Thunder bay holds a special place in my heart, and every time I go back I am flooded with thousands of positive memories from my childhood and early adulthood. Every summer from the time I can remember we made the 16 hour drive as a family from Ottawa to Thunder Bay for a few weeks in the summer. We spend most of our time at my Auntie Gayle and Uncle Ralph’s cottage on Loon lake.
The cottage was much smaller when we were kids but we enjoyed the simplicity of it with steep stairs opening up to a small open room with low ceilings (watch out for your head) that slept 6 people all in one big room. Usually my brother and I would sleep upstairs with our grandma and aunt, while out parents slept downstairs in a bedroom off the kitchen. Since then they have slowly rebuilt the cottage themselves with the help of family and friends over the years.
In my mind a cottage is a child’s paradise from swimming all day, exploring in the woods, water skiing, picking raspberries with grandma, and of course going in out of the sauna 3 or 4 times a day. My little child imagination grew from the moment we arrived to the time we left . Hopefully when I have kids one day they can enjoy the cottage as much as I did and still do.
Ah yes the sauna, a tradition among my mom’s side of the family due to their Finish background and a common occurrence in Thunder Bay found at any lake or in the back yard of someone’s house. My grandma’s boyfriend has one in his backyard. One might think why on earth would you want a sauna in the middle of summer, well its just something we do and have done since I was little. The object is to stay in the sauna til one is all nice and sweaty and then jump in the water and swim until you become too cold, too shriveled or just ready to come out. Then you run back into the sauna and do it all over again. The water is spring fed and is quite pleasant to swim in.
My love of running may have started at Loon lake. Every summer as a kid I participated in a sports day weekend which had many different competitions from running, potato sack, egg carrying race, three legged race, swimming, row boating and diving. Of course any of the running races were my favorite, and that love of running in childhood at Loon Lake continued into early adulthood when I decided to head off to Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Since I was 16, I knew I wanted to study Kinesiology at Lakehead University. I joined the university track and field and cross country running team and met some amazing friends from the running team, most who I still keep in touch with and who have inspired me then and continue to inspire and make me proud today. I wish all of them nothing but happiness. Ria, Ali, Tracey, Karen, Jaclyn, Clayton,Jon, Matt, Roger, Melissa, Becky, Roger,Maggie, Greg and of course coaches Mike and Maureen were the core group of runners I hung out with and shared much laughter, tears, happiness, and many fun times.
I flew to Thunder Bay for my grandma’s 90th birthday party last week. I swam, I ran, and ate and spend sometime with family on the boat and of course in the sauna.
Thankfully while I was at the cottage I had a recovery week and was able to run a few days but spend more time with my family. It was hot and I got bit by a horsefly which really hurt (guess I wasn’t running fast enough) but it was nice to feel some heat on the runs after the lousy summer we have been experiencing on the coast of BC.
My grandma is one amazing 90 year old. She still lives on her own with her boyfriend Alf (a boyfriend at 90 is pretty cool) hardly ever complains about any ailments and is so happy and proud for me and my life. I told her that I was moving in with Andrew and she said “that is good” with a big smile on her face. She is always smiling and laughing and happy. But that’s my family, always have been super supportive in any path or decision I have made for myself. Thunder Bay is a place that I love filled with many memories from the past and more to be created in the future.
Have fun out there!