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  • Writer's pictureTiara Inserto

Never have I ... lived in South Lake Tahoe.

Updated: Oct 10, 2021

We’ve vacationed in South Lake Tahoe for many years. Usually, short weekend trips, mostly in the winter, as we introduced our children to a world of activities neither of their parents grew up but now enjoyed.

When the opportunity came to purchase a house in this beautiful area, we decided to take the leap. Our buy was a run-down funny looking house with shaggy red carpets and a circular metal staircase whose bars wouldn’t prevent our then-two-year-old from falling through.

But we liked it immediately – quirks and all. It had all we needed: three bedrooms for six people, a working stove and microwave, hot water, and two bathrooms. It would need work, and sure enough, it has taken us y-e-a-r-s to get through the list of ‘must-do-s,’ a list we have yet to finish. But having a place in SLT brought us back more often, and our love for the area in the winter now extended through the year. One day, we had promised ourselves, one day we’d spend more than a week here.

When the borders for Australia tightened up due to the Delta variant, our plans to move Down Under by the summer were indefinitely suspended. “One day” came upon us quite suddenly. As was the need to evacuate from a forest fire that grew fast and viciously. When the locals left, we knew it was serious. And for a week, we began planning for the possibility of being homeless if the fires weren’t contained.

Fortunately, our neighborhood was spared – thank you firefighters! – and we finally returned to SLT, suitcases in hand, a month later than planned.

Our “one day… in Lake Tahoe” felt like a series of restarts.

We’re adjusting to the unique silence of the early mornings in the mountains, as well as the sight of bears walking in the area behind our house. The clean beaches and the pristine water beckoned, as do the various hiking trails. And now that the fires in the Sierras have been largely contained, the blues skies, we had missed in August, have returned.

The house itself, as a vacation home, was a good fit. As a permanent residence, we’re squished! Half our clothes are still in bags; rooms are shared; our dining table is used for eating, studying, art, and as a dump station. We’re making do with what we have, applying what Covid has taught us we must do. Adjust; adapt; accommodate.

While familiar and comfortable with my neighborhood, there are moments when I feel the loss of the community I had called ‘home’ for nine years. The most recent episode was being caught in the traffic line for drop-offs at the neighborhood school. I realized that I had no one to wave to as cars passed me, that I was the strange face in the neighborhood.

It occurred to me that I will remain the ‘stranger’ for the duration of our time here. As a tourist destination, I am one of many temporary residents. The locals wouldn't think twice of our presence nor of our eventual absence.

Did it matter that no one here really cared if we stay or go? It was a question I again asked myself when we returned to the house we were selling because of the Caldor fires. Life there had continued in our absence. Schools had reopened; schedules resumed; commitments now filled our friends' calendars. But not mine. I watched my children watch their former community go on without their participation. They seemed okay. I hope they're okay. Here, they don't look for anyone. This is temporary. It has always been temporary. We headed for the lake when it was warm enough; we snuck in a movie when it wasn't.

We'll enjoy the magic of the area. But we won't truly be a part of it.

My #50to50 list:

  1. Live in South Lake Tahoe ... temporarily.

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