gratitude-a-thon day 646: shifting sand, the end of a tradition


This has been a weird start to summer.

Usually when school ends, we head for the choppy waves on Lucy Vincent, for the rocking chairs at The Chilmark Store, and coffee and sandwiches, and pizza, the scallops at The Bite, the sunsets in Menemsha, the salty breezes that require a cozy sweatshirts at night, for the laid back feeling of sea air. We are programmed for cold rolls at the Farmer’s Market, oohing and ahhhing at Noche, Midnight Farm, Pandora’s Box and Bananas. We can’t wait for breakfast at the Art Cliff, or our first visit to a Bunch of Grapes for books. Wildflowers, and special summer cocktails, knocking buoys, and fog horns, long walks, sandy floors, and scrabble championships, brass rings, Kadema, ice cream at the Galley, fishing on the jetty, so many friends, Eileen Blake’s Pies and Otherwise, fireworks and tick checks. IMG_2799

This has been July for twenty years, my kid’s whole lives. (and nine years before they were even a thought). This is the year where what has always been, is not. There has been a break in tradition. School ended and we are not where we are supposed to be. My body doesn’t know what to make of it. Why aren’t I out of breath, from jamming the car with food, and suitcases, beach chairs and candles, and little white lights? Why am I still in Brookline? Where is the ferry? It’s those damn kids. They had to go and grow up. THE NERVE. What, did I think? That they’d follow in Peter Pan’s footsteps? But we had a tradition. A family tradition. It meant something. I’m quite certain it meant something to all of us.The first two weeks of July were sacred beach time on our favorite island. It was a deal. And I believed it to be set in stone.

But even stones can crumble.

I remember, like it was two days ago, when we’d have to drive the kids around in the car to get one or both of them to sleep, and now, their schedules don’t allow us to go see Martha. What will Island Mini Golf do without us?

It’s not just that we arent’t there at that place I love, that feels part of my DNA. It’s that I am forced to come to terms with the loss of a time when my kids were dependent, part of us. Stop the world for just a moment, because time has shifted the sands.

Not that our vacations were always perfect, or without arguments, bad weather, and unmet expectations, but that that time is now as over as Ben and Jen’s marriage. Poof. Once so much a part of who we are, now just evidence of who we were. I wasn’t ready. I thought I might be, but I see now, I wasn’t. Are you ever ready for such a seismic shift? Can you really prepare? I see now, I would never be ready, given the choice.

It’s not about saying goodbye to a place, it’s saying goodbye to a time. It’s waving off childhood. It’s a little like giving birth all over again, but without the good drugs, and people making you dinner. IMG_4868

A new life will begin. New traditions. As soon as I catch up to myself, I’m sure I’ll see how to build a new tradition. I will visit that Island again, and the versions of my kids eating breakfast overlooking the cliffs of Aquinnah, and grabbing for the brass ring, and kayaking, and building castles will be there. They will be there, those littler versions of Jake and Ally prancing around that island like they owned it. I will see them, in all the familiar places. Until then, I will have to remember that this is what I raised them to do. To grow up.

gratitude-a-thon day 354: pie in the sky


My kids and Peter love the strawberry rhubarb. But me, I’m all about the blueberry peach.

My mom used to make apple pie when I was a kid. She also did a nice pumpkin on Thanksgiving. She made them from scratch, no store bought pies, no purchased crusts for Louise. Just her hands and fresh ingredients. And me watching, eating the gooey sugar and cinnamon apple prep. Pie was a winter holiday dessert. Pie was not something we ate during the summer.

The worst thing that can happen on vacation is to see the “sold out” sign in front of Eileen’s. It happens all the time, too.

Then I began going to the Vineyard, where summer is all about pie. At least in our family. I know I thought it odd that first time we noticed that pies were everywhere on that island. But I quickly accepted the idea, and over the years we honed our taste buds by trying all the contenders. The winner, Eileen Blake’s Pies and Otherwise, wiped out the competition by a landslide. Selling a myriad of sweet confections out in front of a ranch house, we once doubted the existence of Eileen, having never seen her. There was usually a man selling the pies, out of a gazebo. We had hours of fun imagining Eileen and what she might look like, or if she was really a bunch of elves, or whether she used canned fruit, or real. But it didn’t matter in the end, because her pies were the after dinner nectar of the Gods. We turned on the oven,  slid in the pies, doused them in vanilla ice cream and no matter how many people were gathered, one taste would silence the crowd. Our faces softened, as low toned moans escaped our lips. Eileen had us at Blueberry Peach. We were goners.

A little bit of Eileen in my own backyard.

When Eileen upgraded her sign, my cohort, “the other Toni” and I asked if we could have it, dividing up the two-sided sign to give our husbands as birthday gifts (their birthdays were a few days apart and always happened during our vacation). Not a gift they could have imagined. We killed it in the surprise department. It still sits in our backyard patio, reminding us of the heavenly taste of Eileen all year long (who by the way, went to pie heaven a few years ago, causing us to wonder if the legendary pie of our dreams would no longer be part of our summer evenings and waistline expansion program).

I just found these pie recipes and considered making one, but really the truth is, unless it’s Eileen’s, or my mom’s, pie is for after the turkey, not after the lobster.

gratitude-a-thon day 333: a picture is worth a thousand…well, you know

Some of the magic that makes Martha’s Vineyard one of the best places on the planet.

Sign of a good vacation.


Menemsha Beach.
No retouching. No kidding. Aquinnah.
Lucy Vincent.
Menemsha Harbor from The Galley. Where Jaws was filmed.
We watched every World Cup game while we were here.



IMG_0689 (1)

Brother and sister
State Road Mermaid Farm ricotta. Spectacular.
Best new drink. Smashed fresh blueberries, crushed basil, lemonade, vodka.
Salt water must be good for flowers, because they are giant and beautiful here.
Are you looking’ at me?
Ally has not lost her touch on the carousel. She won the brass ring, as she always does.
Ally & Peter head for The Galley, before she leaves for a soccer tournament.
My favorite farmer’s market flower vendor.


Even the bumper stickers are better here.

gratitude-a-thon day 428: trapped at sea: 198,765,324,691 memories

The first glimpse of Menemsha and we know we’re home.
View from the house. We don’t own it, but it’s ours for a few weeks every summer.
Steps to the beach.

When you go to the same place every year, it allows you to measure change in a particular way. Not just in your girth, but in your growth. Peter and I came to the Vineyard for his birthday the first year we met. It was romance gone wild. And while we were already in love with each other, we added a third party: Martha. That was 29 years ago. We’ve come here in all kinds of conditions since then. As newly married’s, with cousins, friends, family. We’ve celebrated all of Peter’s birthdays, toasted accomplishments, nursed losses, and walked miles. We  beat infertility, drove our babies around to make them stop crying, snuggled our puppy, watched restaurants and shops come and go, became addicted to the spring rolls at the farmer’s market and the treasures at the flea, eaten the thick english muffins overlooking Aquinnah, fat steaks at the Tavern, ambrosial scallops at the Bite, pizza on the porch of the Chilmark Store, veggie burgers and fries at the Galley, lobster at Larsen’s, spied celebs, watched the sun set over Menemsha, the crowds soar, the fourth of July parade, where our daughter’s love for candy almost got her killed by the giant wheels of a firetruck. We’ve shopped ourselves poor,eaten til we’ve almost popped, scored clothing that reminds of us this place while we are freezing our asses off in the middle of winter.

Menemsha Harbor, from the Galley. Get the veggie burger.
Aquinnah never fails to amaze. This is unretouched. RIGHT?
Lucy Vincent Beach takes a hit every year from the bettering winters. We’ve watched this cliff disintegrate each summer.
Oh Lucy.

You’re not considered an “Islander” unless you’re born here, but what about if you’ve been re-born here? My family has been coming here for all its life. In sadness and grief, good times and happiness. We take a little bit of Martha home with us when we leave, and we leave a little part of ourselves here when we stay. The beauty of this place goes so deep down into the fabric of our souls, even if we never graced Lucy again, or set foot on Squibby, we would still feel it underneath our feet. Scenes of a marriage, a childhood, a family. Here on this island. Again this year. It’ll always be ours.

IMG_0662 (2)
The yearly photo overlooking Aquinnah. Freshman year of college a memory for Jake, Ally gearing up for Junior year in high school.