This last weekend in Tahoe marked the fourth time in my life that I’ve been tubing. The first two times were at Camp Texlake, a Girl Scout camp I only visited for two summers when I was probably 6 and 7. The third time was in the summer of 1997. I was about to enter the 8th grade.
In the middle of that summer, the family decided to take a lengthy trip up to Ohio and West Virginia. And why the eff would you do something crazy like that?, you wonder. Truthfully, I can’t say I blame you. I consider my gentleman friend one of the best things to come out of Ohio, but beyond that, Cedar Point, and Lola…well, let’s just say that I’m not exactly hankering to move to the Midwest any time soon.
The real reason we visited Ohio that summer was to see Beej’s brother, Larry. At the time, Larry was living in Columbus, in a lovely home with a nice garden. He also had a boat on Buckeye Lake, which was a pretty big draw for me.
When we first arrived in Columbus, my mother had pulled Larry to the side and explained to him that I was 12, and growing, and that I ate a lot. Like, seriously, A LOT. That I needed to be fed regularly, in large doses, preferably with something cheesy, lest I turn into a whiny, complaining, grumpy, back-talking little monkey. Larry could only guffaw at my mother’s claims, which were seemingly exaggerations.
“I kid not,” she said, “All that kid thinks about is food. Food food food food food.”
“It can’t be that bad,” he’d told her, with a wave of the hand. And even after the first few days in Columbus, when I’d wake up and demand Instant Ramen for breakfast — sometimes along with a Pop-Tart, or dry cereal, or croutons, or all of the above — he didn’t think too much of it.
But then, we went boating. And he realized exactly what my mother meant.
The first day we went out to the lake, it was hot and the air was heavy with humidity. Though there were big, billowing clouds in the sky, they were welcome on such a day — happy, temporary sunshades providing a brief respite from the intense sun and the gallons of sweat seeping out of your every pore.
My family loaded all our gear and snacks into the boat, while, as usual, I sat back and watched, trying to look busy so I didn’t have to help too much. By the time we set off from the dock, I found myself comfortably laid out on one side of the boat, on my back and staring up at the great clouds, thick and fluffy and whipped high into the troposphere by the summer wind.
“Look!” I said dreamily, pointing upwards, “Look at those clouds! They look just like mashed potatoes…”
It was all I said, a simple statement to no one, really. Then, I was lost in a savory reverie, imagining the golden sun as melting butter, and those warm clouds coating my mouth with their comforting, starchy flavor.
I didn’t even notice, but my mother shot a glance over to Larry, triumphant and knowing. He could only stare back at her in shock, wondering how a kid, a child even, could already be so seroius, so passionate about something so simple.