You can’t go home again. It’s one of those overused cliches that’s spot on, (apologies Thomas Wolfe for saying the name of your book is a cliche–how gauche) but you wish weren’t. And while it is the sad reality, the truth is that you can visit and you can do a full-on big screen memory dump of all the places you’ve been lucky enough to call home. You can. You’re allowed. But warning: you’re going to get the feels.
Peter and I spent 30 years going to Martha’s Vineyard, from the very beginning of our relationship.We went with family. We went with friends. We rented all sorts of houses on all sorts of lanes and roads and streets, until finally we fell madly in love with the tiny town of Menemsha just before we had our kids. Our two and three-week stints were something we looked forward to in the dead cold of winter. As soon as school ended, we’d pack up and head for the magic of Martha.
We stopped our yearly ritual when the kids went to college. Too many internships and jobs and conflicting schedules. It seemed a family place, and so without our kids, we no longer boarded the ferry for destination happiness.
But we have missed it. All of us. And last week, as a surprise that was postponed due to a health issue, Peter and I headed back to Menemsha, to a B&B we’ve long loved, and stayed at on and off for three decades–The Captain Flanders House. It was comforting to see that everything in this rustic inn was pretty much the same as it ever was, including horses roaming the property, the breakfast room and its sweet flower arrangements, the idyllic views of the pond. The property is the scene of so many memories for both of us, including the site of one of the hardest times I’ve ever laughed, when a take out dessert and a clam sauce pasta dish had a roll in the hay on the way from The Feast, (now The Chilmark Tavern) to the CFH.( I’d tell you the story, but it just doesn’t translate, but take that in–HARDEST.I’VE. EVER. LAUGHED.)
When you love a location, you remember every turn in the road, the intimate details of its geography. As we drove down North Road, every overhanging tree and stone wall provided me the comfort that only an old friend can. I may not have stayed in touch, but here they were, still rock solid. Before I knew it, the fields of farmland and familiarity got me crying. I guess it was because I felt grateful that this place was part of my history, my family’s history, a little chunk of my DNA. It was something we’d experienced together, the love of this island, all those summery, barefoot, sandy feelings of freedom.
As we drove around, I was flush with images of my kids when they were in the backseat, pint sized, wedged precariously amidst blankets and grocery bags and games and suitcases, like the cutest little sardines in a can. I saw shadowy figures of them everywhere we went, Three and Six year old Jake and Ally on the rocks near The Galley, waiting for their ice cream cones (no doubt fighting with one another). The two of them on the hunt for crabs on the inlet at Menemsha Beach,sunburned and competitive. Ally crying the whole summer she was eight months old. Jake peeing off the porch when he was three. The two of their bodies morphing from babies into adults amidst the waves at Lucy Vincent. Their endless thirst for lemonade at the Flea Market, not to mention baseball cards. I can still conjure their moans of culinary delight at the Farmer’s Market when they sunk their teeth into the Cold Rolls and their later dissection of how The Egg Roll Lady made them and if we could make them and next time if we could get 20 of them instead of just 10. Mission Brass Ring at the Carousel lasted well past the age it should have. The sunsets on Menemsha Beach were legend, the way that sky would paint in red and orange and yellow and pink will always stay with me, and the memories of eating fried scallops and perfect french fries from The Bite, while the kids ran wild and played in the epic light. Rocking in the rocking chairs eating breakfast sandwiches, or pizza at The Chilmark Store, wondering what celebrity we might glimpse, tick checks before bed, dance parties, that 4rth of July parade where Ally was almost run over by a car because she was collecting candy a float threw to the kids. EILEEN’S PIES & OTHERWISE, Fireworks. Breakfast in Aquinnah, Scrabble (and fights) and laughs and outdoor showers. And at the end of the day, sleeping so peacefully, the whole world felt right in the morning.
From 0 to 18 in four seconds flat. Grateful.