catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 9 :: 2014.05.02 — 2014.05.15


Summer home

As our ferry slips fluidly into its berth, nudging the pier which groans in resistance, we drink in salt air deeply in simultaneous breaths of quiet joy. We’re home — back to our island home, our summer home. Of course, we love our winter home, but on the island our work can feel more like play, just because we’re here. And here, most of my memories are of my childhood summers and our own family at play. We are like salmon returning to their hatching place, seeking once again its primeval taste — New England in our bones, in our blood. There’s a cleansing, just coming back: to our cottage, whose walls have absorbed the laughter and love of family, and reflect it back to us; to our tiny church, full of longtime friends; to sandy paths our feet know well. And to dear friends, who complete our belonging.

Its dimensions are not impressive. Before long, another smaller cottage on our road will be bought, bulldozed away, and in its place, another McMansion built. And we will stay in our little place that lives large in our hearts, where kayaks wait out winter under our back porch, to glide once again under the drawbridge and into the outer harbor. And where our garden house is filled with dreams of summers’ return: bicycles, grill, beach chairs, beach umbrellas, life jackets and boogie boards. 

Memories are well-rooted and lasting. As a child, I went on watercolor painting adventures with my great aunt, a professional artist. Now, I provide the paints for my grandchildren. They ride the same antique carousel horses that my grandmother rode when she was young, and I, also. Catching the brass ring has kept excitement high since the 1800s. They swim in the same surf and quieter waters of my childhood, and climb the same steps of the lighthouse, where neighbors gather for Sunday evening’s sunset celebration. They dance around the base of the gazebo on our town’s seaside green, as the band plays high above them. The repetition of generations reveling in like play creates a refreshing timelessness for us.

How does the heart define a place it holds onto with such depth of belonging? This sweet little cottage has cradled our babies as well as our souls, still hears the slap-slap-slap of children’s wet feet on the porch, running in from the outside shower, and, afterward, their shouts and the loud smacks of the bat hitting the wiffle ball in games after the beach and before supper. It breathes in the powerful sense of family as a dozen of us eat and talk of the fun of the day’s adventures and what we’ll do tomorrow, after which grandchildren put on their composition of after-dinner theatre, complete with props. It screens us in from evening mosquitoes as we watch sunsets blaze in ribbons of beauty over the ocean in the western sky. It shelters us from powerful hurricane winds while the rain on our windows turns our view of the rhododendrons outside into an Impressionist painting. It’s a place of respite for two, to hear the bell buoy’s ring, the osprey’s cry from high in the sky as its eyes pierce through ocean depths for a fish for its young, and the slap-slap-slapping of sailboats’ sails as they round a race marker and head home for the prize, with colorful spinnakers bursting full from fresh gusts of wind. It’s also a place of quiet…finally, even when there are a dozen total, a mix of parents and children, sun-bronzed and healthy-tired from sun and sea, asleep, leaving only the loons’ nighttime calls to grace the dark.

So much more than boards and shingles, our cottage holds the feelings and sounds of family loving and enjoying each other, cousins connecting, discovering and creating together. And, oh, the laughter! We belong. Don’t ask me how many turkey and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I’ve made on our old kitchen table for our bunch. It’s love that makes this no chore. God’s love has touched our family here. And the sights and sounds of His amazing creation evident all around us add a richness to our sense of peace and community and “He hems me in, behind and before” belonging.  

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