Friday, March 25, 2011

Cape Cod: Finding My Way

The first relationship I established after moving to Cape Cod was with the family that owned the 7-11 in Centerville.  Nearly every day for two weeks I ventured out my door and into the crooked streets that baffled me in attempts to get acquainted with this new place and always searching for a grocery store.  I drove south and ran into the sandy beaches of Craigville that met Nantucket Sound streaked with pink and orange sunsets. I drove truet north and met Millway Beach on the bay side.  There was not one grocery store between the two bodies of water. There were mornings when I’d just drive, but instead of finding a Kroger or Stop & Shop, I’d find myself meandering past mansions with an ocean view, in the middle of residential neighborhoods with quaint colonial or cape cod style houses tucked off the street, or on a road lined with scrub pines, brush, and sand.  I just kept telling myself, if I can find a supermarket, I’ll feel more at home. Since I couldn’t find a grocery store, back I went to the 7-11 returning home with my bag of groceries, and promptly missing the drive to my house forcing me to go around the block.
During one search and find mission, I discovered Lambert’s a market filled with fresh vegetables and fruit and a butcher and Deli in the back. This was more like it. Picking through the mounds of vegetables and placing just enough for one into a bag brought contentment. Standing in front of the meat case at the back, I must have looked perplexed as I chewed on my lower lip trying to figure out what prosciutto was, but ham and turkey were offered, too, so I was happy. A few days later I ventured into a place I’d never been before in my life….a fish market.

The Centerville Lobster & Fish Market, located among a strip mall of stores, became a favorite stop, but my first trip inside was like a kid stepping into a toy store for the first time. With wide eyes I read every label that accompanied every ice encased, stainless steel container filled with blue point oysters, steamers, fresh shrimp, quahogs, salmon, and fish galore. I was in seafood heaven. What to choose? I muddled over choosing something familiar like salmon or shrimp or should I be daring? I watched the fish monger wrap my chosen swordfish steak in paper. Never in my life had I purchased fish wrapped in paper, it always came frozen. I hurried home with my delicious treasure and drove right passed the driveway…again.

How would I ever tell my family that I still couldn’t find a regular, run-of-the-mill grocery store? Finding a supermarket became an obsession, but the embarrassment kept me from asking the cashier at Lambert’s, the fish monger, or the proprietors of the 7-11 for directions. I explored the National Seashore at great length traversing the boardwalk, wandering past mature trees on my way to Coast Guard Beach. I journeyed to the outer Cape and Provincetown, watched the tide roll in at Race Point and poked about in shops on Commercial Street, but a supermarket remained elusive. What was I doing wrong?

Anyone who knows me, knows that I struggle telling my left from my right and following directions is a monumental task. I get lost in parking lots and inside malls. One day I turned right instead of left and found myself driving passed the Cape Cod Mall that I didn’t know existed. I pulled into the parking area, turned around, and drove back on to the street and there it was, on the right side, Shaw’s, a real-time supermarket. It had taken me two weeks of wandering to find it, but at last I felt like I was home. I pulled into the parking lot and strutted right into the store without a list, purchased some much needed items and still beaming; drove passed the driveway to my cottage.

In between getting-to-know-the-Cape travels, I put my home in order. I selfishly delighted in another first. The first time I could arrange a home the way I wanted it without anyone else suggesting otherwise. No one told me the white on white of the bathroom was too blah. No one advised me to keep the table in the middle of the kitchen area instead of next to the window. I created my living space just the way I wanted, all the while a contented smile plastered on my face. When lunch rolled around, I’d sit on my white wicker sofa on the side deck, breathing in the salt air cooling into fall, satisfied and supremely happy.

Before anyone thinks these first few weeks were a bed of roses, let me explain. While I reveled in this new-found freedom, I was also lost, not just physically lost each time I got in my car, but lost in myself. I would go for days and not speak to another living soul like a monk who took a vow of silence. Every morning, I sat up in bed, grabbed my notebook and began writing. Surrounded by pillows, I’d pen my fears, frustrations, hopes, and dreams. So many pent up emotions screamed to be released and this is where I licked the wounds from two years of fierce battles punctuated by a bitter divorce. The time to mull over my life up to this point was a gift sorely needed, but at times loneliness seeped in.

My landlord had me nearly convinced me that I should just forget flying to Nantucket every morning to a job that I could find on the Cape. She put the fear into me, but I knew at some point I needed a job, so I called the flower shop on Nantucket. The manager and I played phone tag, never really connecting. When I’d ask if my messages had been passed on, the person on the other end of the phone always said yes. I stopped calling when I realized that the job had probably been filled. The disappointment of not getting that job weighed heavily on me. What would I do swirled around me like a spinning top. The bravado that had carried me across miles of landscape, failed me now. I began pondering what I was capable of doing and a negative mantra developed…no degree, no skills, no experience. I picked up the Cape Cod Times, investigating possibilities. I knew how to be a mom, cook delicious meals, garden, and arrange flowers. No one wanted any of those skills. I didn’t worry at this point; I knew I’d be ok even if I took my time finding a job.

October rolled around and an invitation came for a Halloween party my brother and his wife were throwing. Of course I can’t go; I live over 800 miles away. Desperate to be around comforting family who spoke like I did, without adding an ‘R’ to idea where it doesn’t belong and removing the ‘R’ from harbor where it does and talk in a normal volume compelled me to drive 14 hours straight, back to Ohio for the Halloween party. On the drive I thought about how much I needed to see fields of ripe corn waiting to be harvested and the stubs of soybeans left by combines. The longing for the old familiarity of rural northwest Ohio and to laugh with my children urged me on through the day. During the long drive I recalled another time a year before when the need for the familiar overwhelmed me.

A and I were spending our first night in the new house in Bryan. Everything was new and shiny. My cherry four-poster gleamed in readiness for my maiden voyage into slumber on the plush pillow-top mattress. Sleep eluded me and something didn’t feel right even though the bed was Goldilocks-just-right. Overcome with frustration and longing, I dampened the pillow with tears. The key to the farmhouse on the nightstand caught the light from the clock radio. Without changing out of pj’s, I grabbed the key, tiptoed to A’s room and found him sound asleep. I remember thinking, the wasband hadn’t moved back into the house, yet, so I’ll just drive back and take one last look. The car slipped into the country night with crickets chirping a welcome back. Without thinking, I got out of the car, unlocked the door and went up to what had been our old bedroom that looked out over my fenced-in garden, now home to decaying perennials and an exploding population of promiscuous weeds. I crawled in on my side of the bed and fell into a peaceful sleep. As morning broke over the eastern horizon, my feet flew down the steps and I drove back to the house in town, no one the wiser.

I left Ohio on Monday after the Halloween party, anxious to be back on the Cape where the air, thick with the ocean, smelled fresh and tasted salty.

A few days later, I stepped onto a November beach, the only person walking along the edge of the lacy foam created by waves chasing the bluster of wind. I pulled my hood up and walked, head down, searching for white shells. The ocean had offered up gifts for the birthday girl. Trapped in tangled wrack from high tide were countless shells. I picked through the brownish green seaweed pocketing the prettiest. Empty life guard chairs provided a place to sit and contemplate, but the bitter cold seeped into bones too fast, better to move on. Back at home I warmed myself by baking cookies as my birthday treat. This first birthday alone, although quiet, was a lovely day doing just what I wanted and with every ring of the telephone came a happy birthday followed by a concerned Are you ok? I was ok. In fact, happiness and contentment pervaded my being, whether others believed it or not.

The holidays approached starting with Thanksgiving. Will you be coming home? Please come home. Long talks to my daughter convinced me to drive back to Ohio, so once again I hit the road, Ohio bound. Thanksgiving at my brother’s was a merry event. Everyone was glad to see me and I was happy to be among family. The Sunday after eating turkey and all the trimmings I pointed the car eastward, but this time I wasn’t alone. My daughter, a student at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, was accompanying me back to Cape Cod. This would be her first trip to the Cape and she was staying until after Christmas. A whole month of living with my daughter brought so much joy. I couldn’t wait until I could show her around my new home…the house, the area that included Barnstable, Hyannis, and Centerville, but mostly the ocean that I loved so well.

Fighting holiday traffic, made the drive back to the Cape arduous and slow. We took the northerly route through upper New York and onto the Mass pike. The further we went the sicker M became so that by the time we reached home, all she wanted to do was down Tylenol, drink liquids, and drift into fevered asleep. I was delighted to play nurse to her. The warmth in the house increased tenfold because she was there. Poor thing was so sick that she didn’t feel like doing much of anything the first few days, until one morning white flakes floated outside the window.

I jumped out of bed, pulled on clothes and hurried into her room. “You’ve got to get up!” I insisted, “It’s snowing. It’s snowing over the ocean. I’ve never seen it snow over the ocean. We’ve got to go now!”

Such a good sport, she dressed and we hurried to Craigville where we stood shivering on the hard sandy beach watching fat snowflakes pirouette from low, gray clouds and disappear into the dark ocean. We drove to the National Seashore on that frigid morning. The sound of waves crashing against rocks and sand lured us down the steps to the Coast Guard Beach. M ran along the shoreline like a little girl playing catch me if you can with rolling waves. One thunderous wave tagged her, wetting her jeans up to her knees as she shrieked with laughter into the wind.

During her stay, we took an excursion to Salem, Mass. Wandering in and out of witchy shops, having a witch read the tarot cards for M, and taking in the Peabody-Essex museum filled the days.

Back at home, we shopped for a freshly-cut Christmas tree. When the tree was wrapped and tied to the top of the car, we looked at each other grinning. The mystery of how we’d get a tree home without a pick-up solved. All the way home, we amused each with possible scenes of the tree falling off the car and landing in traffic, on the windshield, or dropping to the side of the road. We set the perfect little tree in the stand and it miraculously stood erect and solid next to the fireplace on the first try. We dragged out lights and ornaments decorating the tree, the mantle and setting the Santa Claus collection on the piano. My Cape Cod cottage felt more like home than ever before.
One day we discovered Mashpee Commons. One of M’s college friends was throwing an elegant cocktail party for New Year’s Eve. We shopped for the perfect dress. M tried on a gray wool, strapless sheath that hugged her body. She looked chic and so young. I had no choice, but to purchase the dress and give it to her for Christmas.

Christmas Eve was a quiet affair, just the two of us sharing tea much like we had in years past on St. Nicholas day. Plates of finger sandwiches, scones, and cookies spread across the candlelit table. Only one thing would have brought more contentment and that was if A would have been there, too. Christmas day was bittersweet. Getting together with family always meant a raucous good time that included good food and much laughter. Our Christmas day was quieter than any we’d ever shared. Instead of trying to recreate what we could not, we started a new tradition…a day of doing nothing.

A few days after Christmas, I returned home from the airport in Providence. The house echoed with silence and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’m terrible at saying good-bye. I want it over quickly, like yanking a band-aide from a wound. Then, I can find a place to curl up and let the tears fall.

In a few days it would be a new year and here I was in the place of my dreams. There was so much to think about, so much to figure out. I wrote the following in my journal dated: December 30, 2000…

I need to figure out the catalyst that will move me into the next cycle of my life. I made a move from Ohio, which I’d felt was stifling, to Cape Cod. I know no one here, but the surroundings are so beautiful, the ocean close by, and I am inspired.

Those first few months were an easing in to a new life.  Although, I’d moved I still had one foot in Ohio.  When being homesick overwhelmed me, I went back to Ohio, but as soon as a day went by I longed to be back on the Cape in my snug house.  I made more than two trips back to Ohio in the autumn months and looking back I should not have trekked back and forth, but hind sight is 20/20, or so it's said.  Getting lost every time I walked out the door became a personal frustration and joke.  I laughed at myself often during that time and chalked it up to my dyslexic directional challenge. After the new year I settled into a long winter of healing and learning.   


  1. I love hearing about this journey, this part of your life.

    I think having one foot in each place is part of what change is all about, especially a huge change like this.

    We often see change as being I am this, now I am that. But i think that change - real change comes over time. Spending time in both places was just right.

    And oh, The Cape in the fall/winter. What a time of discovery. And Lamberts!! I used to work near a Lamberts and it was heaven (but not toilet paper!)

    Wonderful journey, thank you Teresa!

  2. Dear Teresa, I am so glad I did not miss this episode of your Cape Cod saga, and look forward to more! P x

  3. Marion...I think you're right, I did need to ease into the new by slowly letting go of the old. Lambert's and the fish market are two place sorely missed. There's nothing like it here in rural nw Ohio.

    Pam...I'm so glad you stopped by, but even happier that you are on the road to recovery.'re silly, but I am planning more chapters.

  4. Hello Theresa O.
    Thank you for sharing part of the journey of how you have become who you are~ You have been blessed to experience living at the Cape in your dream. Although it was not always easy, YOU DID IT! You took action and did something you wanted to do. You said YES!! And THAT took courage!

    Each episode of our lives adds to who we are. Many of the thoughts you share ring a bell. The loneliness of moving and the fear that can set in, the conclusion of a longtime relationships, dyslexia.

    What's great is you can share your journey here. Now you can also see how this experience got you to where you are today sitting in The Cottage on the Corner!


  5. This is a brilliant 'life diary' of your journey, both actual and emotional. You write so well and convey each emotion, vividly. Please continue!

    I did laugh to myself at you losing yourself, literally, as that has happened to both me and my husband (particularly my husband) when we have moved. He used to lose his way home after work and go round and round on the motorway circuit, knowing that he was almost there and yet not able to find the right junction to exit. My own getting lost and looking for places was nearer to your own experiences.

  6. I need to take the time to come and read all your Cape Cod story. I plan on enjoying your journey.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Treasured comments from treasured friends...