Sitting in my motorized scooter, I wait by the dock until Dave and I venture onto the ferry at Hyannis. The sun-drenched skies pour a beckoning invitation to us as we skim over the 42 miles that will move us onto the island of Nantucket. Children giggle; an 18-year-old toy terrier runs around with the energy of a puppy; a young mother maneuvers her beagle, a toddler and an infant in her Baby Bjorn. These people speak of experience to Dave and me, the novices. We go on board ahead of the cars, and a crewman from The Nantucket takes us up the service elevator. By 1:00, we head out and quickly see only open water.
We come to this place to reconnect with my cousin and her husband at their summer home. In the last 42 years, we have connected only once when they came to Annapolis in 2007. I again relive our childhood roles: she my sophisticated cousin from New Jersey; I the country bumpkin from upstate New York. But we always had fun together as children when she and her brother came “up the country,” as she always said. My brother and I took them to visit our grandparents, and the other cousins. We swam at Lake Linda, and her brother got to drive a tractor on our uncle’s farm.
Larry has given us good advice about taking the slow ferry. It allows for a settling calm to filter into mind and body. My dreamy reminiscences of childhood come to a halt about two hours later as Nantucket Harbor comes into view. The quaint landmark of gray shingled homes with white trim dot the horizon. Yachts and humbler crafts bob up and down in the blue waters. Almost here. Almost ready to step back into childhood. A moment of yearning for the parents we have lost — all of them gone. Even Nancy’s older brother as of two years ago. I think of the hymn lyric: “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all her sons away.” Memories lap relentlessly, like the ferry’s waves that slap the dock.
Nancy and Larry welcome us with gracious hospitality. We laugh and relax in the late afternoon as the sun’s shadows checker the deck. The birds chirp their appreciation for filled feeders, and later the deer stop by to consume the spilled seeds, contented with the leftovers.
Memories, long-forgotten stories, questions about ailing cousins, and then a sharing of recent family pictures — all these circle us four in a time of grace. Between the two couples, we have four granddaughters. More swapping of photos and stories, but these more contemporary. My husband worries over my cousin’s advice; she knows far too many new boutiques for little girls’ clothing to keep my husband calm!
We devour vegetarian lasagna and talk away much of the evening. How does one catch up on forty years?
Exploring Nantucket connects old stories to new adventures. Our Tuesday morning excursion takes us to the island home of Mr. Rogers. Seeing The Crooked House, as unassuming as Fred Rogers himself, sets off stories about our children’s favorite TV personality”back in the day.” Larry and Nancy have a son and a daughter. Dave and I have raised two sons.
Family ties us together again. We talk past and present in the same breath. Larry knows western Maryland and has relatives who live near our retirement cabin in the woods. Threads come together in a tapestry of life.
We drive by the picturesque seaside setting of their daughter’s 2003 wedding. I comment that our younger son also got married in 2003. Another thread in the warp and woof of our lives meshes. As we chat, I smile at the grace that I feel shining on us all this week.
One evening we see their photos of world travels to China, Cuba, the Baltic, Scandinavia. Vicariously, I travel to places I can’t physically reach. My cousin makes me laugh when she assures me she’s broken bones and received excellent medical attention in hospitals all over the world. I tell her of my Haiti encounter with malaria. We compare the medical costs of China and Haiti. We are thankful to have come through unscathed.
One last gourmet breakfast, stirred up here in Nancy’s kitchen, and we must head for the marina to catch the fast ferry that will whisk us back to the mainland in a mere hour. Our time together helps me rethink what is truly important about life. So much centers around people. I receive the grace of this time, these stories, these dear people. Perhaps again next summer we will pick up the threads of life again, learning still more about grace.