Cape Cod: A Place and a Dream
And then I fell in love.
Like many women’s dreams, my dream was put on hold for my husband’s dream, and somehow a gift shop on Cape Cod didn’t quite compare with my husband’s career. The plan was that after he retired we would make our home on the Cape and I could have my shop. My husband was very understanding about my love affair with the Cape. He used to say, “I have to get you out there once a year or you go crazy. You draw your strength from that place.” He tried taking me to the Pacific Coast one year and didn’t understand that the sun has to come up over the ocean not go down into it!
Life sometimes has its own plans for us and the direction of my life was west not east. My daughters are daughters of the west, having grown up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and trips out east became less and less frequent until, after a while, they were nonexistent. Instead, vacations were spent in the mountains and dude ranches. The mountains were beautiful but they never touched me emotionally, and I noticed over the years that people who became permanent mountain people were more often than not retreating from life in one form or another, seeking isolation, while people who migrated to places like the Cape were embracing life and their own ingenuity. For me the memories of the Cape were a kaleidoscope of color.
But after my youngest daughter’s sophomore year in college I needed to refuel my tank and I talked them into a trip to Nantucket. My husband had passed away many years before when the girls were still quite young. I had remarried and the new husband was from Minnesota and like all Minnesotans’ wanted to return, so now we were divorced but Minnesota was home.
We got off the plane in Boston and caught the Hyannis bus outside the terminal which was definitely below the dignity of my daughters. I tried to explain to them it was silly to rent a car and then leave it parked in Hyannis for a week. We wouldn’t need one on the island. They couldn’t imagine! We stood in line for our tickets at the Steamship Line with sand and luggage all around us. They didn’t dare complain but asked me in a disdainful way, “What is it about this place you love so much?” The body language was staggering.
Things eased as we enjoyed the ferry ride out to the island. It was a clear day with a stiff breeze. The sun sparkled on the water like diamonds. We overheard a fellow Easterner refer to her tennis shoes as sneakers. Throughout their lives the girls from the west had always questioned and made fun of me for calling tennis shoes sneakers. On the ferry they got it and began to see their mother through new eyes, and we had a good laugh over it. I saw a look on my youngest daughter’s face as she was looking out at the moving sea, breathing in the ocean air, the wind was blowing in her face…I wondered, is she was catching it?
Then once again both of their jaws dropped when we got off the ferry and they found that we would drag our own luggage up the cobblestone streets to the Roberts House where we were staying.
We checked in, caught the shuttle out to Madaket, sat on the beach, watched the waves and soaked up the sea air and I could feel life flow back into me. We then headed back to town where we wandered around, in and out of shops for an hour or so before we ended up down near the wharf again for dinner while we watched the next group of people get off the ferry, find their luggage, and head off to their destination. During our conversation my older daughter, always my champion, said, “Oh, Mom, now we understand why you always dreamed of your own shop out here. You should have taken daddy’s insurance money and opened one. You were right, what you were dreaming of never would have worked in Colorado.”
“We had a long road in front of us. If daddy had lived and we retired out here that would have been one thing, but at the time…it just wouldn’t have been the right thing. In the end the joy of watching you two grow into two wonderful ,happy young women has brought me more happiness than I could imagine, much more than a gift shop…but that little dream of mine has gotten me through some pretty rough times. I remember one night about six months after daddy died, crying all night long. I was still awake as the sun came up, I looked out at the mountains, and they were beautiful, all the pinks and purples against the morning Colorado sky, but they weren’t the ocean and I wished so hard that they were. I needed it. Suddenly, and I remember this so well, I was on the beach on a gray day, the surf was high and the wind was whipping my hair and the salt was stinging my face. A sense of peace came over me and I felt as your grandmother used to say, ‘God is in His heaven and all is right with the world.’ Somehow at that moment I knew we would be okay. I went up stairs, splashed water on my face and woke you kids up. Everyone needs a place and a dream to hold on to. For you kids it probably will be the mountains in Colorado. They are what you have grown up with and have known.”
But my youngest surprised me, she leaned back in her chair with a grin on her face, “No, Mom, I am going to live here some day.” In just a few short hours it had called to her.