Big Bear Lake: the place that changed my life forever

My niece and kids, in the driveway where it all began...

My niece and kids, in the driveway where it all began…

Since Chase and I met 10 years ago, we’ve spent every summer holiday weekend at his parents’ house in Big Bear Lake. We’re here now (though I’m posting this from Starbucks because they don’t have Internet access), which got me thinking about the significance of this place.

Chase and I met in the driveway of this house. His brother was engaged to marry my childhood friend, and I’d flown out from D.C. for their engagement party. I flew into L.A., and Chase’s brother drove me up for the party. I got out of his truck and Chase was there to greet us. He was tan and wearing red board shorts and a white Titleist golf visor. I thought he was cute, but he lived in California, so what did it matter?

It turns out it mattered a lot. We stayed up late talking, and I felt very comfortable with him from day one. I’d never had that kind of connection with anyone. I went back to D.C., and we talked for hours every night. I returned to Big Bear for Labor Day weekend. It was the first of many holiday weekends spent in this magical place.

Two years later, on Labor Day weekend, Chase proposed to me on his boat in a bay near his grandma’s house, the bay he’d learned to ski in. We floated around for hours, until it was almost dark, planning our future with permanent grins on our face. “I’m getting married!,” I kept saying. Chase laughed every time.

10 months later, we got married on the lawn overlooking the lake that played such a central role in our relationship. Our closest friends and family were there and we danced, drank and laughed all night long.

Another 22 months passed before we made our first trip to Big Bear as parents. Clay was three weeks old when we first brought him for Memorial Day weekend. He ate every two hours at that point. I got no sleep and that was the sign for me that Big Bear had changed forever. We were parents now, we couldn’t just drink beer and play horseshoes all day. Clay did fine on that trip, but after that he didn’t sleep well up there, and I think the altitude bothered him. He was fussy and whiny. “What is wrong with him here?,” I wondered.

Avery’s first Big Bear trip was also for Memorial Day. Of course, the “easiest baby ever” was an angel. Altitude never seemed to bother her. She ate, slept and smiled. Clay was two by then and liked boat rides and playing with his cousins on the lawn. He still didn’t sleep well, but he’d outgrown the fussiness.

The next summer when Avery was walking, we had to chase her everywhere. Our independent child did not just follow us around the way Clay had, which can be nerve wracking on a waterfront property. That summer’s visits were not really relaxing, but at least they were fun since everyone was so happy to be here.

We’ve been parents for five years, half the amount of time I’ve been coming to Big Bear. Clay can swim, and Avery knows not to wander off. I can read a magazine or finish a drink again. My kids adore Big Bear, and they count down the days until we leave whenever we’re planning a trip. As they grow up, I hope they’ll understand the significance of this place in their family’s history: it changed my life forever.

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