For twenty four days there had been a constant flow of people coming and going from the cabin. For several quiet days, just 3 people were in residence. On one busy long week-end there were 14 family members (and 22 for dinner one night). People, groceries, beds, beach towels, bug spray, transport vehicles, freezies, beer, golf clubs, fire wood, marshmallows and with any luck, at least one adult around at all times to make sure the little kids didn’t eat all of grandma’s dark chocolate in one go. It was an exercise in Herding Cats.
On the last Sunday night, Five Survivors were left for one last night of frivolity before the Exodus back to the city. Me, and four young grade school children were the last ones standing. There was one lone escape pod left in the driveway. Me, and an Army of Cats were good to go. My little army – they had been on cabin time for 24 days, which meant they had no sense of urgency, if in fact they had ever had any. Late nights and late risings had shifted meal times to mid morning, mid afternoon, and mid evening.
Bath time had been replaced by the occasional swim at the lake or a dip in the hot tub or by pointing the garden hose at each other on the trampoline. At least one child had not used hair shampoo the whole time. What didn’t wash off with this water became the base layer for the next day. Bug spray, sunscreen, campfire smoke, dirt… as one grandson noted on the last day, “The mosquitoes don’t seem to bite me anymore…”
So when the last child rolled out of bed on the last day, I announced that we were going for “lock and load” at 4:30 PM. That gave us exactly six hours to gather up belongings, hoover up a week or two of dirt, eat two meals (and thus empty the fridge), eat one last freezie, and close up the cabin.
The children, thinking 6 hours was forever, had other plans – one wanted to go bush wacking with sharp pointed tools, one wanted a trip to the beach with the dinghy, one wanted to go looking for frogs and snakes in the marsh and one wanted them all to go to the playground. All good ideas, but grandma couldn’t be four places at once. I needed a diversionary tactic, so I said they could have a three Movie Marathon. Each child could pick two they wanted to watch. During the time they weren’t watching a movie, they could help me pack their stuff. Then they could do anything else they wanted, as long as it was outside and it didn’t need adult supervision. (And nothing that was already packed got unpacked…)
At 4:23 PM I made a last sweep of the yard. I gathered up the things the kids had “lost” on the trip from the house to the car, locked the cabin door, and turned off the water. At 4:29:19 PM (according to the Grandsons watch), I loaded the last of four children into the Jeep for the trip back to the city.
From what I have told you, I would imagine you are surprised that we made it on time. So I’ll divulge my Secret Weapon for Herding Cats. Their electronic games had been confiscated a few days previously (by their parents) and I had promised them that they could play with these games during the 2 hour drive home…
What form of bribery do you use to Herd Cats?