wonderful wine and made wonderful toasts.

When our son napped, my husband enjoyed good cigars and fished. I read dusty cottage books and magazinesa collection of short stories by Alice Munro, The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks, and old copies of The Atlantic—until my eyes grew heavy and dropped away from the pages and settled into breezy afternoon slumbers.

We snuggled and laughed and watched the sun dip each night, brushing the sky with brilliant shades of orange and red, and in the morning we ate stacks of pancakes slathered in maple syrup.

The days at once lingered and travelled too fast.

As time went on, we felt refreshed and happy, our spirits lifted by the beautiful magic of Georgian Bay.

In that cottage, we had the space to eat, drink, think, and be.

We had each other; we had everything we needed.

A week together there wasn’t long enough.

“I don’t want to leave. Maybe we could just stay,” I said sadly, as we packed our belongings, knowing that we couldn’t, and that soon again our lives would become busy and crowded, leaving us to wonder how we were ever going to fit it all in.

Want to read more by Tanya Enberg? Try these! "Would You Dare to Camp with a Toddler? Here's How," "Why Leaving the Kids Behind on Your Next Trip is a Great Idea," and "Top Canadian Tourist Attractions to Add to Your Big Bucket List."