A simple family affair, with benefits

For those of us who live in Vancouver, B.C. or its suburbs, we learn to become friends with rain so that we can enjoy and appreciate our life on the coast. But when holiday time comes around many of us want to escape to the sultry summer temperatures of the Interior – land of my favourite juicy Bing cherries and plump freestone peaches. And so, when my father in the early 1970s began talking about buying property and building a family cottage in that area and asking if his adult children, who by now had families of their own would be interested in becoming shareholders – it was a no-brainer for me.

But not for my spouse! He objected to “having to go on holidays to the same place every year” – a common complaint when considering vacation home ownership. But I held fast!  Eventually, my spouse relented. So together with my parents and various siblings (including in-laws), our cottage was built at Twin Lakes, 20 km south-west of Penticton, B.C. Although somewhat simple and rugged, it provided all the needs a young and energetic family would want, from hot showers to helpful appliances for preparing endless meals for hungry kids!

Of course, it didn’t hurt that I had heard of – and used it as a point of argument – Ruth Graham, wife of Billy Graham, taking matters in her own hands some years back in a similar situation. She compiled plans for building a mountain home, even getting a loan and buying property when Billy was in California, because she had become tired of their home being overrun by curious tourists! And while my reason for being firm about a share in the family cottage seemed different from Ruth’s need for a mountain home, it really wasn’t. Having come from and married into a busy and large family, while also shouldering a sense of community responsibility, I too was longing for a quiet and restful home away from home.

Gifts from the cottage

While there are many benefits to owning a cottage, the following three have been the most rewarding for me.

Stimulated a sense of adventure. My father suggested building the cottage at Twin Lake because it was not only away from the hustle and bustle of Penticton, but the surrounding areas had lots to offer families such as swimming, fishing and tubing in the summer, sledding, skating and skiing in the winter as well as hiking and biking in the spring and fall. Many of the activities led to adventures we later loved to recall, especially the time our family of six arrived at midnight to a completely snowed-in cottage! We had no choice but to turn the car-top carrier upside down, fill it with our groceries and overnight items and slide precariously down the steep hill leading to the front door. I will never forget the echo of our laughter under the crisp, clear and starry night sky!

Encouraged sharing fun with relatives and friends. As the children grew they wanted to share their cottage fun with cousins and friends. So we often made room for an additional plate or two at the table and had on hand a few extra foamies we could easily toss on the floor when needed.  Life at the cottage had a freeness about it that is hard to put into words. Over time we played more games and read more books than we would have at home. A highlight during spring break was to invite the most comical uncle because he would do his most amusing magic show.  And all out of a hat yet too!

Nurtured my soul. I believe the world at large is too much with us in our everyday life. And even more so now with all our modern technology keeping us connected and updated at a click of a button. Coming to the cottage allowed us to drop our community roles and social masks and we became an island unto ourselves . . . for a time. The unspoken criteria for a comfortable holiday was to relax and be ourselves. For myself, because I have been surrounded all of my life by many people and consequently lots of activity, I have an ongoing need for unhurried living. I try to create room for developing a meditative and reflective life.  The quietness of the cottage, the wildlife grazing calmly within a few feet of our windows and the natural beauty changing with the seasons repeatedly nourishes my spirit.   

And at those times I am profoundly grateful to our Creator.


  • Arlene Van Hove

    Arlene Van Hove is a therapist, a mother of four adult children and a grandmother to an ever-increasing brood of delightful grandchildren. She also belongs to the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, a subsidiary of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which raises funds for grandmothers who are raising the next generation in countries devastated by the Aids epidemic.As a writer Arlene hopes to provide a comforting voice for all those who struggle with the complexity of life. At the same time, she believes one of the roles of a columnist is to unflinchingly challenge 'the map when it no longer fits the ground.' And while she has less advice for others as she herself is aging, she hopes her columns will encourage her readers to develop questions and answers for themselves that continue to be worth asking and answering in the 21st Century. She is a member of the Fleetwood CRC in Surrey, B.

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