Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lake Tahoe

Home.  I've struggled with the word lately.  When I was leaving Paris for LA, people asked me how long I was going to be home in LA, but since I've been in LA, I've received e-mails from friends in France, asking when I was coming back home to Paris.  So where is home?  I originally thought it was where I had the most shoes, which would have been LA, but within my first week back, I took almost 30 pairs of shoes to Goodwill, not to mention 9 trash bags of clothes.  Parisian minimalism (and by that I really mean closet space) is getting to me.  With a nearing equality of shoes in Paris and LA, a strappy sandal can no longer define my home, which brings me to a home I haven't even mentioned yet, Lake Tahoe.

My family first starting going to Tahoe over 35 years ago.  My aunt's family had a place there and my first memories were of a snow covered lake and sledding down a large mountain, which very well could have been the driveway as things aren't always to scale as a kid.  Luckily I remember less my brothers wearing matching outfits and bell bottoms, while I was already drifting elsewhere.


During this period my dad always looked like he had just finished auditioning to replace Tom Selleck on Magnum PI. There must have been a lot of savings on hair cuts around this time, as well as accessories since I could often be seen with large pieces of yarn in my hair.  Maybe that was just to tell me apart from my brothers and cousins.

My warm weather loving family quickly learned the magic of summer in Tahoe, as did most of our neighbors and friends from LA, and soon we were taking over the ill spelled Heratage Cove.

My one week summer vacations in Tahoe, quickly turned to two, and then I was spending the month of August at Heratage Cove with my best friend Mousie.  I knew at an early age that a one week holiday was nonsense, and perhaps that gives you a little more insight into my current Parisian sabbatical.

Summers were spent on the beach, on boats, behind boats on knee boards, hiking, river rafting, miniature golfing, "trolling" the parking lot and developing cavemen like calloused, black feet.  There was an extended network of families and new friends always around that produced a feeling of safety and security that allowed us to roam around unattended at an early age.  That could be another reason why all the parents liked going too - free babysitting.

When my family moved back east, and my brothers and I went to colleges in different cities, Lake Tahoe was the place we'd all reassemble, and catch up.  It became home base, and after 20 years of visits, we decided it was time to have a year round home there.  Our new Tahoe home was not in Heratage Cove though, but a few miles down the road, near my Aunt's place where the whole Tahoe love affair began.  It took some adjusting leaving the nucleus, but now we have a new hub, and another uncle has joined us and bought a place nearby, and the rest of the family fill the spaces in between.

Holidays have been spent in Tahoe, including our first Thanksgiving complete with card tables scattered throughout every open space, and the infamous grease spillage all down the nicely pressed shirt of my cousin Rob.  I only wish I had a picture.  The one holiday that's really stuck is the 4th of July, and this year was no exception with a decent showing of 23 Pages.  The young cousins we once held in our arms, now held beers and the hands of their own boyfriends and girlfriends.

My brothers and older cousins now have children of their own whose first Tahoe visits were in the womb and cradles.  This is now the summer vacation they also look forward to each year.


Most of us hadn't been river rafting down the Truckee since we were the current kids' age, so cousin Colleen made the excellent suggestion that the cousins young and old take the little ones on their first rafting trip.  Once a few tears subsided, and not all were from me, the boys boarded one raft, and the girls another, and the water fights immediately began, as well as the new family rafting tradition. 

The grandparents and other non-buoyant Pages biked, walked and drove down the Truckee with everyone meeting for nachos and burgers at the infamous River Ranch.

There is now also an annual 4th of July BBQ on the beach, except this year it was manned by my brother who used to enjoy lighting random fires, rather than tending to them.

Lake Tahoe has its own 4th of July traditions, which are quickly becoming our own with military demonstrations, parades, pancake breakfasts,  and the obligatory multi beach fireworks.


Then there are the new, and perhaps less traditional events that form and transcend generations, like the concert I decided to take my dad to at a local casino.  The last concert he took me to was at the neighboring casino about 20 years prior for Beatlemania.  I guess it took us a little while to recover from that one.

I took him to see the infamous Super Diamond, the best Neil Diamond cover band around.


He wasn't sure what he was in for, but soon found himself singing along to America and Sweet Caroline, ba, ba, ba!

It's sad on both sides when family members can't make the trip to Lake Tahoe for the 4th, like my brother in CT due to kids' baseball schedules and work.  Work, schmurk I say because well, I'm the only kid I have to support.  I also have a cousin who is now living in Australia who couldn't make the haul this year for a good burger (slacker), but the phone was passed around during the BBQ so he could get all the details, minus the relish dripping down his chin.

Then there's the larger void left by the passing of family members like my mom.  We often reminisce and laugh about what she would have said in certain kids being kids moments where she would have just swept the kitchen floor, and then the kids would come running in with buckets of sand in their pockets, ears and hands.  That's why the kids have their own space, and I can't say I'm not enjoying upholding some of her rules.

My mom's place is always with us and she's especially remembered in Lake Tahoe.  We buried her in a quiet garden we created at the local church where my parents have always been involved, and where there are also nice views of the lake and many of Tahoe's wonderful trees.


Home.  I hate to quote an overused line, but it's a quote for a reason.  "Home is where the heart is," and many of us have our hearts in Lake Tahoe, whether we're physically there or not.  The memories continue, they evolve, they grow, and they move into places we can't even know yet.  I'm beyond lucky to have my heart, and yes a few pairs of shoes, in Lake Tahoe, as well as a few other choice locations where I always look forward to returning and calling home.

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