Dreams of Summers Past

Summer often makes me nostalgic for my grandparents. Growing up 700 miles away meant we didn’t see them but once a year. BUT, once a year, we spent a week or two there in the summer, often just my sister and me. I don’t know if the 24/7 nature of those visits made up the distance difference, but I felt close to my grandparents. Maybe because I loved their place as much as they did.

My grandparents lived in a nondescript house on a pond in Tiverton, Rhode Island. I loved everything about it. The crunch of crushed clam shells in the driveway. The rickety tire swing in the front yard. The splotches of dehydrated moss on the boulders bubbling up in the back yard. The damp, dusty scent and clammy painted cement floor under my feet in the basement. The picture of one of my aunts as a teenager in a bathing cap, up on water skis, a smile as big as joy itself on her face. The sliver of beach and splintery pier perched on an outcropping of rocks. I loved the carefreeness of spending our days in the water, on the boat, in the sun. It was coffee ice cream before dinner, Red Sox games on TV and my sister, cousin and I taking turns with the mousse and curlers in my grandmother’s hair (always the night before she was due to have it done at the salon). There was a satisfying heaviness that would overtake our bones at the end of the day as we finally crawled beneath the nubby white comforter on the bed.
This place spoke so much to me and I still am not sure why. Was it simply the beauty of place? Was it that I was away from the routine, the mundane? Was it the company of cousins? Was it the ever present sound of laughter? Was it the unconditional love and “go outside and play” attitude of my grandparents?
My grandparents have been on my mind a lot lately either because it’s summer and I’m nostalgic for our yearly trips, I want to share the magic of their place with my boys, or if it’s my heart’s annual tug towards the water.
It could be because today would have been their 70th wedding anniversary. They made it to their 62nd anniversary before my grandpa passed in 2003, my grandma not long after in the summer of 2004.
Whatever it is, there is a part of my soul that yearns for Tiverton, for childhood, for raucous family clam boils, bawdy jokes shared in whispers amongst the “adults” that ended in gales of laughter traveling across the pond, clam cakes and lobster rolls at Evelyn’s, days spent without television, the smell of pond water in my hair as I drifted off to sleep.
My grandparents and summer days spent at their house were my lighthouse growing up. They somehow showed the way back to a quiet part of me that often got lost in the noisy day-to-day. I always felt at peace and whole after a trip there. My parents recognized it and sent me there as a college graduation gift. My husband recognized it and we often planned vacations that included a trip to New England.
Although I’ve been to visit family in New England in recent years, it’s been a long time since I’ve been back to the pond. In fact I don’t think I’ve been back since my grandmother’s funeral. Maybe this pull I’m feeling is my grandparents silently lighting the beacon for me again, shining the way to stillness. With all the changes in the last six years, my inner me yearns to recalibrate, to dip my toes back in the murky waters of Sawdy Pond, to watch the light play on the water for awhile, to listen to the sound of children’s laughter roll down the lawn. Only this time it would be my children.
Looks like it might be time to check the fare sales.
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