4 Chicks at the Cape

I’ve been a goner for an elbow shaped piece of land called Cape Cod since I was 6 years old. It’s always been my happy place. I’m pretty sure, that in less than 5 minutes of meeting me, you’d know more than you ever wanted to know about it. I dragged my husband, who didn’t quite get the attraction, there many times but only in the last few years of our travels did he come to see what drove my addiction. In fact, he fell a little in love himself but our last trip 3 years ago never got a rerun. He died A few short months later.

Last week I finally paid a return visit to ‘my Cape’.  I’m not sure if my four widow friends decided to share the trip to help celebrate my milestone birthday or see if the island lived up to my constant hype. I was just pretty darn grateful to cross that Sagamore Bridge again and in whirlwind few days, I was hellbent to leave no shell or lobster roll unturned.

“The waves of the sea, help me get back — to me.”

As a fresh-faced little kid, the trek from New Jersey to the Cape took a whole lot longer than it does today. In the wee hours of the morning, my father would stealthily carry me and my brother’s (nearly) sleeping forms into our spiffy green station wagon. Edging into the early morning darkness, my dad naively hoped we’d sleep until the sun came up over the Cape landscape. Um, no. Before we ever hit Boston, (the route of the ‘old days’) he’d hear a chorus of “are we there yet” and “I’m hungry.” My mother doled out snacks to hold us over, but there was no way to hold back our excitement. My parents were doomed.

Back in the day, utopia was a small group of weathered shingle cottages, complete with shuffleboard and concrete pool, nestled in a copse of towering pines. Even without air conditioning, we slept like hibernating bear cubs in open-window bedrooms, cooled by scented nights. I can still picture Nancy Drew mysteries and games of Old Maid on the beach. Our stubby feet ran along seemingly endless low-tide beaches and I can still see my father’s surprised face as he tasted his first (and last) spoonful of Indian pudding. Far from the creamy concoction he envisioned, the sturdy cornmeal dessert was an epic fail. Luckily, my brother and I opted for ice cream.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Costeau

Friday night tradition dictated strolls along Hyannis’ Main Street, past an endless booty of gift and candy shops. Not one ever bask in the sun now, my rosy childhood skin is imprinted in my memory. Decked out in a gaudily colored swim tube and bathing cap (yes, I did), I paddled contently in the Cape’s salty Atlantic waters; the same waters that churned up boxes of multi-hued taffy. Once, in that said tube in Cape Cod Bay’s calm waters, I had the brilliant idea of raising both hands up, happily waving to my parents. Wrong move. When I found myself looking UP at the water, too stunned to register that oh, yeah – I’m going to drown, you could say I was a little confused. Luckily, my visit to Davy Jones Locker was shortto tell the tale.

“Heaven seems closer in a little house beside Cape Cod Waters” Beverly Baldwin Continue reading

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The Blue/Green-Eyed Travel Monster

I see you. Smiling faces peering over ship railings. Eyes squinting in the brilliant Italian sun.  Bodies sleek in scuba gear in the Galapagos. One more happy Facebook vacation picture — and the computer gets it.

Okay, I feel better now.

Somewhere among those Facebook pictures of a river cruise and toes in the sand, I ran dry. Don’t get me wrong. I’m more than happy for friends’ ability to get outta Dodge and realize their travel dreams, just as they’d be for me. When you’re livin’ the hard-earned dream, it’s only natural to share it – with everyone. Glimpsing a buddy trekking through the Grand Canyon can be an actual public service, right? (I’m kidding) Poring over gorgeous Instagram shots might be the only way I’ll ever get to see those magical sites. (Those pics also incite my inner wannabe fabulous photographer)

It’s a big world. We all want to press ESC and see all we can before the curtain closes. Travel is what we save for, and dream of. It jazzes us to check off each destination box, especially when it comes equipped with memories to relive again and again.  I know. I have pictures to prove it.

These days though, not so much.  Maybe that’s one reason the rolling visual travelogues on my Facebook timeline triggers me; but not for the reasons you might think. At first, even I thought the cheerful travel odysseys were a sneaky bazinga of all the places I may never see. But slowly I realized that’s only one piece of the missing. Maybe those barefoot in the sand toe shots, or glistening views of the Eiffel tower point up the sedentary chiaroscuro of a shadow life. Yet, hey, I’m not exactly STUCK to that couch; my life is pretty damn full. In fact, the only thing that needs changing is the empty space next to me, but that ship sailed when my husband left. So why the stupid pity party? Why, when I click those ‘hearts’ and ‘likes’ on friends’ vaca pics to parts known and unknown, do I sometimes feel so empty? And what’s with the wanderenvy? Continue reading

Letter to a Younger Me

Time traveling was never in my wheelhouse. Like it or not, we can never go can go back in time. Our life playbook has only one gear – forward. So since I’m already pretty far forward in mine/our life, kiddo. I thought 18 is a pretty good age to catch you up on a few things. I had to cross a lot of time zones to see the number you are now, but I thought it was time for a chat. Taking the long view (and it’s gets longer every day) there will never be a better time to let you know that no matter what – it’s all gonna be okay.

It won’t always be easy and you’re going to make a hell of a lot of mistakes. You’ll be pushed sometimes beyond your breaking point but you won’t break, I promise you. You won’t always be strong; but you’ll rock it when you need to. In moments you feel the most insecure, the most vulnerable, the most scared, those moments will also most shape you. When you think you’ve reached a dead end, a new path will open. When you feel most like a failure, you’re the closest to finding your center. Sometimes you’ll wonder if you’ll ever recover. You will.

Spoiler alert. The jury is still out on happily ever after but judging all that’s happened, the chances are iffy.  Your heart is going to be broken more than a few times. Trust me that you’ll feel a wee bit resentful that you skipped art school to put a husband through college. That choice will never feel dumber than after said husband exited stage left and you become a typing, filing single mom of three instead of the artist you thought you’d be. But kids grew up, jobs came and went and doors opened to new possibilities. You’ll discover gifts you didn’t know you had. Okay, your art will be less Michelangelo and more commercial illustration and graphic design, but, hey, you’ll be doing it. Your creative self will evolve as you do. And every time you get sucked into the stigma of missed college, a shelf full of creative awards will remind you that, while you did it backwards, you did it. Continue reading