It’s Tra­di­tion

This an­nual sis­ters’ get-to­gether is a sum­mer­time sta­ple

Our Canada - - Features - by Mar­i­lyn Martell,

My sis­ters Linda, He­len and I share a won­der­ful tra­di­tion—an an­nual trip to the seashore. Liv­ing in dif­fer­ent parts of our beau­ti­ful prov­ince, we do not get to see each other of­ten, so our yearly beach­side ad­ven­tures are spe­cial. They take us back to our child­hood along the shores of Bras d’or Lake and sim­pler times. We used to swim in the lake, cook mus­sels in a rusty tin can over a bon­fire and share ghost sto­ries and sin­ga­longs un­der starry skies.

We still try to in­clude as many bon­fires as pos­si­ble on our trips, where sto­ries of long ago are shared as we rem­i­nisce by the fire. Al­though nowa­days we may strug­gle to gather drift­wood, we se­niors are not de­terred!

When we were younger and busy rais­ing our chil­dren, we made spe­cial ef­forts to visit each other. Sum­mer va­ca­tions and March break usu­ally in­volved one or more of us trav­el­ling, chil­dren in tow. We wanted the cousins to get to know one another and be­come friends.

Even­tu­ally, chil­dren leave home to work and cre­ate lives of their own. Now, we smile when we re­al­ize that they con­tinue to nur­ture their fam­ily bond—via Face­book.

Since I am the el­dest, my sis­ters of­ten de­fer to me, let­ting me think I’m “the boss.” They read­ily agreed to my sug­ges­tion that we should have a yearly get-to­gether with just us, the sis­ters. It started with a week­end spent at a bor­rowed cot­tage, and we were in­stantly hooked on this type of ad­ven­ture. At first, we rented cot­tages in dif­fer­ent parts of the prov­ince, and even­tu­ally our week­ends blos­somed into an en­tire week each sum­mer.

Our yearly ad­ven­tures be­gan in 1998, but it was in 2002 while stay­ing in River John, N.S., that we dis­cov­ered Rush­tons Beach Pro­vin­cial Park. When­ever we were to­gether, we sought that per­fect beach, where we could stroll, swim, en­joy spec­tac­u­lar sun­sets and have beach fires. Rush­tons pro­vides that per­fect spot. We have stayed at the same lo­cal cot­tages for the past 14 years. Sum­mer 2018 will mark our 21st year of sis­terly sum­mer ad­ven­tures.

We plan and look for­ward to our trip all year. Re­spect­ing tra­di­tion is a big part of our time to­gether. We now have com­put­er­ized lists of sup­plies, gro­ceries, restau­rants and even meals that are

re­peated yearly. Each of us brings a spe­cific skill set. For ex­am­ple, one or­ga­nizes while another one cooks.

On our very first sis­ters’ week­end, my daugh­ter pre­pared gift bags for each of us as a sur­prise. The bags con­tained items that she felt were spe­cific to each of us. She in­cluded things such as favourite can­dies and T-shirts with ap­pro­pri­ate lo­gos. They were such fun to open that we agreed to con­tinue the tra­di­tion. For the first few years, we drew names and pre­pared goodie bags for each other. How­ever, my sis­ters soon in­formed me that they were less than en­thu­si­as­tic about shop­ping for the gifts, whereas shop­ping is a sheer plea­sure for me. So, I de­cided to pre­pare goodie bags for them ev­ery year. It’s such fun to search for just the right gifts, then write hints that de­scribe the func­tion of each item, which they must de­ci­pher be­fore un­wrap­ping each one. Some gifts are cho­sen be­cause I know they will link us to our shared pasts, bring to mind the mem­ory of a loved one, or just plain tickle their fancy.

As the 20th year of our sis­ter so­journs ap­proached, I knew I wanted to cre­ate a unique re­mem­brance of these trea­sured times. The idea of a photo quilt blos­somed, and with the help of a dear friend who is a tal­ented quil­ter, it came to fruition. The fab­rics cho­sen in­clude one that rep­re­sents foot­prints in the sand, sand dol­lars, beach glass and in­cludes a poem I wrote for them. We use them to make quilt-tents with our grand­ba­bies, but the mem­o­ries are ours alone.

Ev­ery year we also en­joy spend­ing time ex­plor­ing lo­cally, as well as re­vis­it­ing favourite haunts, shops, restau­rants and, of course, beaches. While we are all avid sea glunkers (sea glass hunters), search­ing for that trea­sured piece of beach glass, spend­ing time to­gether is our prime source of joy. n

Clock­wise from far left: Bon­fire on the beach; sea­side sis­ters (from left: Linda, He­len, Mar­i­lyn) in 1956; Mar­i­lyn, Linda and He­len in 2004; the poem Mar­i­lyn wrote for her sis­ters; photo quilts.

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