Thursday, September 26, 2013

Our Summer Travels

One long-ago Christmas, I received a travel journal as a gift; from then on, I dutifully documented all our family vacations. A Traveler's Diary, it was called. I can state this with certainty, because I still have it on my bookshelf. It is filled with four years worth of trips, most of them to California. Looking back on these journals now, I find it interesting that I so often dwelled on objective facts, cataloging in detail every location we visited (and I mean every location. Case in point: "We cross the street to go to Albertson's. We buy a Pepsi, a Sprite, Mentos and a pack of Trident... the total came to $3.37") and every meal we ate ("We head back for a gigantic lunch of turkey sandwiches, potato salad, chips, cantaloupe, grapes, figs, soda, and pineapple upside-down cake"). One extreme example of my borderline-obsessive documenting occurred during a long road trip, where I filled pages--pages--with frequent updates of miles traveled, exterior temperature, and compass bearings. Lest you think I am exaggerating, I offer proof:

I don't know why my teenage self thought that I might one day want to remember those things, but, in this particular case, I imagine it had more to do with my backseat boredom.

When reading these journals now, the details I treasure the most aren't the objective reports of what we did, but the occasional snatches of conversation that were recorded, the descriptions of places we stayed, the little moments that capture my relationship with my sisters, and my cousins, and that say so much about the person I was then.

So, this will not be a long post chronicling the many wonderful places and lovely people we visited on our summer vacation. Instead, here are a few snapshots of the moments that I most want to remember.

We rode a train through an old mining town. It began to rain on the way back to the station, and D huddled on my lap as I curved my body around his, trying to keep him warm as the fat, cold raindrops splashed down.

The rain became a spectacular thunderstorm. We took shelter in a quiet cathedral.

And, later, in a candy shoppe.

That evening, between storms, we roasted marshmallows and enjoyed s'mores on my mother's back patio.

During this vacation, I was privileged to meet my two baby nieces, to hold them and dance with them and look into their beautiful eyes. They are both as sweet as jellybeans.

Entire days were spent swimming, with occasional poolside snack breaks.

We also spent a lot of time driving; C and D decided that the windmill-dotted golden hills of central California looked a lot like the prairie of Prax.

In Berkeley, we visited dear friends, we ate cinnamon rolls and fresh grapes, we picked Meyer lemons, we walked to the park to play in the sun.

But before all that, we visited this beautiful mountain lake, a place I went every summer during my childhood. It was strange and wonderful to come back, this time, as the grown-ups.

The lake water is always clear and bracingly cold, even at the height of summer. I swam out and floated on my back, looking up at the pines, the pines that infuse the air with their sweet, clean scent.

I floated for a while, my ears in the water, numbness slowly seeping into my fingers and toes. I enjoyed the quiet, allowed the flood of nostalgia. All I could hear was a quiet thudding, and for a moment I thought perhaps I was listening to the heartbeat of the lake, or of the earth itself.

But, of course, it was only my own.