During a busy season of work a couple years ago, I was, as the Kardashians would put it, "so over it." I needed to get away from people and outside influences and make goals for my upcoming year in Spain. It was time to mount a "full-scale retreat" weekend at my family's rustic cabin on Greers Ferry Lake.
Built in the 1960s, this cabin has never changed: vividly-hued, vinyl couches; mint green and gold marbled paneling in the bathroom; and a bottle of White Rain shampoo that has been sitting on a shelf by the bathtub since the Reagan administration. Try moving a table or suggest changing the carpet. Someone will literally slap the teeth right out of your mouth. There's no WiFi, and the only working technology is a Super Nintendo in the basement where my cousins and I spent many late nights playing Super Mario World and Tecmo Super Bowl.
During my solo weekend, I was able to reflect on the many summers spent coming to this cabin. One year, my older cousins told me that alligator gars were freshwater sharks that would eat me. For an entire summer, I would scream in pure terror whenever I had to put as much as a toe in the water. A couple of years later, my brother and I were tubing when we noticed that our tube was rapidly deflating. We were saying our last goodbyes and frantically screaming "WE'RE GONNA DROWN!" My father stopped the boat and very calmly pointed out that we were wearing life jackets, so drowning would be difficult. Some heroes don't wear capes and fly; some wear Oakland A's caps and drive Bayliners.
We faced very real grief here, too. One summer, our Nana was there with us spreading joy and laughter. The next summer, she was gone. Cancer stole her from us. I can still close my eyes and hear those old kitchen floors squeak while she whipped up some of her famous biscuits and gravy. The familiar walls and rooms of this place remind me that she was here, and I hold those memories of her close to my heart.
Throughout our years of coming to the lake house, my siblings, cousins, and I learned to swim, tube, ski, wake board, wake surf, and drive a boat. We made countless memories: pillow fights in the basement ("It's not bleeding that bad, Jessica. If the parents hear you crying, we won't get to play anymore."), skiing 6 people behind one boat, skiing in the rain (10/10 would not recommend), swimming out to "Uncle Jim" buoy, fishing in the wee hours of the morning, and fireworks in the front yard every fourth of July. We jumped off the highest ledges of the Hill Creek cliffs. We hiked to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. This place made me laugh. It made me tough. It made me brave. It gave me memories with my family that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
In moments of solitude, external influences fade away. We are left with only our own minds to explore. This can be terrifying, but in those moments, we are given the opportunity to truly get to know ourselves. I hope that each of you has a place that means something special to you like this cabin does to me. A place to untangle all of the burdens and stress that have left you feeling disappointed. A place to take some time to inhale deep breaths of fresh air and to glimpse a huge sky full of billions of stars. A place to reflect on the person you were, what you’ve become, and who you have yet to be.