Every summer and winter, the bed of our pickup is crammed with duffel bags, covered with a tarp in the event of rain, quite probable in Seattle. The cooler is at Mom’s feet, and my two brothers and I are stuffed in the back seat, each with our own bundle of stuff that was absolutely necessary to have. They are watching a movie, I am working on an assignment on my laptop.
We make the quick bathroom stop up at Snoqualmie Pass, where someone inevitably slips on the frozen ground because of lack of coordination, as they haven’t had much space to move for the last few hours.The five-hour drive usually goes off without a hitch, as we have made it so many times that no one has to ask, ‘Are we there yet?’ When we get there, we have a system down, and everyone knows their job. Dad parks the boat if it’s summer, while Mom checks us in and my brothers and I begin to haul things into the room. This is where the trouble begins.
Maybe someone falls down the stairs. Maybe they stub a toe. Maybe they really, really, really want the bed by the window — but so does someone else. Whatever it is, every single one of our family vacations seems to begin with a fight. Mom will get angry, one or both of my brothers will throw a fit, and I will announce that I just need to go for a walk, slamming the door behind me.
And then, of course, we have to go get the boat in the water. This takes a while. First we have to make the quick fifteen-minute drive over to the boat launch. Then there’s the line, because no matter when we go, it always happens to be the busiest time of day. And then, of course, the boat won’t start. We have to call ‘Da Boat Guy’ — we’ve gotten to be quite good friends with him by now — and wait the hour and a half to two hours for him to arrive and do whatever fiddling he needs to do. Plus, of course, the weather is scorching, we can’t swim around the boats, and that beach over there is private.
I don’t know how, but we somehow manage to get settled in and get to bed. The next morning, the sunlight reflecting off the lake and the sound of children laughing — and screaming — down at the beach, reminds us that we are indeed on vacation.
As the remainder of our days flow by, one into the other, I am constantly surprised by how much fun I am having. Really, as a teenager, shouldn’t I be sullen and completely opposed to doing anything close to familial bonding? When we play tackle-tag on the field, and I am laughing and not caring how stupid I look to that (really cute) guy over there, I don’t have to worry about how I’ll get everything done. When my brother and I are trying to balance on the inner tube as the boat flies along at 30 mph, it wipes away every argument I’ve had with him. And when we go to a horrible, kitschy restaurant and are joined by the owner for a meal, I learn the beauty of small-town life — and why some people can’t wait to escape.
The best thing about going the same place over and over is that nothing is ever a last. We can go sledding in that same spot again. We can drive up that winding cliff to the gorgeous panoramic view. That winery where they had the Easter Egg Hunt with amazing prizes? We’re planning on attending again next year. We never have to be sad the vacation has ended, or try to cram everything in that we want to do, because as we drive away, we’re already saying, “Next time — “
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