Highland Light

Highland Light

Some places on Cape Cod never change.  In the late 1950s and 1960s my family and I spent one week each summer in North Truro.  We rented a housekeeping cottage and did then what families still do today.  We swam at Head of the Meadow Beach.  We drove out to Race Point to watch the sunsets.  We visited Highland Light where my father sketched the lighthouse so he could paint it later.  I remember being able to drive fairly close to the lighthouse and then we had to walk to get closer to it.

In late July this year my husband and I joined other family members for a vacation in Orleans.  One day my husband and I took a day trip to my favorite childhood places.  The Highland Light was one of those places.  Today the parking lot seems farther away from the lighthouse and the walk to the overlook seems different, but it’s well worth the view.  I walked to the overlook alone since my husband is still using a walker to get around after he fractured his pelvis in five places in early July.  Walking that same path I had walked on as a child felt lonely now.  My dad and my sister are deceased and my mother is in a nursing home.

After snapping some photos of the lighthouse, I drove to the Head of the Meadow Beach.  I don’t remember the beach access being so treacherous, but the building housing the restrooms and changing areas looked the same.  It was a difficult climb to the beach itself for my husband using his walker, and I now regret suggesting we go there.  It was hard for me also carrying the beach chairs and towels.  I don’t remember it being such a difficult walk to the beach as a child, so perhaps the beach access has changed.  I know I would remember if signs were posted years ago warning of sharks like they were on our recent visit.  Sharks were swimming in closer to shore because of all the seals that are now a common sight among the swimmers.  Not only were signs posted; a swimmer had apparently just spotted a baby shark which was then captured by a man using his small boat.  The shark was a great attraction as it lay on the beach surrounded by tourists snapping pictures with their i-phones.  We didn’t have i-phones when I was a child or captured sharks lying on the beach.  It seemed like life was simpler then before all the electronics and climate changes.

No matter when one visits the Cape, the magic is always there.  Even with the changing environment, the shifting sand dunes, the new seafood shacks and ice cream parlors, there is the same feeling of comfort the ocean always brings to one.  On our recent trip, my grandchildren swam in the same waters of my childhood and walked on the Skaket Beach tidal pools at low tide just before sunset to catch baby crabs and tiny fish, my three-year-old granddaughter  picking up the crabs and talking to them (Don’t bite me, crab!).   They danced to the music at beach concerts in Chatham and licked ice cream cones at the end of the day.

I will always have my memories of my childhood vacations on the Cape.  Now my grandchildren are creating memories of their own.  Life on the Cape in many ways will never change.

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September Blues

September blesses us with autumn colors–vibrant reds, oranges, earthy browns- that energize and elevate us, as long as we try to think of autumn as just a different kind of beginning, not really an ending.

All my life September has meant the start of school.  First as a student and then as a teacher, the sadness of the end of summer was mollified by the excitement of the beginning of a new year.  Ah, the fun of it all.  Notebooks, packs of lined paper, Bic pens, No. 2 pencils, text books filled with all kinds of wonderful information.

I particularly loved September as a teacher.  All those new faces, all that potential, all that fun and laughter and those serious classroom discussions, all that writing, all that reading, all those videos and recordings and computer searches.  Everything fresh and new.

Now as a retired teacher I look at September in a different way.  I am entering my third year of retirement and the sadness and emptiness is just starting to soften a little.  I can go into Staples or Target and pass those aisles of school supplies with just a hint of sadness.  I still want to buy everything.  I go into Michael’s and see displays for teachers of bulletin board borders with their patterns of apples and textbooks and pencils curving around the sides, posters to inspire the most reluctant students, attendance logs and storage containers.  I still want it all.  I still long to pack up my tote bags with classroom supplies, create colorful bulletin boards, decorate the walls of my room with informational posters, arrange desks and bookshelves, and stand at the door expectantly, waiting to see new faces and hear laughter in the hallways, the sound of young voices eager to be with their friends again.

I know retirees who are happy to finally go to the Cape in September with its lower rates and fewer crowds, walk the beaches, eat seafood, take the ferry to Nantucket, breathe in the cooler fall air, and relish the peace.

Not so much for me.  Not that I don’t love the Cape, and the first year my husband and I were both retired we spent a long weekend on the Cape in September.  But Hyannis was a little too quiet, too boring.  The sun still had a little warmth, but not enough to lie in the sun smothered in sunscreen and listen to the waves and the gulls, radios, and indistinguishable voices.  In fact, it was downright lonely.

Twenty-five years ago September came with excitement and nervousness for my family.   We had just moved into our new house in a new school district.  Our daughters were in the sixth and ninth grades.  The morning of the first day of school I watched doors open, cars move, the exodus from homes begin, and children of all ages walk to the end of the road to get the school bus.  It was almost magical.  A few weeks ago on the first day of school, I watched the older kids leave about 7 a.m. and at 8:45 the younger ones began their slow walk to the end of the street accompanied by a few mothers and dads.  The parents were carrying their cameras and the photos began.  One dad stood at the end of the road long after his child was on the bus still taking pictures as the bus drove his child away from his protective arms.  Mothers cried, then slowly walked back to their empty houses.

Now it’s not until October that I begin to enjoy the colors of the leaves, the cool air, and the crops of apples and pumpkins and squash.  The first week of September is the hardest when there are beginnings for children and parents as school begins, when other teachers enter their classrooms with enthusiasm, and I watch from my window as the children begin a new school year.  Three years into retirement I still feel the loss.  I am wondering how many years it will take me before I truly feel relaxed and happy that I am not heading off to school myself, and instead I am looking forward to the beaches of the Cape.  September blues linger for me still.