Actually, it really was. One thundery, rainy August night… And before you start wondering…this is a Christmasey story… Cal-Neva style…
It seemed we’d been circling and winding up these mountains to Lake Tahoe for days instead of hours as Dad drove us at a crawl through pelting rain. It was only early twilight, but the sky was dark and foreboding. Lightning flashed here and there and booms reverberated in the distance.
My sister and I looked at each other and grinned. We’d brought along our favorite Christmas music – Andy Williams… Sinatra… Bing – just hoping for this perfect mood to set the stage! Mom had only laughed when we’d made the tape, packed our portable cassette player (no tape deck in our car)!
“Christmas? You girls…” she’d smiled, shaking her head. But, summer or no, we were always primed to pull out our favorite season’s music. One time, on a hot, but rare rainy summer day at our home, hadn’t we also begged to crank up the air conditioning – to make it seem cold – light a fire and put on some carols? There was just something about singing O Holy Night and Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire, along with the heartmelting beauty in the recorded voices we played, that always left me feeling warm, joyful and hope-filled…and that was good ANY time of year. We’d even baked some Christmasey cookies that time… and Mom had joined right into the thick of it with us…
Now, with Dad peering cautiously over the windshield, and wind whipping the trees around us, suddenly it didn’t seem so implausible. “I’m… dreaming, of a whiii-i-ite Christmas…” we started singing with Andy, imitating his phrasing to the utmost.
“Oh, no…not snow!” Dad cried in mock alarm. We could hear the laughter in his voice…sort of.
“Snow! YES!” my sister and I pumped the air, singing out even more lustily. “Jingle bells…jingle bells… dashing through the snow, oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh…hey!”
Mom joined in… then Dad…and soon we were tooling along singing Christmas carols into the summer night and dreaming of silver bells and winter wonderlands we’d never really known much of firsthand…
Finally we made it to the cabin we’d rented, piled out of the car and dashed – shivering – for cover through the rain. “Make a fire, pleeease Dad,” we urged. “It’s cold enough!”
And so… we ate dinner by the fire, making believe… until suddenly Mom cried, “Look! I don’t believe it!” We followed her pointing finger to the large picture window…
“SNOW!!!!!” my sister and I screeched. Light and fluffy, swirling as if in a dream. “It really is, it really IS!” we sang, grabbing each other and dancing in circles. I felt like Natalie Wood in the original Miracle on 34th Street, exclaiming, “You were RIGHT, Mommy… you said if I’d just believe…oh, you were RIGHT!”
Now Mom and Dad looked stunned. “Looks like we made it here just in time,” Dad marveled, “and for awhile there I wasn’t sure if we’d ever find this place!”
We went to bed with a nice sense of exhaustion… feeling as though we were snug and cozy inside a snowglobe… somewhere in the Tahoe mountains…on the border of California and Nevada. Like the Cal-Neva Hotel Dad had told us about that boasted of being located – half and half – in both of the two states. “Please let it stay a little while…” I thought, as I drifted to sleep.
In the morning, to our delight, snow blanketed the ground and flocked the trees in a miracle created – it seemed – just for us. Time to build a snowman, throw a few snowballs…And even though it melted within hours, giving us days to enjoy the Lake in its full and breathtaking multi-blue sparkle of summer, we knew we would always remember this as our summer Cal-Neva Christmas.