Ah, Cape Cod. That odd protuberance off the South Shore that gives our beloved state of Oklachusetts one half of its distinguishable geography (the other being its famous panhandle in the northwestern tip). Emily and I brought the boy down to the Cod (I think this sounds more interesting than "the Cape") this past weekend to stay a night at Emily's sister's new vacation home that she and her husband purchased with her father- and sister-in-law. The sister-in-law and her family stay in a small condo downstairs; Emily's sister, her husband, her father-in-law and his girlfriend stay in the larger home upstairs. Here we are hanging out on the wrap-around porch. One of Emily's brothers-in-law works at Harpoon Brewery, so we were having ourselves a good ol' time.
On the way Emily reminisced about her girlhood summers on the Cod staying with her grandparents. She recalled digging for quahogs (pronounced "cohog") with her grandfather, who spent so much time gardening outdoors, cigar in mouth, that his skin turned leathery tobacco brown. She and her sisters used the empty cigar boxes to hold toys and candy they'd buy at the general store in town. The dirt road leading to their house would crater after a rain storm, and the girls loved to investigate the puddles that accumulated. She remembers eating tunafish sandwiches and potato chips at the beach, playing board games at night while the grown-ups drank gin-and-tonics, and waking up to her grandmother cooking breakfast, the irrestistable scents of coffee, toast, and bacon wafting into the bedroom from the kitchen. Her dad was a teacher and her mother hadn't yet become a nurse, so they'd spend a week or two at a time like this, living at the decelerated pace that the beach and heat and small towns demand. When Emily was in college, the summer after her grandfather died, she lived on the Cape (that's what she calls it) with her grandmother and worked as a waitress at a beachside hamburger joint. The two ladies played a lot of cribbage and Trivial Pursuit, cooked together, and went to yard sales. They spent a better part of that summer sifting through discarded items of strangers' lives for a few treasures.
(I love yard sales. I knew I had found my woman when we discovered our mutual love for yard sales. Our very favorite possessions, most of our furniture, and a good deal of our clothing have come from garage sales, tag sales, yard sales, thrift stores.)
I also reminisced: about my summers at Grand Lake, how on the drive up from Oklahoma City my dad would tell us stories about famous shipwrecks like the Titanic and the Andrea Doria (which happened off the coast of Nantucket!) that seemed to last exactly as long as the car ride. How upon arrival I'd always run full speed down the ramp and bound off the edge of the dock to see how far I could dive out over the water. I recalled how our dog Molly could climb up the ladder from the water to our dock all by herself. How I learned from one of my older cousins to dive deep enough and hold my breath long enough, even with my life jacket on, to scare everyone around me; how I'd then grab at some poor unsuspecting person's ankles and yank them underwater; how all my younger cousins loved this. How my mother would take us to a local farm to buy blueberries, peaches, and corn. How she'd let my sister and me paint the concrete floor of the screened-in porch however we wanted. I remember sitting in that screened-in porch and watching the sky turn from grey to black as a sudden summer storm swept over us. I swear, when driving from Vinita to Ketchum, I remember seeing lightning strike up from the ground in one such storm. I lived at the lake the summers between my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade years and worked at a local marina as a dockhand, pumping gas into cabin cruisers and ringing up sales and eating one too many free Hot Pockets. My boss Fred gave all the employees nicknames: I was City. Sometimes after work, instead of walking back, I'd just jump off the gas dock and swim the three hundred feet home.
(It's safe to say that Emily and I share a love of yard sales and bodies of water.)
Emmett will be spending plenty of time at the lake when we migrate west in our covered wagon, but hopefully he'll spend sizeable chunks of his summers at the Cod. Here he is at the ocean for the first time, the Atlantic behind him, his whole life before him, a continent stretching out, all those memories to be made.