Every summer it beckons, like a calling. The few summers we didn’t respond didn’t seem like summer at all. I smell the salt water in the air when we arrive, feeling the familiar heat like a tattered, cottony, smooth blanket, each tear marking a memory. Our car wades through the traffic like taking baby steps which makes the anticipation mount. We pass the ferry docks with a bustle of happy people coming and going, then the J.F.K.Memorial park on our left reminding us of the Kennedy presence in this town, next the Hyannis Yacht Club where boats of all kinds align the docks, some fastened to buoys in the water. And finally we arrive to our Cape Cod home, our other place, for we’ve been coming here for 28 years.
Our first trip, before we were even married, was a mistake of sorts wanting only not to vacation in a dump like we had two years before. I picked it out a AAA Travel Guide. It sounded decent enough: new, fully furnished condominiums, 5 levels, 3 bedrooms, 2 & 1/2 baths, living room, dining room, kitchen & den, ocean side or pool side. I just prayed it wasn’t like Sylvia’s. There were four couples renting this first summer. When we arrived, it looked, to us, like we’d stumbled into something that was beyond our means. We circled the stairway to the top where there was a deck with the most splendorous view I’d ever seen. At the bottom of the stairway, looking up, the various balconies peered out with a clear skylight at the top which emitted light throughout, all day.
That first year, we played house. Four couples on the cusp of engagement, the edge of living hard and living purposefully. This vacation brought a little of both.
Now, 28 years later, who would have thought we’d only stray a handful of times, only to return again. This place is a book mark noting all the significant chapters in our lives. From before marriage, to learning to vacation with in-laws; from our first child’s first vacation to the three of our children building sand castles together as young adults; from marital highs when we were inseparable to marital lows when we contemplated the fate of our union; from sharing our time with relatives, healthy and vivacious, to returning with out them — only present in our memories.
I could write a book of the summers spent here at our Other Place– the nuances which make each year distinct to itself. While we are never conscious of the moments that make the memories while we are in them, they are the highlights we return to in our minds once we’re home and the rhythms of life return, making our happy place seem like a dream. Perhaps, I will write them down one day to make sense of them– to realize how the sum of the years all fit together into one purpose.
After toting all of the necessities from home (those that have become fewer and fewer over the years), situating everything in it’s familiar spot, the moment vacation begins is when I open the slider to the back porch, taking in the beauty of the view: a grassy ledge, 4 stone stairs leading down the crystals of sand, hot on my tender feet, a sprawling beach that loops around the bay, ice blue water that when the sun hits looks like a sheen of diamonds, boats rocking in the current like cradles, all under a vast blue sky where the sun’s arms open up, welcoming.