There are three mosquito bites on the back of my right calf and they’re coalescing into one uber bite. Itchy. Angry red. Pants make it itch, so I’m rolling my cuffs way up.
When I was a child, my grandmother’s best friend (who we always called “aunt”) told me her mosquito bite remedy: use your thumb nail to press an X over the bite. Like many folk remedies, it’s a false wisdom passed through generations until it gains the gravitas that masks a sad fact: placebo.
Still, I’m tempted to scoot up my pajama pants and dig three Xs into my skin.
The bites and the remedy were given to me in Lake Tahoe. I’ve been here every summer of my life. The tradition feels anachronistic, but I’d never think of breaking it, even though the definition of summer shifts with age.
When I was a kid, the summers at Lake Tahoe felt endless. School would end and my parents would have me and my brother sleep in our clothes, so we could get in the car early early in the AM and make the drive to the Lake in good time. In college, I worked up here — at a deli inside a tiny grocery store where I learned what it was like to be on the other side of the counter.
Once these two dudes my age were waiting in line and I heard one telling the other about a place at school called “buck fidies.” Any good Bruin of a certain age will recognize the name of that Westwood sandwich institution. When they came up to order I asked the dude if he went to UCLA. He did. I told him I did too. He just looked at me askance.
In the early years after college, I could usually only scrap together a few free days to go to the lake and my parents would pay for my flights from LAX to RNO and back.
I’m older now and can afford both the flights and more than a few days’ time off from work.
So I fly to Reno, someone picks me up and on the drive to my family’s condo, I get the rundown on who’s currently at the lake. The numbers ebb and flow like a tide, depending on the amount of visiting cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends, buddies, aunts and uncles (biological and honorary). We have loud nights with post-dinner games, or quiet evenings watching movies and telling stories. During the day we go for hikes and boat rides. I read on the beach, or chat by the pool. I try to outsmart the constant threat of sunburn with layer after layer of sunscreen and increasingly wide-brimmed hats.
Me and my cousins have all been laid to bed as babies in this place. Warm after a day in the sun with hair wet from our baths. Stories and kisses from the assembled masses, then drifting off to sleep with the soothing sound of adult chatter muffled from down the hallway.
But there hasn’t been a baby in a while. The youngest of us just turned 19. Bedtime stories have been replaced by cocktails… although that’s about to change. My brother’s wife is pregnant and she’s due any day now. We’re waiting for a sign and then I’m packing up and heading to San Francisco to welcome my niece.
Next summer, there will be a crib in one of these rooms.
Being a kid in the summer swimming with a school of cousins is an excellent experience. Growing into adulthood with those cousins is great too, because while we were once just a mass of youth, we now get to know one another in a new deeper way: as adults and as individuals.
And now that we’re the adults, we’re slowing become the young parents smearing sunscreen on squirmy kids. Wrestling their water wings into place (if people still use those). My brother is going first, but there are a few of us who will be quick to follow. A new generation spins into an old place. A new crop of memories just about to be born.