I recently had to say goodbye to a place I love: a little family cottage on Cayuga Lake that we’d enjoyed for eight summers. After seven years, the upkeep got to be too much for my parents, and they decided it was time to move on. When I found out via a Facebook post over the winter, I was crushed. I’ve never had the wind knocked out of me, but I imagine it would feel like this. I’d been getting ready for a yoga class and the post literally took the breath from my lungs. I sat down and cried.
It took several months for the cottage to sell, which allowed me to avoid reality for awhile. When my parents finally received an offer and it was time to clean the place out, reality sank in. I had to acknowledge that this was really happening. I knew our last weekend at the lake would be tough, but I had no idea how emotionally draining it would be.
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, and the place was emptier than usual. The basic furniture remained, but smaller items were disappearing. My mom was packing up spices that had sat in the cupboard for years. My dad and brother were strapping a canoe to the van. It hit me hard. A man in Florida bought the cottage, and we were leaving it furnished, but in a matter of days it wouldn’t be ours anymore.
It left me wondering, how can this place that we’ve had for such a short time be so special to me that saying goodbye is having a monumental impact?
It’s not like it was my childhood cottage that I’d been visiting since I was a toddler. We started going there when I was 21, the month after I graduated from college.
On our first visit in June 2012, my brother and I ran through the tiny 1,200 square foot place. The floors were sloped because the cottage was sinking. It was rustic. We weren’t terribly impressed. But then we ducked outside to the deck and looked at the crisp blue water and the rolling green hills on the opposite shore of the lake. We walked out onto the dock. We dipped our toes in the water. Without much thought, my brother and I were swimming in the lake fully clothed. There was always a raft in the cove, and we swam out to the raft and back, laughing the whole time. Afterwards, we wrang out our clothes and went to a fancy winery across the street. It felt like home already.
Farley’s Point is also tied closely to my relationship with my husband. It was the first place he met my family, driving up five hours from New Jersey the month after we graduated to stay with us for nearly a week. Who does that?! He brought us Jersey subs and his calm temperament earned him bonus points in stressful lake situations like operating a boat in a shallow cove with a hoist at a bad angle.
Tim came up to the lake twice that first summer; the second time was in August, a few weeks before he was scheduled to move to Texas for his first real job out of college. We lay on the dock in a light rain under the stars, and said, “So are we doing this? Long distance?” And we were. And we did.
We spent two years doing long distance. We Facetimed every night, and those two years of our relationship gave us a solid foundation to grow on. During that time, his job would occasionally send him to the northeast, and he’d make detours through Upstate New York. We’d wind up at the lake, sleeping on twin beds in a tiny bedroom with a curtain for a door, and having adventures all around the Finger Lakes. We tried golfing once and were terrible. We went to museums and wineries. We went hiking. Swimming, boating, paddleboarding, kayaking. Summer in the Finger Lakes is a beautiful thing, especially when you get to hang out with your person, who you don’t normally get to spend time with.
By summer 2014, Tim had moved to Rochester. We lived together in a Park Ave apartment starting in 2015, and in 2016 we bought a home together. It was amazing and special and the long distance days quickly faded into a distant memory.
The lake has been a constant through many seasons of change in my life. Right out of college, my life was full of uncertainty. I had turned down a job offer and was living at home and working at Target, but at least I got to go to the lake whenever I wanted. I started my first real job at my alma mater and lived at home for a year before moving into my first apartment. I lived with one roommate, then she moved to another country and I got a new roommate. I lived with Tim for the first time. I bought a house. I started a new job. I got engaged. I got married. My husband started a new job. I quit my job to work for myself. For seven years everything has been changing rapidly, but Farley’s Point was always there, a place of refuge.
In times when my family has been incredibly busy, Farley’s was the place that brought us together. It was only an hour away, making it convenient for all of us to gather when we could carve out the time. It was a place of giant meals of smoked meats, long boat rides that occasionally left us stranded on the lake, swimming no matter the water temperature, 4th of July parades and fireworks, dogs and lilypads and wine.
On our final visit to Farley’s, we all were feeling wistful. Each of us started gravitating towards somewhat random objects, opting to bring them home rather than leaving them for the buyer, Florida Man. I took home two water toys for the dogs, a stepstool, two books, a stargazing chart, and a throw pillow. None of those objects were particularly meaningful to me, but they were pieces of this place that I loved. My friend Michelle Weston said it well: “It’s hard to let places, that are pieces of ourselves, go.”
I couldn’t think of many other times in my life that I’d felt like this before. Only two came to mind: when I left U of R after my freshman year of college, feeling high on friendship and independence, and leaving Bath after my study abroad semester, teary about leaving a beautiful place that meant something to me with no clue when I’d be back.
That was one of the things that got to me most about leaving the lake: when will I be back? Will I be back? Every time we visited the lake, we’d drive away saying, “Oh, next time, we should definitely kayak across the lake,” or “Next time, we’ll make sure to check out that brewery down the road.” Now, we’re all out of next times.
Since there were no more next times, I made sure to swim in the lake this time, even though it was 57 degrees (both air and water temp!). I can certainly go back to Cayuga in the future, but I know it won’t be the same.
Farewell, Farley’s Point. Farley’s forever.