Since the conditions were nearly ideal, we took the kids out on the motorboat. My parents bought the boat about eighteen years ago. For the first twenty years we had the place, we kids would sit on the shore, or the neighbor's dock, or our own dock after we finally built one, and watch the motorboats go by, fantasizing that one would pull up and its owner would offer us a ride. I know--it was a hardscrabble existence we endured. That's why I could always identify with Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Despite a bit of claustrophobic panic caused by the elaborate life-jackets they had to wear, the girls enjoyed their first boat ride.
The most fun they had, though, was playing in the baby pool we picked up from Ace Hardware as an afterthought when we stopped to get some supplies on our way to the cabin.
Since the water only reached about sixty-five degrees while we were there, we abandoned any hopes we had of playing with the girls in the lake. Instead, we filled up the pool and let it sit out on the dock to warm up.
After their splashfest, they relaxed in their new poolside loungewear.
Undaunted by the frigid water, my sister and I both did a little waterskiing. Or, in my case, attempted to do a little waterskiing. I was once pretty good at it, and thought I would just pick up where I left off the last time I skied, about nine years ago.
Both my sister and had I mastered the skill of getting up on one ski, rather than starting on two and dropping one, about twenty years ago, and I saw no reason to revert to the easier, less elegant method. So I tried twice to get up, only to be dragged, mostly underwater, until I could no longer hold the rope. And on the second attempt, when the rope snapped out of my grasp, I felt a corresponding snap in the inside of my left elbow.
I blamed the aging and overloaded boat for being too slow to yank me out of the water like it used to, dragging me instead like a disabled tanker behind a tugboat. But everyone knew who was really aging and overloaded. My elbow injury felt just like the one I sustained last summer when I tried to heft two 4'x8' pieces of half-inch sheetrock (they come bundled together) onto my shoulder and from there slide them into the bed of my truck, a maneuver I used to do easily a mere...uh...fifteen years ago. In both cases, the injured arm was rendered a useless slab for several days, and in the case of the sheetrock hubris, it took several months for my arm to heal completely.
My sister, on the other hand, who is ever so slightly older than I am, but has chosen not to let herself go to pot, quickly popped out of the water and described graceful arcs across the bay as I whimpered in pain and humiliation.
In the evenings, we ate, drank, and told endless stories with my parents, aunts, uncles, and nephews. On two consecutive nights, we played the board game "Taboo" with great passion and volume on the deck, just under the open master bedroom window of the mansion that has sprung up next door to the cabin since the last time I was there. During the games, the object of which is to get your teammates to say a particular word or phrase without using any prohibited words as clues, lifelong personality traits and relationships between family members came into high relief. I was reminded that even a gulf of miles and years doesn't blur the patterns we establish early among generations of family--the ways we negotiate, instruct, joke, and bicker--and in this setting those patterns were comfortable and natural.
And that's why, whenever anyone suggested we quiet down in consideration of our neighbor, I scoffed. If that nouveau riche robber baron wanted peace and quiet, he shouldn't have built his fortress next to our little lincoln log house. We may not have noisy jet skis, or stage massive firework displays like he does, but my people--the kind who drink a lot of pretty decent wine and get fired up about word games--are not a tribe to be trifled with.