I learned to walk on your front porch. Kissed a boy there too. Plucked slivers from my feet and painted my toenails with my cousins on your sunny deck. Tried to tan in mountain sunshine, got burned instead, and have hidden under an umbrella’s shade since surviving melanoma. This year, I introduced my new grandbabies to you. They don’t love you yet, but they will. S’mores will help.
For more than forty years, I’ve done dishes on your back deck with my grandmas and Mom and now my daughters overlooking your cold blue lake. I love how your meals are an outdoor affair. Chipmunks are on your cleanup crew.
Your coffee pots are 50 years old and so are you. I think these dish pans belonged to Grandma Helen half a century ago. They’re battered and worn, have bathed babies, and watered horses. My hands have soaked in them a thousand times over a camp stove’s burning flame.
Your campfires have seared an everlasting image on my heart.
You’ve seen so much of me, and I’ve loved so much of you.
Your quiet mornings and lazy afternoons.
Your starry nights and thundering rain storms.
I’ve gazed out over the snow from your second story window, dug a hole down to your door on a February day. Such a rare thing because you are a summer cabin. We open you in June and close you come September. The mountain roads shut down too and then only snowmobiles can find you. That one year we found you, asleep packed in snow, we woke you up along with the trout and caught so many rainbows we couldn’t carry them all home.
You’ve watched me grow up and I’ve watched my parents grow old beneath your ponderosa pines. Oma and Opa used to raise hell in the meadow playing volleyball with their friends. Now they quietly raise grandchildren in your afternoon shade. Your steep hills and high elevation have become hard on them. They move slower now, but thankfully so do you.
Now that they are old and wise, Oma and Opa teach your ways to the kids, splitting wood before we play. Raking pine needles. Repairing your railings. Opa and his dad, my Grandpa John, built you new. Our sons-in-law are learning how to maintain you as you age.
I was schooled in poker under a kerosene lamp in your living room, your only room besides your loft with eight beds. We kids mastered hide and seek in your meadow, were taught to stack wood under your eves, and learned how to water ski in your deep, clear lake.
Now my sons are learning the same.
We’ve never missed a summer with you. Even when I lived in Germany. I flew home to California and drove three hours just to see you in June. Your endless green meadow and lake where loons dive and afternoon winds rushing through the woods like the sound of the sea.
You are perfect. And so peaceful. A balm for the soul.
Seeing my parents become great-grandparents this year — I realize the ones we love don’t last forever, and neither will you. Someday you will crumble, maybe under the Sierra snowpack. But before this, what would you say to the family who built you? Who has enjoyed you so much? For so long?
“Slow down,” perhaps.
“Don’t work so hard.”
“Come and see me more often.”
“Life is short.”
“Make it sweet.”
“Grill more burgers.”
“Eat more s’mores.”
“When it’s too dry for a bonfire, just sing louder.”
“When the lake is low, run further to the water.”
“Stop and listen to the wind whispering in the pines.”
“And don’t forget, summer is a season.”
“So is grief.”
“Some years are good.”
“Some not so good.”
“But God is always good.”
“Come see me when you can.”
“The chipmunks are here waiting for your food.”