The log house sits at the end of a long gravel driveway. After four hours of driving I welcome the colorful flags of Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, and Mardi Gras fluttering hello as we drive past. I park between the garage and the bunkhouse and open the car door to breathe in the humid fresh air.
The simple house blocks our view of the lake, as my daughter and I unpack the car, but the mosquitoes and horse flies nibbling our DEET free ankles remind us where we are. We rush in to hello kisses and hugs and then down the stairs to the walkout basement where our bunk bed waits in the middle of the family room. We open our suitcases and strip down to nothing and then shimmy into our stiff clean swimsuits. No matter what time we show up the first thing we must do is jump in the lake. Traditionally it is evening. The setting sun makes long back lit tree shadows stretch up the hill. Minnows dart around our feet and bald eagles soar overhead. Laughing we look for the three loons that inhabit the lake every year. Loons mate for life, so why are there three? Two wives and one husband? One wife and two husbands or something even more exotic? Three husbands?
Every year, and it has been five now, the passage of time is clarified. My two year old daughter with her sand filled diaper has grown to a long lean girl on the edge of bravery. Each year she stretches farther and risks more because at the lake parent worries are leeches and ticks between toes and not the unspecific fears of city life. Wonders await: berries are plump waiting to be picked; frogs are hiding in the twilight waiting to be grabbed; sunfish after sunfish fly out of the lake on shimmering lines waiting to be fried up for dinner by grandpa.
Some traditions are made, Easter brunches, Passover senders, Christmas Eve and Day all have their arbitrary flow. Other traditions just happen when the “if we are going to the lake this year” becomes a foregone conclusion of when. When will we pick berries? When will we picnic on the pontoon boat? When are the turtle races? When are we going to light the bonfire and have s’mores? The magic is new every year as the kids grow and the families change and the tradition morphs to a new fun. Every year we stay a little longer and every year we wish we had just one more day.