The walls of this lake house hold so much emotion for being so young.
We were here, the paint barely dry, the wood floors smelling fresh, on Valentines Day with our first positive pregnancy test. I spent that whole summer in a bikini, belly out.
We were here, the next year, when that baby girl crawled for the first time. Proud of herself, she made her way across the old Oriental rug that we’d shipped from Los Angeles, the colors not quite screaming “rustic retreat.”
It was under this house that we celebrated my in-laws’ 70th birthdays, a joint party that brought friends and family from as far as three states over. It poured rain on our outdoor event, but no matter. The band (2/3rds of a ’90’s radio mainstay) rocked well into the night. Men stripped off their shirts and women kicked off their shoes. I was a new mother then, and worried about how the debauchery was affecting those present underage.
We were here on the quiet morning we got the phone call that disrupted our lives, the sudden and tragic death of a dear friend, like family. Those few minutes and hours after we knew are among the worst memories that I’ll carry with me always. Thoughts still so raw I can’t even recount them here.
For the last six summers, we have hosted both sides of our family, and groups of friends from all stages. Our beds and bathrooms have been busting at the seams, the washing machines are always running. For lunch we like to eat at a gas station up the way, jumping out of the boat to order wings and burgers, only occasionally wearing shoes. I’ve floated out past the buoy as a friend told me she wanted to leave her marriage. I’ve watched from the porch while a group of women who met on the internet shed their clothes and their wine to jump into the chilly fall water.
Two years ago, before I collapsed on the floor in front of my momma after months of sleeplessness and solo parenting two toddlers, my husband threw me the most memorable luau birthday party, with grass skirts and coconut drinks and as much laughter as any one place could take.
And then last summer, this place was a refuge in our family’s saddest hour. We mourned the loss of Dave here. Our days were quiet and strangely productive. It was a safe place, one of rest and open sadness.
On Sunday, our 17 houseguests departed. Next week we’ll host 25. It was and will be happy and full and slightly chaotic. There will be tears (there always are), but there will mostly be the magic that covers this place, that sets it apart by time and distance. We bought this house - almost as physically far as we could from Los Angeles - for the very set-apart-ness. For our kids to know a different life from Hollywood, for ourselves to have a breather, a yearly reset on what matters.
We’re lucky to have the contrast.