When I was growing up, my parents took me and my sister and brother up to my maternal grandparents' house on Cape Code for about a month every summer. (Doesn't that sound so fancy? In a Thurston Howell voice: My family would summer on Cape Cod, you know.) My mom was from the Boston area, and her parents moved to the Cape when they retired. Since we lived in the Washington, DC, area and my mom's brother and his family lived in Texas, we would all get together for a few weeks in August every year. My sister, brother, two cousins and I got along really well, and it was always so fun to spend the time with them and my other relatives who lived in Massachusetts.
My visits up there were very important to me, and the house was at the hub, was the foundation, of those memories. The house is in typical Cape Cod, with long, sloping yards in the front and back. It had a delicious vegetable garden and a prize-winning rose garden in the back, where my grandmother spent countless hours working and growing. There were lovely flowers blooming every around the house and the fence. The deck over the garage had a basketball hoop where I learned to play HORSE, and under the deck was the outdoor shower that was used by all 5 grandkids after every trip to the beach. The upstairs bedroom and deck had a breathtaking view of the ocean cove across the street.
We would walk across the street and down the path to the concrete boat ramp and little, sandy beach for easy days at the Cove. We would drive the 5-10 minutes to the ocean-side or bay-side beaches for full days of boogie-boarding and swimming and playing in the ocean and sand. We'd drive down to Chatham and spend the day shopping the quaint stores. And on rainy days or lazy days, we would break out the board games, playing marathon sessions of Monopoly that ended with handmade IOUs to fix someone ice cream for dessert or get someone a soda from the fridge downstairs for a stay in the hotel on Boardwalk.
It has been years since I went up to visit. Just before I got pregnant with the Pumpkin, my grandmother was finally convinced/forced to move in with my mom. Although she did NOT want to leave her lovely Cape Cod house, she was 91 and simply not able to live by herself any longer. Then, between being pregnant and having babies, it just wasn't feasible to make the 9 to 11 hour car trip up to the Cape, and the flight just seemed like too much work. Londo and I would take our family vacations closer to home or at his parent's house (a 5-6 hour drive away). At the end of each summer, I would lament not going to the Cape, and Londo would try to make me feel better with a "maybe next summer we can do it."
My grandma passed away over a year ago. Although my mom and her brother have been renting out the house on the Cape by week during the summer, it's still a lot for them to maintain. This spring, they decided to put the house up for sale. I realized that this summer would be my last chance to visit, and say goodbye to, the house that was so much a part of my childhood.
And so, I planned a family vacation to Cape Cod!
I had hoped to go with my sister and/or brother and their families, but the timing didn't work out. Instead, I asked one of my best friends if she and her family wanted to come. Of course they did! So we planned and packed and got ready for the trip. Unfortunately, her younger daughter got sick right before the trip and had to stay home with her husband. But she was still able to come up with her older daughter two days after we arrived.
The drive was long, but not bad all things considered. I'm really impressed with how well my kids handle car trips, especially this extremely long one. Being a Family That Travels has really panned out for us. With stops but no real traffic, it took us 9.5 hours to drive up to the Cape house. We got in late, and put the kids to bed in the bed we were going to sleep in also--in the room on the top floor. The next morning was my birthday, and I wanted to wake up in the room with the gorgeous view. It was a beautiful way to start the day... with the exception of the kids and Londo waking up around 5:00, although Londo took the kids and let me sleep in.
The vacation was wonderful. We did everything that I really wanted to do, including going to the beaches I wanted to revisit, going to Chatham for the day and going to local museum, which even played the same educational film ("The Sands of Time")I had seen again and again since I was very young and the Pumpkin really enjoyed.
Londo and I taught our kids how to play the board game Sorry, and when my friend and her daughter were up with us, we played many other board games with the kids and just the adults after the kids went to bed, just as the adults did when I was a kid.
Such a key part of my summer vacations at Cape Cod were having my two cousins there with me and my siblings, cousins I got to see only once a year. My friends' daughter was like that kind of cousin to my kids. We try to get together a few times a year, usually a weekend here or there, but this extended time together on vacation was great for them! Although we missed the younger daughter, the three kids had a great time together, and they entertained each other so well that they needed very little oversight from us. This provided us adults a lot of opportunity to spend with each other, especially my friend and myself. We talk on the phone regularly, but we miss living near each other, so this time together was really fantastic.
It wasn't all perfect. I had a very different perspective as an adult in the Cape house. For example, I had forgotten that the house didn't have air conditioning. Out on the Cape, it isn't usually so noticeable, and since I hadn't been there in so many years, I had totally forgotten. Now that I was a parent there with children I worried about, it was very noticeable that there was no A/C... especially since we had RECORD HIGH HEAT while we were there! We put fans in every room, but it was outright miserable at times. In fact, we didn't stay up on the top floor after the first night--it was much too hot up there. We moved down into the rooms on the main floor, which were more manageable.
The worst part about the heat was when Londo started getting sick, and then the Pookie got sick. The heat never feels great when you are sick, but the fans blowing on them made it worse. We were going to just muddle through it for another day, but when the Pookie crawled into bed next to me in the middle of the night on Thursday burning up with fever and smelling of throw up, I started reconsidering our departure date.
We had forgotten to pack kid's motrin/fever medicine, and my baby boy throws up the minute he has a fever. We needed to get his fever down, especially in the heat, but that was when we realized that NOTHING was open in the middle of the night on the Cape, at least near us. I ended up having to give the poor little boy a cold bath in the middle of the night. He hollered, but it worked. I was able to sleep for a couple hours before I got up with an alarm to be at the Stop and Shop grocery store when it opened at 6:00. And even though his fever went down and I got a little more sleep that morning, we realized that we couldn't stay in the house or take him anywhere in the record-high heat. We quickly packed up and left on Friday instead of Saturday. I did not remember that nothing was open in the middle of the night, or maybe never needed to know that, when I was young.
I also had forgotten how temperamental the fuses could be. When the microwave went out when we were cooking a big lobster dinner, it wasn't a huge deal. The next day, I reported it to my mom, who said that she remembered that they could never make coffee and use the toaster at the same time or the fuse would blow. I also reported the water mark on the ceiling of the dining room, and she said that this was why they were selling the house.
The house is old, and there is a lot of work they keep having to put into it. And my mom and her brother live so far away from the house. It just doesn't make sense for them to hold on to it. In addition, my parents bought their own beach house at a beach less than 3 hours away from where they (and we) live. It's a new house, with A/C, good electrical work and an easy weekend drive. It may not have my childhood memories, but it will be a great place for my kids to make their own childhood memories.
The trip was wonderful. I'm so glad I got to bring my family and have a final vacation at the Cape house. I will always cherish the memories, from my childhood and from this last visit. I got some closure. I even was able to put on a lobster dinner, an annual tradition from my childhood. It was really great, and even the traffic and stops that made the return trip 11.5 hours long did not diminish the wonderful vacation that we had and the memories that will live on.