There are certain recurring events in all of our lives that cause us each to stop and reflect on the passage of time and the course our life has taken. Birthdays and anniversaries are probably the most common examples. I have had the same experience with anniversaries of my commissioning in the Navy.
Now, as I sit here on the deck of our family's place on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, my mind is doing a pass-in-review of the years past.
The first time I came here was in the summer of 1997. I had met my wonderful wife-to-be in March of that year, and that summer, her family invited me to join in their family tradition of relaxing by the lake in the summertime. I was stationed in Groton, so it was feasible for us to come up several times in the summer and spend a weekend at the lake.
Back then with no small children around, our days were spent lounging around reading a lot of books. It was here on the deck that my wonderful wife first introduced me to two of my favorite historically-based fiction books - Gods and Generals and 1812.
Our place is fairly centrally located on the lake, and it's actually quicker and easier to take the boat across the lake to Wolfeboro, Center Harbor, Meredith, or Weirs Beach than it is to actually drive a car all the way around the lake. From that very first summer here, I quickly came to like the idea of driving the boat out to dinner, tying up at the docks in Wolfeboro or Meredith, and walking into town for dinner.
Of course, since I was an officer in the Navy, that was credential and certification enough for my future in-laws to put me in charge of driving the family boat around the lake. As you surely know, I spend a great deal of my time at work in the Navy driving very small, fast, highly maneuverable pleasure craft in water as shallow as 3 feet deep with a bizarre buoy system, right? (There's another blog post to follow about the buoy system.) Even so, it didn't take me long to figure out how to drive the boat.
The scenery from here on the deck is timeless. As I sit here looking out at the lake, this is the exact same mental image I have from my first visit here twelve years ago.
Of course, we didn't have digital cameras back then. We bought our first digital camera for the occasion of ES's birth in 2001, and we brought ES to the lake for the first time when he was about 4 weeks old.
As I type this, I am sitting in the exact spot where that photo was taken above. ES just came looking over my shoulder and he pointed out that the tree in the background is now "bigger" (thicker around the trunk). Good eye, son. I hadn't picked up on that detail.
1997 - My first summer at the lake. I was stationed in Groton, so I made multiple weekend trips to the lake. LW and I were just dating then, so I had to sleep on a twin-size mattress in the middle of the living room floor. Life at the lake was peaceful with plenty of time for reading and naps. In the fall, we brought our friends Chris and Cathleen up to visit the lake and admire the fall foliage.
1998 - LW and I were engaged. I was on deployment that summer. I came up in the spring before leaving on deployment to help get the boat out of winter storage, and I came up in the fall after coming back from deployment to help put the boat back into winter storage.
1999 - In May, I detached from my first submarine and had to report to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA in June. We came up here one last time. This time we came as a married couple so I didn't have to sleep in the living room anymore.
I distinctly remember as we drove away from the lake for the last time wondering when we would be back next and if it would be with children. I pondered where life would take us and what life experiences we would endure between then and our next return to the lake.
2000 - We were in Monterey, cross-country plane tickets were expensive and I only had short breaks between academic quarters at NPS. No visit to the lake this year.
2001 - Graduated from Monterey. ES was born in Monterey in May and we packed up our Nissan Pathfinder and drove across country to go to Groton for SOAC (Submarine Officers Advanced Course). We came up to the lake with ES for the first time that summer. My Oregon Parental Units (OPUs) also came to visit us and we brought them up to the lake that fall. Being in Groton, I was also able to come up to help put the boat away for winter storage. Again, leaving the lake with an uncertain return date led me to wonder where life would take us and when we would return to the lake.
2002 - 2004 - We were stationed in San Diego. Between my underway schedule, the cost of plane tickets and the hassle of traveling with small children, we didn't come to the lake. Actually, I think LW came out to the lake in the summer of 2003 while I was on deployment and spent a few weeks here with her mom.
2005 - 2006 - We moved to the DC area in the fall of 2004, so we were able to come to the lake for a week each summer in 2005 and 2006. The summer of 2005 was YB's first time to the lake.
2007 - 2008 - We were in Hawaii. If you thought the plane tickets from the west coast to Boston or NH were expensive, try buying FOUR plane tickets from HAWAII to Boston. That plus the thought of spending that many hours in an airplane with two small children convinced us to just stay in Hawaii.
2009 - Here we are again, 3 years since our last visit in the summer of 2006. I'm glad being stationed in the DC area allows us to make it to the lake in one day's worth of driving and we can easily come here for a family vacation.
Even though I anticipate coming back next summer (I hope to stay on shore duty until my PRD (projected rotation date) in October 2010 - knock on wood), I still wonder where life will take us and what it will be like when we come back here in another 12 years. Will ES come home from college to join us at the lake, the summer before YB goes off to college? What about 24 years from now? Will LW and I be grandparents by then?
In any case, so much in life changes, I look forward to always having this timeless image of the lake from right here on the deck and cherishing the memories we've shared here.