Going Back to the Water

I was ambivalent about my family’s annual Tahoe trip this year. Last year made me rethink many of my assumptions about this tradition. I started to reconsider my role in this trip and the family’s role in my trip.

I’d long believed that our four-decade tradition was rock solid. But last year, the cracks appeared and I suddenly saw how differently we all wanted Tahoe to be and I wasn’t sure that those differences could be bridged without fundamentally changing what I loved about Tahoe. I reconsidered if Tahoe was something I still wanted to participate in.

But once I was up at the lake this year, I was reminded that Tahoe just is, that the lake and the family trip both exist outside my own concerns.

I rolled down the window as we drove over Echo Summit and it still smelled like Tahoe, all dusty and piney. This year’s rains meant there was still snow on the mountains and the meadows were full of wildflowers. The lake was still there, as beautiful as ever — but deeper this year and colder, too.

The wind still picked up every morning after 10, shaking the aspens that surround the cabin, and the sun still set after 8:00 every night, bathing the surrounding mountains in rosy alpenglow. When I (finally) swam in the extra-cold water, I still felt that same indescribable rush of pure happiness.

My family’s trip is the same in so many ways, too. My aunts still walk over to get the Chronicle and the Bee every morning and one of my aunts still carries a small baseball bat with her as (ridiculous) protection from the bears; my hard-of-hearing uncle still listens to the Giants game so loudly you can hear it on the other side of the house; and my cousin’s room still looks like a tornado hit it, clothes strewn all over the bed and the floor.

I noticed all the little, mundane things that make up this Tahoe trip: shuffling cards; getting stuck in the tiny kitchen when someone opens the fridge; nearly losing my balance as I race down the stairs in my flip flops; checking for a band of light at the bottom of the bathroom door to see if it’s in use or not; the masking tape pasted to the screen door in the (usually futile) hope that it will prevent someone from running through the screen; or how the shower turns ice-cold when someone turns on the dishwasher or decides to do a load of wash.

When I’d see my aunt trudging along with her minature bat or when I inevitably found myself in the kitchen waiting for someone to get whatever they need out of the fridge, I’d think: Tahoe.

This year, I didn’t worry about whether our family Tahoe trip would continue or not and I didn’t worry about whether or not I felt like a being a part of it anymore. I just tried to just appreciate this time for what it was.

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