This story is dedicated to Jan and Susie. We miss you so. And to you Vicki. Although nobody can replace your sisters, or our mother, we are all doing our damndest to fill in the gaps, the way they would have it. The Cottage The umbrellas up there on the boat house deck were gorgeous that sunny afternoon. Blue and white striped they were. Cheerful and opened against the sky. My sister Louisa and I sat under them waiting for our guests to arrive. We wanted everything to be perfect for family girls' weekend at, The Cottage. We had a lot to live up to. The Burnt Dam Hotel, gone. The Muzz On Inn? Gone. Le Condo Suites? Gone. The Burnt Damn Hotel Two? Open. However, it is rather small and there is not a little play house out in the backyard for Gary to hide in when we all pull up. And not many places will have us. So. In order to keep family girls' weekend alive, Louisa and I spiffed up The Cottage and sent out invitations. And then there we were. Sitting up there, under the umbrellas, in the calm of the day. And then. Jeanne Lynn and my brother TJ backed into the front yard with their truck. They began setting up a camper. Because pampered people prefer to bring their own bedrooms. And then straight out of the Fox River Valley, Oshkosh arrived all at once in a Mary Poppins Purse on wheels. And then the chatter and clatter and hauling of bags and suitcases and coolers and bags, dips and cheeses and sauces and beer, took place. And then there was a gust of wind. "Uh-oh," said my sister. And then rain began to blow sideways as Louisa and I flew up the boathouse stairs to save those umbrellas. We had to pull them up and out of the holes that my Sweet Sven had drilled through the deck railing in order to set them in place. The tips were in the air a dozen feet before we could bring them down. This can be a real struggle in a tornado. "Auntie Em!" I screamed. "Auntie Em!" "Toto!" Louisa hollered. "Where is Toto!" Fact. To avoid a dangerous situation such as this, crank your umbrellas down and tie them shut at the first sign of bad weather. I did not impale Louisa with my blue and white striped weapon of mass destruction all the while the crowd of sisterhood stood glued to the sliding glass cottage door, eyes wide with worry and mouths gaping. But, that is merely because my umbrella missed her. We narrowly avoided a 911 call, however one of the umbrellas did suffer a minor injury. It has a permanent tilt to it. Upon our entrance into The Cottage there was a standing ovation for our selfless acts of heroism. I rang the Jager bell. Because that is what the Jager bell, donated by Bridgette of Doggers Bar and Lanes, in downtown Wautoma, so that she could be rid of the noisemaker and we could enjoy the sweet memory of our departed Susie Le Q, is for. Shots. The Oshkosh guests obediently went to their assigned beds in the freshly vacuumed, spider free, slanted porch and dropped their shit after their shot. And then as the rain continued to pour down, the fun meter began to go up. I admit, the evening is a little bit fuzzy. I know we looked at old pictures that Victoire brought. And my son Marques and daughter-in-law, Nicolette dropped in. And the Jager bell rang. And every time it did, Susie Le Q and Le Mere, were right there with us. I was assigned the small futon in the living room. My bunk mate was Louisa. Louisa is way more active in her sleep than when she is awake. So. I moved over to the couch to get some shut eye. And then, I guess Louisa had to pee. That is when she got up and thought she was in a horror movie. There was a stranger on the sofa. She sent a text to Pierre. Said there was a perpetrator in The Cottage and he should come and get her right away. I don't know how that girl can text in her sleep like that. Well, she is not that good at it. And those of us who received her text did not wake up to save her ass until the sun was shining through the sliding glass door and the camper window and we were hunting for coffee cups. The sun remained out all day that Saturday. Just as Louisa and I had planned. Pierre, otherwise known as Cap'n Dick and or Louisa's husband, took us out for the whole afternoon on their new pontoon boat. I mean. We were all sitting on it under the canopy. So. It was a party barge as in partee bargee. The fellas in our family zipped around us in Marques' speed boat. We pulled up to a sandy spot, where Louisa managed to smack right into some big rocks with her bare, tender and now black and blue toes. What's that? Oh. Men are allowed to join girls' for girls' weekend in our family, during specified visiting hours. Especially when they offer to drive and or bring food. Like my brother Pitter for instance. He made a giant Italian salad to go along with the Papa Murphy's pizza in his other hand. It was all delicious and it worked out well. Lakeside was closed. Cap'n Dick took the ladies for another boat ride after dinner. And then the garbanzo beans started to erupt inside of Melissa. Cap'n Dick turned back. Rumor had it that she had enough gas to sink a ship. And then we girls circled around the campfire and sang Kumbaya into the night. The Jager bell rang inside The Cottage. The Cottage lobby started to fill up with pajama people. That bell rang again. And again. As we shared stories old and new and toasted our missing sisters, Melissa ran around the place murdering innocent bystander spiders. And then it got late. It was time for the last stragglers to hit the hay. All was silent and peaceful. Until Melissa came flying out of the slanted porch using her phone as a flashlight looking for the bathroom. Louisa sprang up. "Who's here?" she screamed. In order to keep Louisa from walking in her sleep again, I pulled the coffee table next to the futon. I had her cornered against the wall. Sunday morning we woke to a the neighbor dogs barking and a scrumptious breakfast baking in the oven. I was impressed. Our guests must have brought a surprise hot dish for our parting meal. Marqerite walked in the screen door letting it slam shut behind her. She had been rooming with Jeanne Lynn out there in pampered city. "Hey," she says. "Did somebody put some kind of a dip in the oven?" "Oh. Shit," I heard from behind me. "I think I might have done that." That girl had to have climbed right over my head. Louisa had not only escaped. She had gotten back to her spot. I am going to have to cross body guard off my resume. Well, just like liver and onions, Ruben dip that has baked for many hours, smells delicious. But. It is not edible. "Who's purple underwear is hanging out there on the railing?" "Your restroom is a long ways away from the slanted porch!" said Victoire. "HAHAHAHAHAHHA." It was over our Bloody Mary's and untoasted bagels that morning, that we learned of Jeanne Lynn's camper dream. "I got a tattoo," she said. "Yeah?" "It was a Piggly Wiggly tattoo." "What?" "There was lettuce and onions and tomatoes!" she exclaimed. "The entire produce section was tattooed all over my leg." She went on to explain that she found this to be upsetting. But learned the only way to have it removed was to travel back in time before it happened. So she did. And that is when see saw herself lying unconscious on a cot. Well, it was time for the final packing. Out the door it all went. Pillows. Suitcases. Bags. Coolers. Everything was crammed back into that Mary Poppins purse on wheels while TJ hooked up the camper to his truck. And then we heard a shriek. "What the hell?!" The Mary Poppins mobile was parked perfectly on the lake side of the concrete septic block. It had to have been the most exquisite parallel parking job in the history of mankind. "But I never even saw that thing," Melissa says. "How did I get on the other side of it?" This will remain a mystery. As long as we all shall live. Then they drove away, arms hanging out windows. And it was quiet. Louisa and I went back to the deck and sat down. "That went well," we said. We congratulated ourselves. The grand opening of, The Cottage, for girls' weekend had gone on without a single hitch. "I can hardly wait for the reviews to come in," I said. "Me too," she says. "We are going to get a perfect score." "You know it," I said. What is this in my inbox? The Cottage Review. The following is a compilation of information gathered by the FRVHIA (Fox River Valley Hotel Inspection Association). Written by Victoire LeMay. Pros and cons of our cottage visit, in no specific order! We noticed immediately that there were no mints on the pillows and the beds were not turned down. We decided to overlook this because after all, it was your first time hosting. We understood that we might be spending some time at the Lakeside Bar and that was closed, but again, not blaming you. Also heard stories of Xanax and weed. None present!!! We must commend you on the coffee you serve. Hot or cold, both were DELICIOUS!!! So keep up the good work on that! We did enjoy the show you put on Friday night trying to turn the umbrellas down. I'm sure you couldn't hear us, but we were roaring. Then when you came in, it was even more funny. 🙂 The bible was a nice touch, but we knew it was just a tactic to help your review! You probably weren't aware of Melissa's fear of spiders. Nor was I, but the true colors came through thanks to you, having them readily available in EVERY ROOM🙂 There were no DEPENDS for the elderly who can't quite make it to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Also, we were not told about the crazy sleepwalker staying at our lodge. We overlooked it the first night when she was crying out for help and didn't give a second thought about the rest of us who were in as much danger as her, but on the second night when we all awoke to the aroma of something baking and it turned out not to be our breakfast, but a burnt up piece of black shit in the oven, well that just put us all over the top. We probably could have dealt with that, but then the toaster wasn't working correctly and one of the guests was expected to fix it!!! We did appreciate that when there wasn't enough coffee cups to go around, you shared, and didn't expect your guests to! There was no warning about KUJO next door. We probably should have been told there was a barking maniac dog just the other side of the fence! We also learned that your neighbors are big copycats. Painting their deck the same color, we think this might be a ploy for us to go to the wrong cottage next time!!! Something must be done about this. Now you get an A plus for Cap'n Dick! He was so fun and cordial and made us feel so welcome. Please keep him and his BEAUTIFUL BOAT around. They add so much to the environment! The weather was AMAZING, and I believe Millie was in charge of that so, thank you very much. It was great to see TJ and Pitter and Marques and Jax and all of Marque's and Nicolette's kids too. Pizza and salad were totally awesome. Kuddos to Pitter on that salad. Of course, that might have been what put Melissa over the edge. All that farting on the boat should have told her not to eat that. but oh well......She was up most of the night pooping. Sure hope your septic isn't full, and also thankful that she didn't drive over it and wreck it and her car. We might still be there if that happened. And the fly swatter situation. Please remove the label before our next visit! I thought I had killed the humungous spider because we saw part, or all of it go flying! So I spent the next few minutes trying to scrape the rest of the huge body into the garbage only to have Tari realize I had not killed a spider at all. There is a picture of a very large fly on the flyswatter and that is what I was trying to scrape off. VERY DECEIVING!!! We would come back again though, if there ever was another invitation, because we know you will try to rectify all of your shortcomings this time. WTF First of all, there were no mints laid out as you were to bring your own pillows. Also, Louisa and I did not want to create a scene like the one in that movie, Ben. You have no idea how many mice live under that hole in the corner of the bathroom floor. We highly doubted that you would want their little feet running over your faces to steal your mints in the night. Secondly, The Cottage is a kid friendly resort. We do not supply drugs here. You must bring your own. Lastly, we always keep a supply of depends on hand. They are located on the bottom shelf in the bathroom shower that is now a closet. If you were to put on your reading glasses and read the fine print on our brochures you not only could have saved your underwear from becoming a purple flag drying out there in the wind, you also would have realized there was a sticker on the brand new fly swatter purchased specifically for your visit.