It’s been only two days since we arrived home, and I can still smell the ocean air. Every year since I was treated for cancer in 2006, my two sons and their families have gone with me on a family beach vacation, often to Cape Cod, my favorite place on the planet and the playground of my childhood.
The key factor in this decision was our belief that time is limited, and life can change suddenly; it is best to make wonderful memories while we can. So, plans get made early, and often, to meet where my grandkids, my adult children and their mates, and I and my spouse, can enjoy each other’s company, and savor the pleasures of a place by the sea in which to vacation.
This year, we chose a large home on a private Cape Cod beach in West Hyannisport; the house sleeps 14 and we filled all the beds. The grassy back yard is the entrance onto an inlet with two sandbars, perfect for kayaking, catching crabs in a net, shell-collecting, and watching the tide come in and recede, day after day. Like magnets, the grandkids and some of the adults, gravitated toward the sandbars in search of adventures in fair sunny weather as well as on rainy, cloudy mornings.
The kitchen was designed by a chef who loved to cook, so we had the pleasure of six burners on a gas stove; all the appliances one could wish for; a silent and respectful dishwashing machine; and a large stainless steel refrigerator in which to store the items to prepare our breakfasts, lunches, and a Greekfest, complete with flaming cheese and delicate Baklava, as well as many enduring “happy hour” conversations. We ate like Kings!
This year my sister and I hosted a catered clambake for 24 that contained delicious clam “chowda”, tender lobsters and steaks, with steamed mussels, clams, sausages, and potatoes, ending with cold red watermelon slices for dessert, along with homemade treats she baked that were rich and satisfying. The party began at 2:30 and continued until about 9 that night, followed by card and video games until much later. As I talked with cousins I hadn’t seen all year, and as I interacted with grandkids, I found myself feeling loved, and appreciated but also moved and inspired. Each of us has had our share of challenges of one kind or another during the year, and yet, here we were together laughing, smiling into each other’s eyes, and affirming that our family is special in ways that endear us to one another. We are a talented group, we contribute to the communities in which we live, and we are kind, lively people who are passionate and interested in the world around us.
Our family members range in age from 5 years to 80. We skillfully avoided conversations about the current state of politics – with good reason – but most of all, we reconnected, we told stories, we remembered past family members, and we celebrated our unique family history. We know that our Italian-American roots are deeply bound by traditions that center around close-knit family, enduring love, and shared values of hard work, loyalty, and giving your best to the world. We could feel the presence of ancestors who are the role models for the wisdom found in our celebrations of food, fellowship, wine, and music. We embraced the views expressed so well by author Sandy Gringas that “At the beach life is different. A day moves not from hour to hour, but leaps from mood to moment. We go with the currents, plan around the tides, follow the sun. We measure happiness by nothing we can hold, nothing we can catch. Everywhere, life is jumping and elusive, momentously momentary.”