Being cooped up with your significant other in a little cabin out in the middle of nowhere is so romantic. The crackle of the wood stove, the wintry peace of the white landscape, bracing walks on snowshoes and at times, the thin song of a distant wolf trailing off into dusk. Endless time for deep and intimate conversation, as well as … you know. Physical closeness. Need I say more?
Indeed, I do. Imagine having only your beloved partner’s face and nobody else to gaze at for months on end. Well, of course you can also look at yourself in the mirror, but that’s it in terms of people exposure. Always just the same stories and opinions to listen to, those that you’ve come to know by heart already over all the previous long winters in the romantic cabin – to the point where the endless repeats on CBC Radio seem new and refreshing in comparison.
On a grumpy day, you can only blame yourself or your sweetheart for your bad mood, due to the lack of ignorant drivers, rude sales clerks and abusive bosses. OK, there are the weather and the dogs you could also blame.
And when you’re heartily fed up with the total nonsense your partner is uttering with such conviction, when it really is the last straw it’s poor you again who has to lug the water bucket up to the cabin – there is no place to vent. Your friends’ house is separated from you by a few hours’ travel through overflow by snowmobile. Sure, you could pick up the satellite phone to get things off your chest – either inside the cabin, with your sweetheart listening to the conversation, or outside in the cold, where every little sound carries for miles and your sweetheart will also have to listen in.
All in all, it is a setting for learning conflict resolution that team management trainers have overlooked so far. First, you master the art of storming off into the wilderness in a huff and then sheepishly slinking back inside a little bit later because you didn’t put your jacket, hat and gloves on (that would have greatly diminished the dramatic movie star exit). Eventually, you learn to head heated arguments off at the beginning and discuss things a day or two later, once tempers have cooled.
Cabin fever tends to strike at this time of year, after all these months of living cheek to cheek with one, and only one another. Sam and I rarely fight and I blame CBC Radio as well as cabin fever for our argument this weekend about when our children should leave home.
In Italy, stay-at home kids in their 20s and 30s have apparently become almost the norm, enjoying the benefits of having their laundry, meals and rent taken care of while their parents cunningly avoid empty nest syndrome. Or so we learned from the radio. Sam heartily sympathized with this arrangement, thinking back fondly to his own somewhat late launch into independent living – though it paled in comparison with the Italian statistics. His kids, he stated emphatically, were more than welcome to live at home for as long as they desired.
Live at home after they are done with high school? I gasped in horror. I want them out of the house, I said, high time they learn about being responsible for their own lives, do their own thing. Eighteen years of mollycoddling is more than enough.
Sam was shocked by my insensitivity towards our children. And how dare I make rules for what were, after all, his kids too? What was the point of having children if you couldn’t get rid of them soon enough, he wanted to know.
The point was, I explained acidly, that they were not children anymore but adults. I wanted my own life back, uninfluenced by a 31-year old, live-at home overgrown baby.
Selfishness, Sam stormed, nothing but selfishness!
And so it went. We traded a volley of insults that were just beginning to get a bit too personal when it suddenly dawned on us that we were having a fight about absolutely nothing. We don’t have any children.
It still took a bit of an effort to calm our tempers which were thoroughly worked up about this new topic (finally – a new one) that we had completely unfamiliar and different opinions on. With a bit of huffing and puffing we agreed to disagree on the finer points of parenthood, until a couple hours later we were laughing ourselves silly about it. I looked at Sam, happy to be in our isolated cabin out in the woods with him. Alone. Without kids.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.