We had an interesting experience the other day here at the lake. Early in the evening a car pulled into the driveway, an unfamiliar car, with four people in it. Strangers. But not for long.
Our little cottage at the lake was built back in the 60’s and has had several owners. The man who built it was an electrician by trade, and by my reckoning, not a very good one. I have since rewired the place so that all the outlets work and the switches actually turn on the lights. But that’s neither here nor there. He was just the first one here. He sold the place to a family with young children sometime in the seventies. That family in turn sold it in the late 80’s to a builder who bought it with the intention of remodeling and then flipping it for a nice profit. That’s where we entered the picture. He made his profit off of us back in 1991. It’s the family with young children who occupied this space in the seventies that brings us back to the car filled with four people that pulled into the driveway that evening.
When those four young adults got out of the car they were all smiles and reassurances that they were friendly and didn’t mean to intrude on our solitude. The two women in the group quickly explained in a rush of nostalgia that they had grown up here in the summers when their family owned the place. They were sisters who were visiting each other and had the urge to visit their old cottage and reminisce about the good old days. They were very gregarious, polite and friendly. We took to them immediately. The two men with them were also polite, but far more reticent and quiet. The women did the talking. Isn’t too unusual is it?
When they first stepped out of the car the group dynamic was not readily discernible. I couldn’t quite tell who was with whom and what the relationships were. Who was married to whom, or not. Friends or spouses? Not that it really mattered. But you know how you get curious when you meet new people and want to know who’s who.
After a few minutes standing out in the driveway getting acquainted, we invited them to look around and renew their memories while we updated them on the history of the little cottage. They were filled with wonder at the changes to the place as well as to the changes all along the road to the cottages and houses they remembered from their childhood. Some of their memories were at odds with each other. They couldn’t agree if the porch then served as a bedroom or if they had always stayed in the back bedroom. They remembered playing in the wooded lot next door that now has a house on it. They remembered differently about the lake and the fun they had on it.
We were thoroughly enjoying their stories. After a while the two guys loosened up a bit and started joining in the conversation. When they asked about all the artwork on display (mine) and all the wonderful photographs on the walls (Carrie’s), we got to talking about our two children as parents need little encouragement to do. When we mentioned that our daughter Carrie was a veterinarian, wide eyed surprise played across all four faces. It turns out that one of the sisters and one of the guys were both vets. Now we had a lot in common and the conversation took a whole new twist. It turns out that all four of them were graduates of the University of Wisconsin, as we are. The other sister is a psychologist and the other guy is a physical therapist. The psychologist and the physical therapist are married and live in Florida and were visiting the vet sister. The two vets have been a couple for 17 years though they remain unmarried, and share a clinical practice in a nearby city. It turns out they weren’t as young as we initially thought, all of them hovering on both sides of 40.
We talked with them for nearly an hour and a half that evening. We laughed and got along as if we had been friends for years. The conversation and laughter got so raucous at times that the neighbors were wondering about the party we were having. I can’t remember ever meeting four people for the first time and, after such a short time, feeling like we were the best of friends. It was dark by the time they left (the sisters were insisting on going to the A&W in town and getting a root beer float, just as they had when they were kids here on warm summer nights).
When they pulled out of the driveway we were sad to see them go. We waved to them as they turned the corner.
The really weird part of this story? We don’t know their names. Nor do they know ours. We never actually got around to formal introductions. Our new best friends are strangers.