I live in Edmonton, a dusty, but frantic, prairie city in the middle of Oil Country, Canada’s Texas. We holiday in Naramata, a hippy village perched on the east bank of Okanagan Lake in beautiful British Columbia. Naramata sparkles with a patchwork of vineyards, fruit orchards, and the clear water below. My youngest son, age 11, announces: “this place has a nice view, Mom!” And so it does.
Naramata has been proclaimed a slow city, including all 2,000 inhabitants who are a motley mixture of peacocks, dudes in pickup trucks with big dogs, young French Canadians with dreadlocks, old left-leaning types (aka the locals), and the tony folks who own the million plus dollar houses on the Bench that nest over the tiny village. All these diverse citizens do the same thing: meander down the middle of main street, sleepily wave hello to each other, and playfully jostle for position in line for ice cream at the town’s only store.
We spend a chunk of each summer here. We rent a friend’s mom’s place. We housesit for my old boss. We stay with my father-in-law across the lake in Summerland. We will do anything to spend time in Naramata. This year, we have rented a perfect little cottage in the flats, a two minute walk to the weekly farmers’ market and the pier, where Aaron climbs to the top railing and cannonballs into the smooth, clear water.
The cottage is obviously a grandma’s old house. I wonder when she passed away. The new owner has put in new lino and laminate. The walls are painted a beachy light blue and yellow. When we drive up, we shout with glee at the unexpected hot tub and fire pit. I’m enamoured with the clothesline in the back, which isn’t allowed back in my Edmonton suburb.
There is an elderly lady living next door. Rae is originally from New Zealand, and spends her days puttering in her garden. She leaves baskets of warm freshly picked cherries on our back table. One day she knocks on the door with two handfuls of raspberries in her garden-dirty hands. These are only for you, she whispers. I know how much work it is to be a mom. My eyes tear up in gratitude.
Aaron laps up being unscheduled. He gets up and watched Rio 2 on his iPad. He sets up his ziplock bag of Batman and Shrek figurines and coordinates a dance party to Pitbull music. He sits in his bedroom and reads anatomy books. He wears his goggles in the hot tub and snorkels for invisible fish. He gets dressed on his own, with no nagging from me at all. He’s proudly figured out how to open a Fanta pop all by himself. He has me post pictures on his Facebook, all with a similar caption: “I am the most awesome dude in the house.” And that he is.
My newly-graduated daughter and her boyfriend arrive for a week. We go floating on inner tubes in the river canal and shriek when we get seaweed stuck in our feet. We take them to Salty’s in town for fish tacos. We watch the salmon jump off the dam. They go go-carting and spray each other on the bumper boats. Ella and I go to the spa for leisurely massages. Mike and I escape for twinkly-light and wine-filled evening with Joy Road Catering at the aptly-named God’s Mountain. When the older teenagers leave for their own camping adventures, I feel the pang of missing them. Ella has written, “Yay! Holiday! Bye family! Love you! Have fun!” on the chalkboard in the kitchen.
We even have friends here. We consume a goat-cheese and basil trout, charred vegetables and strawberry and rhubarb crumble feast with a food writer friend, her husband and their lively house guests up the hill. My husband goes mountain biking with a work colleague, and he and his partner come over for a vegan spread of carefully chopped medley of watermelon, raw corn & mango and potato salads. Our Edmonton pals have a boat and we zoom around a southern lake with them in the hot sun, while the kids jump off the boat and the moms supplement their coolers with extra vodka.
Here, the furrows leave my forehead. My shoulder migrate from under my ears and settle back in their natural place. I stop fretting about the next meal, or the cleanliness of Aaron’s face, or the sticky floors in the cottage. My biggest concern becomes what should we pack for a day at the beach. I’m only right here, in the moment, because that’s all I have, in this limited, precious time.
I’ve been tightly wound since 1993. In Naramata, I finally, finally relax. My only question now is this: how do I bottle this Naramata nirvana and transport it back home?