Nantucket is special to me for other reasons, too. Mr. Understanding and I, fresh out of our respective graduate schools and jobless, honeymooned for several weeks in his grandmother’s house on Nantucket, in the tiny town of Siasconset. I had always wanted to go to Nantucket after reading “Belles on Their Toes”, by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and his sister Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, the sequel to their book “Cheaper by the Dozen”. Mr. U’s grandfather, a professional cartoonist, had purchased the house and lot for $2,000 in the 1940s (?), and he, his wife, and daughters summered there. They were New Yorkers. The house sits about a block from the beach and you can walk everywhere you want to go to.
Humble and quaint, “Fred”* as it was called, was the perfect place to hole up after a bar exam, a year abroad, and a wedding. Mr. Understanding and I were so tired that we spent a lot of the time in bed reading borrowed books from the lovely Athaneum library downtown. Mr. U’s choice was “War and Peace” by Tolstoy. I wondered if he thought that would be the blueprint for our marriage but he replied he just wanted to read a classic. Uh huh. Just after Labor Day, it was not beach weather but we took daily walks down Butterfly Lane up to Sankaty Lighthouse and dreamed, awed by the beautiful houses. Poor, we dined in. I wrote my wedding thank you notes and got reacquainted with my husband. It was a perfect honeymoon.
A few years later, we returned to ‘Sconset and Fred with the Radish, Poppy, Mood Ring Momma, her husband Wild Bill, and MCV; Thing 1 was in utero. The summer of 1993 was Mood Ring Momma’s turn to wear a cast but that did not deter us from the beach. We read books while the men surfcasted, ambled in and out of boutiques, and had parties at night (I drank lemonade).
This year, after the conference ended, we motored down to Hyannis, with a quick stop to see the Plymouth Pebble, as I refer to it. Profoundly disappointed by its appearance the first time I saw it, it has become a symbol to me of how Americans have a penchant for embroidering the truth. The Plymouth Rock is America’s original spin! Can you imagine the pilgrims pulling up and saying “We’re here!”? I am not buying that four hundred years of erosion whittled the rock down from an imposing geological outcropping to a mere stepping stone. I’ve seen bigger rocks in many a Chinese garden. Eventually I will share my theory of what happened to my pet rock but that subject must wait until the end of the series.
So although I’d felt gypped as an American student of elementary school history, it was important for my children to see the real deal especially since my mother-in-law tells me they are Mayflower descendents (in stark contrast, my family came via a boat which disembarked on Ellis Island with the rest of the maids and potato farmers of Eire). The Plymouth Pebble was ensconced beneath imposing columns, new since the last time I’d seen it, and had been moved back even farther from the beach for protection, hidden like a criminal behind bars. Having said that, the town of Plymouth is so charming I could happily live there the rest of my life. It’s got churches, Brazilian grocery stores, and history out the ying-yang. What’s not to like?
To Be Continued ….
I am liking the whole “To Be Continued” deal. We are in frantic, cranky summer pack-out mode and it is getting ugly. I nearly threw a tantrum when Mr. Understanding asked me where we keep the Diet Coke. I have decided that leaving our summer idyll every year is like a mini-death; it is impossible to tie up all the loose ends. The stitches come out Monday and we get on the plane Tuesday afternoon – there is nothing like cutting it close!
*Most houses on Nantucket are named, their monikers proudly displayed on fancy wooden carved signs called quarterboards. More on this later.