Five years ago today I snagged a Southwest Airlines ticket to Reno and rented a 4WD SUV for the twisty ride over the mountains to North Lake Tahoe. As the snow came down, I switched the car into four-wheel drive and turned the wipers on full. My knuckles were white with tension as I gripped the steering wheel.
I was on my way to meet a woman I’d only spoken with for the first time (albeit for three hours) the night before. She was spending the holiday alone on the lake. I was going to spend the holiday alone in the desert.
At some point, one of us tentatively said: Why not spend it together?
Almost as if in a dream, I found myself parked on a pitch-dark, snow-covered street in Incline Village. Pretty much lost. Now what? I pulled out my cellphone and dialed the number I’d been given. A porch light went on, the front door opened and I saw silhouette of a woman. I stepped out of the SUV into the snow and dark and into the arms of Rose Alcantara, now my wife and partner in adventure.
Love at first sight? It is real.
Great reward comes from great risk? That’s real, too.
Rose and her children have been coming to this house near Lake Tahoe since Jon and Caira were little children. It is a three-bedroom ranch house in a hillside neighborhood filled with towering pines. The house is owned – or has been at one time or another – by eight families. They get together once a year to divvy up the weeks, discuss upkeep and finances and catch up on family news. Some see each other more often, some, not at all.
The owners cut cards and pick weeks in rotation, recut and pick again two more times. Sometimes a little horse trading goes on and in the end everyone gets pretty much the weeks they were hoping for. The amazing thing is that their system has worked for two decades. Their shared love for the house and the lake area and a mutual respect for all owners have made this possible.
This will be our last week at this house in Incline Village. We are selling our share to a young couple with two children who will create wonderful memories of their own. We’ll be moving to Belize early next year to create a whole new set of memories of our own.
Meanwhile, we’ll have about 16 people here for Thanksgiving, including Rose’s son and daughter, Jon and Caira; and my oldest son, Brendan; his wife, Cami; and my grandson, Brody. It will be sweet and bittersweet.
That is very much what Rose and I are experiencing as we sell off most of our possessions. We must let go of the old in order to make way for the new life. We didn’t think it would be easy and we are both swept with gratitude for the beautiful memories that have been unlocked during this process.
This house on Lake Tahoe will hold a special poignancy for the fact that it is where we first met. And fell in love. And knew that we would be spending the rest of our lives together.
Happy anniversary, my Rose.
And Happy Thanksgiving/Hanukkah to you all!