We all have that place. The one we return to…maybe every year, maybe every ten. It sustains and restores and comforts us. For me, that place is Cape Cod. The drive over the Sagamore Bridge is more than crossing the Cape Cod Canal. It’s a trip into the past, the present, and even the future. I see so much when my family returns each year…
I see the pink beachfront motel in South Yarmouth my grandmother, Nana, owned. It’s the place my parents met in 1954. My 22 year-old father drove a convertible and one day stopped to help a middle-aged woman load boxes. “Would you like to meet my daughter?“ the woman asked. “No, thanks,” my father replied. She persisted and he met the daughter, a lovely 20 year-old brunette. They married three months later.
I see the office in the motel where I spent two summers as a teenager, helping Nana. I see myself walking her beach, hearing transistor radios, and smelling Coppertone suntan lotion. I hear Nana calling to me across the sand, coifed in her usual blond up-do. “Law!” I see honeymooners, families, and couples frolicking in the blue-green water. At night, I smell pink petunias from a planter in front of the motel. Their scent seems impossibly romantic.
In 1980, Randy and I honeymoon in Nana’s Windmill cottage down the street on Bass River. I see us fishing off the dock and laughing and drinking the champagne Nana left in the fridge, feeling so grown up with our Asti Spumante. One day we sit outside and watch next door as two little boys shriek with delight jumping off their dock into the river. We don’t know it, but we’re seeing our future.
Years later we rent that same house where our own two sons and their cousin take their first tentative leaps into the water. Over the years I see Fourth of July parties with wide-eyed children holding sparklers. I see blue popsicles and green floats shaped like alligators. I see trips to the nearby arcade, the pancake house, and Provincetown.
I see our families visit with parents and brothers and sisters. I see my father rushing to jump in the river before he’s unpacked his bags, his face glowing with happiness. His grandsons jump in beside him. I see my mother taking the boys for ice cream when the Good Humor truck pulls into the parking lot next door.
Time passes. I see teenagers with headphones and MTV and heart-stopping back flips off that same dock. I see illicit gulps of beer, and fishing in the river, and hear “Green Day” from IPods. Now those boys are tall, bearded men. My sons, and their cousin drink whiskey and discuss co-workers and bosses and cost-of-living increases. They still jump off the dock, but their movements are more cautious than the fleet-footed little boys of youth. All have become musicians and, along with Randy, bring out guitars, basses, and banjos. The air fills with music and makes me happy.
I see our younger selves next door, watching. Randy and I have grown older too – slower, hair grayer, no longer the young, nubile newlyweds. Like the river we love with its beautiful sunsets and swooping gulls, time keeps flowing…at least for us. The water has stayed the same over the years, which I find soothing.
I see the cemetery where Nana is buried. Mom and I visit and lay a pink rose on her gravestone. Her motel is now painted a sensible gray, bought out years ago by one of the big resorts. The planters full of petunias are gone, replaced by parking spaces.
Dad died four years ago, but his presence is everywhere – in the water he sprinted to jump in, the lobsters he ate, and the fishing boats, cabin cruisers, and sailboats he loved to watch.
I also see the future. I see a time when Randy and I will be gone and hope that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will come to love the Cape the way we have.
Before long, I see the Sagamore Bridge ahead as we drive home and feel that usual twinge of sadness. I hate leaving. But deep down, I know if I lived here full-time, the magic would fade. Like the mythical Brigadoon, Cape Cod only exists for a little while.
As we cross the canal, back to the real world, I always give a silent thank you.
With God’s grace we’ll be back next year.
Do you have a special place? Comments are always welcome and if you like, please share.
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