I'm content taking photos on my smartphone for nearly an hour before chastising myself. I should be playing with my niece and my daughter, throwing rocks into our favorite creek, not staring at this screen capturing the moments for later.
I pocket the phone and start searching for a stone smooth enough to skim a couple of times across the clear snowmelt water.
While looking for that perfect projectile, a memory floats to the surface of my mind.
"Hey!" I call to my brother. He's kneeling by my niece, watching her swish both hands in the freezing creek. "Do you remember making boats and trying to float them here?"
"Yeah," he says, looking up with a smile.
I change course and start looking for a flat remnant of a log that might prove seaworthy. I find one partially submerged near a logjam, the kind of stick pile my brother and I believed were beaver dams when we were kids.
Every summer, my dad and grandparents would take me and my brother to this very spot at General Creek near our Lake Tahoe cabin. We'd walk through the Sugar Pine campground, fishing poles and nets in hand.
In late June this year, three generations of my family celebrated the 60th anniversary of our cabin. My dad was 9—the same age as my younger daughter—when he and my grandparents built their vacation home, complete with big porches, a tin roof, and white gingerbread trim.
Now, each summer, we fit six adults, three kids, and one Old English sheepdog into the cabin. We've become experts at dancing around each other in the tiny kitchen and waiting patiently for the sole bathroom.
We enjoy keeping many of our family traditions alive, including taking leisurely walks down to the pier for ice cream and crawdad fishing, swimming at Meeks Bay, and hiking to General Creek.
When my niece gets older, we may hike farther into the national forest or take a canoe out on the lake. But for now, we're all content to watch our youngest family member splash in the creek and throw stones as far as she can.
A few yards up the shore, I grab the soggy chunk of wood for the hull of my ship. Eventually I find a stick for the mast, attach a couple of leaves as makeshift sails, and voila! The SS Childhood Memories is ready to set sail.
My brother walks over to witness its maiden voyage. I kneel down, gently set the boat on the creek's surface, and let it go. It promptly keels over and sinks, not 2 feet from my hand. My brother and I laugh wryly, trying to not read too much into this failure. After all, that's what we're here for, to create new memories. Δ
Associate Editor Andrea Rooks hopes to one day take her grandkids fishing at General Creek. Send bobbers and bait to firstname.lastname@example.org.