The end of the 1950s found us to be a young, happy family of four. With a new baby and a kindergartener (equipped with big-eared Mickey Mouse hat), we had moved into the family home to share it with our newly widowed father. Despite the fact that we all got along well during that first year of learning acceptable interaction, "someone up there" prompted our minister and his wife to invite us four only to visit them at their summer place on a small lake in Mashpee, a part of Falmouth on Cape Cod. Their offer was a welcome reprieve from the clamor of the city and a true respite from the never-ending routine of sibling squabbles, house cleaning, meal making and laundry, laundry, laundry.
Our destination was off the highway, onto a lesser route and through the woods on an unpaved road. There, at the bottom of a hill blanketed with pine trees, was a large, calm lake with miscellaneous cottages, each laying claim to a 150 foot frontage on the water's edge. Although individual in their design, each summer lodging had a spacious screened porch running its width and a sturdy wharf or small pier for launching various sized boats. Paddle, oars or motors provided propulsion. Our site's dinghy, firmly pulled up onto the sand, acted as an improvised playpen for our happily toppling toddler. If he could have talked, he would have shouted, "Look at me having an adventure!"
His older sister swam and floated and flopped and splashed for hours and then, towel-wrapped, explored the pine needles, pine cones and observed the next-door-neighbor children from a distance.
The minister (first time I'd seen him in bathing trunks with no stiff collar, and his bare chest) barbecued our lunch (deelish!) then later invited us to stay over that Saturday night. He, by divine schedule, had to return home to prepare for the next day's worship service. They would notify our house-minding father by telephone. There was enough food in the vacation fridge for the next three meals and they showed us how to lock up. They left for home.
We departed for Cloud Nine. We'd won a reprieve! After supper on the screened porch, mother, father and daughter played Chutes and Ladders and Go Fish while baby cuddled, watched or played with shells on the sandy floor. We donned sweaters and remarked about the cooling nightfall. Later, we were awed by the scene of our first grader standing alone by the edge of the shadowed glassy lake, singing Taps in her six-year-old pure, worshipful voice, "Day is done. Gone the sun..."
Silence. There were no sounds of clocks, TV, autos, buses, trains or planes. Only the birds announced to their flighty families that bedtime in the branches was at hand. Once they were settled, the soothing lullaby of the water could be heard in the darkness, the edge of the lake softly lapping the shore.
We went on many first trips in the years after that - to other ports on Cape Cod and over the outstandingly scenic Kancamagus Highway connecting Lincoln and Conway, New Hampshire. There was a whoopee time in "foreign" Quebec and a Family Tree investigation ending in Bangor, Maine. The last, of course, included a stunning excursion of Mount Cadillac with an informative tape recording as tour guide, and then to the legendary, old bayside town of Bar Harbor. In our last year together, the New Brunswick cemeteries in Richibucto produced family names and Madison, Wisconsin acquainted me with our daughter's new life as half of a newly married couple. Later, England was the pinnacle of looking back through the ages, through history and through almost two centuries of friendship.
And then the line on the vacation graph slopes down sharply and dramatically. It is highly motivated by age and aloneness to meander through Day Trips which is one short block from the now Stay Home square. It teaches me that a "first time" experience is usually unique and well worth the space it languishly occupies in my memory bank.
August 2, 2002