A Gratifying Return

Twenty-five years ago my husband, David, and I pooled our resources with my folks and owned a second home in the Katama area of Edgartown. It lasted ten glorious years before circumstances found us sadly selling the place.

Over the next fifteen years our son, Ben, finished high school and college. He grew up. David and I, well, we just grew older. For David’s sixtieth birthday, Ben and I thought it would be great to vacation someplace new, but not too far from our home in Redding.

As I blearily worked my way through hundreds of listings from glamorous estates for $23,000 a week to “last-minute steals,” most of which looked like haunted houses, I began to despair. Isn’t there some nice little place we could rent for a reasonable price? I soldiered on. A familiar silhouette caught my eye. Hmmm, that looks like the place we used to own. Wait a minute – that is the place!

I looked at photos of the interior. The entire house had been renovated. All had been painted white, which made it look so much nicer. Everything was fresh and new. Gleaming hardwood floors had replaced the ratty old carpet, and the kitchen had been completely streamlined. The place looked really terrific, and it was within our budget – just.

I contacted the owner and told him our story. Would the house be available? Yes? Then we’d like to come and stay. But then I wondered: Would it be unwise to revisit a place so redolent with memories? How would I feel if I were to go back? How would David and Ben feel about this?

Their enthusiastic response: Book it!

We hear the thundering surf of South Beach before we can see it. I watch the gray-green breakers swell, rise, and crash upon the sand. Ben and David are having the time of their lives, dunking one another, diving and being dashed to the shore by the treacherous sea. They only laugh and plunge back into the ocean, exhilarated, wanting more. At last they come out and dry off and we return to the house. It is marvelous to be back.

The next day is bright and sunny. David and Ben head out on a long bike ride, all the way to Aquinnah, to see the lighthouse and the great cliffs. That’s fine with me. I need some alone time.

Listening to Mozart and doing some needlework, I am relaxed and content to sit in the sunshine that floods the south-facing A-frame. Then I sense the presence of Julia, our lovely Tonkinese cat, stretched out on an old shawl of mine. How she reveled in the warmth of the sunlight on such a day as this.

I turn to look outside and envision our friends Ellen and Larry walking up the path in their swimsuits, colorful beach towels slung over their shoulders. They smile expectantly at me and then fade away in the dappled sunlight.

Another scene to cherish: It’s dusk and David’s parents arrive after their long drive from Virginia. How young they look! Grandpa Paul drops the suitcases and holds out his arms, and seven-year-old Ben jumps into them. Paul falls back into a chair, laughing as his giggling, wriggling grandson clings to him like a starfish. I blink, they disappear, and I am alone again.

Now here come my boys, wheeling their bicycles up the gravel path. We enjoy another quiet candlelight dinner and each of us shares favorite memories of the many wonderful times we used to have, right here in this house, all those years ago.

Our children put on impromptu skits for our after-dinner entertainment – “Theatre of the Absurd,” one dad laughingly called it. We dined on the fruits of the sea, the fields, and the orchards. We drank too much wine. We debated, laughed, sang songs, and made outlandish plans to quit our jobs and live on the Vineyard.

A few days later we have to pack up and leave. I am already thinking, “When can we return?” Because something wonderful always happens to all of us when we are here. There is no arguing, no hassles. Each of us is always considerate of the others. It’s not just that we’re on vacation. It has something to do with being here, on the Vineyard. At least that’s the effect this enchanted Island has on this family.

Even now.