Tag Archives: Cape Cod

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September 21, 2019 · 10:10 am

(Not) Letting go

As of mid morning on Monday my hair still smelled like woodsmoke from Saturday night’s bonfire on Herring Cove beach. I washed it later in the day, but delaying the shampooing allowed the odor to linger in a lame attempt to cling to the week I had just spent at the Cape. It ended too soon.

After my adventures in Greece earlier this summer, I came to the realization that 2 weeks in Greece was essentially the same cost as the house I rent in Wellfleet. Hmmm. That was striking. Maybe it was time to let go of of this twenty year tradition for the sake of experiencing new destinations…

But, the magic of the Cape seems to get me every time, even when getting there is a clusterf*ck of traffic. Morning walks to the ocean, swimming with my dog in a pond that feels like our own and enjoying friends and low key entertaining…I just don’t know how to let it go.

Difficulty letting go has been a theme for me, it seems. This annual vacation, my Volvo wagon, lovers, specific articles of clothing…I hang on to things that have personal meaning that is sometimes irrational and beyond physical properties. I suspect it comes from unresolved childhood issues and a general lack of stability growing up. I mean, by the time I was in 6th grade I had attended three different school districts (and 5 separate buildings) and moved at least 8 times, which certainly didn’t lend much in terms of consistency to my life.

Perhaps all of that upheaval created a need for some constants in my life, beyond my brother and oldest of friends, and the annual trip to the Cape has simply grown into an event that is beyond a mere beach vacation. It’s a touchstone of my summer.

As I drove east and then south to Wellfleet, I did so with the mindset that this was it, end of an era, and I felt okay about it. Seven days later I knew that somehow I would find a way to continue this tradition, even with an anticipated return to Greece and a trip with my youngest son to Spain. At least for the next year. It’s just too important to my emotional and mental health, and my dog, to abandon.

What do you struggle to let go of?

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The perfect Cape house

When I awoke from my afternoon nap to the sound of the wind in the trees, for a moment, I did not know where I was. I smiled that my response to that temporary state of being was excitement and not fear. Good. I prefer the unknown to be interesting instead of scary. I took a breath and, before opening my eyes, recalled where I was…the Cape, in the most perfect house I’ve ever stayed in the two decades since I began visiting this lovely area.

I’ve lost count of the number of other houses there have been over the years. The first few trips to Cape Cod were short getaways of just a couple of nights. My older boys were little guys and we were in the depths of daycare expenses hell which didn’t leave much of a vacation budget. We stayed in an adorable bed and breakfast/inn in Harwich Port and I fell in love with the adorable town and watching my babies enjoy the waves and sand. I was hooked.

We moved on to renting a tiny cottage for an entire week – a big leap forward. The lack of a dishwasher was a drag, but what really propelled us into getting a different house the following year was the need for a washing machine. Beaches + boys = laundry, and lots of it.

Our criteria for a rental now included the following: dishwasher, laundry facilities, dog friendly and an outdoor shower. We found a house a bit further out on the Cape that met each of these demands and rented the same place for the next few years, happily. I learned to immediately remove all the little throw rugs for the duration of our stay, thus avoiding the game of slide-around-the-oversized-kitchen, and somehow managed to sidestep any medical emergencies other than swimmer’s ear and the chicken pox.

During some exploratory drives beyond Chatham, I fell hard for Wellfleet and directed my attention to finding a rental there for the following summer. Fifteen or so years later, this remains my favorite spot on the Cape. The houses we’ve had have mostly been winners, but there were a couple of exceptions.

At this point a week on the Cape had become two weeks, sometimes divided between the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard. For a number of years there was an awesome “upside-down” house that featured a second story kitchen, dining and living room which gave the place a tree house feel. The deck wrapped around two sides of the place and there were turkeys in the back yard and a hammock the boys would swing in until someone reliably got unceremoniously dumped.

We switched things up the next year for a house with newer furniture and a better yard for the kids to play in, but these perks came with unexpected consequences – ants and mice. After a week of storing all of our food in Rubbermaid containers, we knew it was a one and done kind of situation. There was no looking back.

Honing in on our happiness took us closer to the water, near Lieutenant’s Island. The first year was a fail in a house that failed to indicate that going from the upstairs to the downstairs required walking outdoors and down an external staircase, not great with still smallish children. The stone fireplace on the deck wasn’t enough to get us back the next year.

We made the leap over the bridge, (which is inaccessible during high tides), to a decent house within a 10 minute walk to a calm bay beach. During our stay that first year, the kids made friends with a boy in a nearby house and I took the chance to take a peek inside. It looked perfect for us and was in fact an ideal set up with bedrooms and baths scattered over three stories with awesome decks, including one outside of my bedroom that attracted hummingbirds from early morning through dusk. Despite the tight galley kitchen, I really loved that place and we returned to it for the next 3 or 4 years.

As the kids got older, though, the bay didn’t appeal to wave seekers and we shifted our eyes to the other side of Route 6 where we found what is now my ideal house. Hidden in the woods with a semi-private pond directly across the rutted dirt road, the place I’ve visited the past three years is as close to perfect as I can imagine. A 15 minute walk gets us to the ocean and Wellfleet Center is a drive just slightly longer.

The house itself is ideal with a small footprint, but three stories tall. The kitchen and dining area are spacious and open directly onto a large screened porch with a view of the gardens and “our” pond. The separate cabin was perfect as a “crib” for the boys and avoided a whole lot of arguing about wet towels and swim suits on the floor, because I just didn’t have to see it.

The “boys” are older now, though, and no longer interested, or able, to spend a week away from friends or jobs. Last year, for the first time ever I spent a week away from my children at the Cape and filled the house instead with friends. The small cabin became an oasis for a couple and the bedrooms on the second and third floors were occupied with a fluid array of grown ups.

We never ran out of milk. I didn’t drive for five days. We ate when we were hungry and drank when we were thirsty. There was a rager of a party, which we celebrated by taking a swim in the dark in the pond. It was dreamy.

This second year without my sons feels even more indulgent. I’m as infatuated with this house as ever, but I’m looking forward and thinking I’d like to explore some new beaches, maybe in Greece again. The price of the beautiful home I rent is about equal to the cost, I believe, of what I can instead spend putting together two weeks in Greece. It’s time to make a new tradition.

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Coming clean

Welcome to one of the saddest days of my life year.

Even though it happens every year, if I’m lucky, the final morning on Cape Cod always leaves me feeling melancholy. There’s something about knowing that it’s the last time I’ll be seeing the ocean and smelling the salty air that punctuates my summer in a way that makes me feel down. There’s just nothing like the Cape.

This year’s time has been particularly sweet. I have some really special people in my life and was lucky to share time with them in one of my favorite places on earth. There was a wonderful mix of my oldest childhood friends, folks I have met through the years at various jobs and someone kind of new who makes me laugh and wonder why I had allowed myself to live without such simple joys for so many years.

Although my friends all came to me in different ways, there are common experiences we each share and it turns out, we know a lot of the same people. Sometimes our knowledge of mutual friends is pretty consistent, but other times it seems that individually we’ve been exposed to very different facets of these common acquaintances. Information shared over cups of coffee and delicious cocktails made with fancy rum can reveal character in ways unimaginable. It’s kind of remarkable and, to be completely honest, more than a little disconcerting to learn that sometimes we indeed knew very little about someone for whom we spent years caring. How do people live such deceptive and duplicitous existences – and why would they ever expect to get away with it?

This morning I took my last outdoor shower of vacation. The water was hot and I used the soap my new friend turned me on to and then left behind for me to enjoy. The bar of soap I had brought with me from home, a gift from someone I apparently never knew, was abandoned in the shower. When I dried off, I felt clean, fresh and ready to move forward in a way that is becoming more natural and healthy every day.

See you next year, Cape Cod. Minus the dirt, please.

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In pursuit of perfection

When I instruct 6th graders on bibliographic formatting I always tell them that perfect is never my goal, except for in MLA citations. Beyond that, perfect is not my expected, or even necessarily desired, outcome. I don’t need perfect.  Authentic and true is more than enough for me.

This year’s Cape vacation has come with some moments that absolutely took my breath away. Simple joys – friends, good food, sunshine, stretched legs and a tired dog. It’s been heavenly. Yesterday Jeter swam in our pond and he was so happy that my heart almost burst. As he paddled towards me with water rolling off his back and light shining from his eyes, I took a minute to take a mental snapshot to add that moment to the other ones from this wonderful past week.

The pace of this vacation has been ideal. The first couple of days were spent as a duo (or trio if you count Jeter) and the weather was kind of overcast. It was a great way to ease into the week and become familiar with both our surroundings and each other in this new place. It was quiet and sweet and left us in the perfect position to greet our first friends with an easy and happy warmth when they began to arrive.

By midweek we were in full swing and hosted a rager mixer with friends joining us from their own vacation homes for a great afternoon/evening of walks and drinks and dinner and so much laughter. It was an epic blend of people, alcohol and sand and it was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had. Sun up to sun down, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing. Thursday was similarly full and our evening spent at Race Point was amazing, even if the array of folks around the bonfire was shy a few faces. Effortless, organic fun.

The weather has once again shifted to windy and overcast and we’re down to two (and Jeter, of course) again. We’re vacillating between sitting around in a relaxed puddle and checking a few more things off our list of intended activities. It’s too early to tell which way will win, but I imagine whichever way we go it will be as close to perfect as I ever need life to be.

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Stop this train

Sitting in a screened porch, dog at my feet, listening to John Mayer and staring out at the moody, foggy pond across the dirt road and I completely concur with his plea – stop this train.

At this moment in time, despite a lack of sunshine or resolution to a heartache, my world is so filled with positive and wonderful things that I want to just press pause and savor it. Each of my sons are healthy and exploring their worlds, my personal life is fulfilling and fun, I’m on my second major vacation of the summer and am truly feeling a complete lack of schedule or structure. I am so on holiday. I am so very fortunate.

I’m pretty sure this is my 20th consecutive summer spending time on the Cape. Not really sure how that happened so fast, but this year for the first time ever, I’m here without a single child and it really feels different. It’s kind of the exact opposite experience of how when you go to NYC as a parent with your children, you suddenly realize how many parks and playgrounds there are that you never noticed before.

Being on the Cape without children means scrolling right past all those listings in the local events calendar that fall under the heading: KIDS and looking instead at things like Reggae Night at the Beachcomber and The Mosquito Hour. It’s almost like being a child again – you get to make decisions on impulse, without much consideration of anyone else. It’s amazing.

I hope everyone reading this knows, without a doubt, that I don’t ever share any of this stuff to boast – it’s more of an encouragement. I assure you I never imagined a day when I would have a summer that included 10 days in Europe followed by a week with friends in a house perched above a pond and filled with the most sunshine-y vibes ever gathered under a single roof. You know, right, that I grew up without ever vacationing beyond spending a few nights with family friends in their homes? I certainly wasn’t ever expecting my life to include times like this.

I guess it’s no wonder that I just want to wrap my arms around every minute of it.

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Dog days of summer


One of my favorite things about our most recent visit to the Cape was the fact that Jeter could come along. Actually, it was one of the criteria, along with an outdoor shower, that I considered to be a requirement when we were searching for a rental for the week. Hey, even a dog needs a change of scenery on occasion.

Bringing Jeter along was not without complication. Originally I thought I might snag the little cabin that was poised on a hill next to the main house, as my own for the week. Once I toured the space I knew it would be better suited to the preteens since the bed was up a ladder in a loft area. Jeter doesn’t do ladders, but he does like to sleep with me, so I picked a bedroom in the cottage instead.

We also had a nocturnal visit from the biggest damn raccoon I’ve ever seen. (S)he was attracted to Jeter’s airtight food bin and bowls, which I had set up on the screened in porch. It took a couple of days before the bandit made its move, but one night we were woken up by something really loud. Turns out the raccoon was attempting a break in – directly through the screen. By the time we figured out what was going on there was a decent sized hole in the screen directly above Jeter’s feeding station. Live and learn.

It isn’t always fun having a dog on vacation. I found that Jeter was really annoying at the ocean when we were with our entire gang of kids and adults. He just wanted to be a part of everything which meant sand everywhere, plaintive and relentless barking and generally being an annoyance. When I took him solo, though, he was fantastic. He settled in and was completely chill. I believe I even caught a cat nap with my dog snuggled next to me. He was a little tired, too, from all of the swimming he did.

Good walks, good swims, good sleeps, good dog.

 

 

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