I stood in the middle of the living room of the little ranch-style house I’d been renting wondering where to begin packing for the move to Centerville on Cape Cod. I looked around the room realizing that it had been just eleven months since my son and I moved to Bryan. Standing there surrounded by quiet, I recalled the exhilaration of having a place to call my own and how it washed over me like a gentle summer rain that bathes away the dust and cobwebs from the earth, leaving behind a fresh, green world opening to brand new possibilities. The wasband had allowed me store my piano at the farmhouse until I had room for it. I moved in the last of my things the day before and that morning, delivery guys brought the dreamy four poster bed I’d purchased. As soon as they left I grabbed the new sheet set, blankets, and comforter and made my bed. The flowered sofa and striped wing chair, yet to arrive, left the living room open. I was unpacking boxes to music playing in the background when I jumped up and began a giddy dance about the living room, my arms reaching for the ceiling, my feet moving to and fro with the rock of hips following in hot pursuit. At that moment I thought my heart would split wide open with sheer joy. This new-found sense of freedom to do what I wanted to do, go where I wanted to go reached a zenith as I swayed and sashayed from one room to the next, laughing in elation. It was a beautiful moment, but now I was ready to take Emerson’s advice and “hitch my wagon to a star.”
So much had happened already this year that the question, did I really think moving was a good idea, reverberated across my psyche? Yes, it was the best idea and one in which two of my friends supported me whole heartedly. My family, less supportive, realized that I would do what I would do. There were no long talks with bullet point reasons as to why moving so far away was a bad idea, but I felt the underlying current of disapproval. My sister was the most outspoken. Since childhood, we’d always been close. We’d both married farmers, we’d both been stay-at-home moms, but our kids were soon to fly the coop leaving us feathering an empty nest. There would be no more impromptu shopping trips, breakfasts on the weekend, or stopping by each other’s homes unannounced for tall glasses of iced tea and long talks. Subtle changes had been happening all along, first with the activities of children that keep families in constant motion and then N decided to head for college and build a new career. We’d been seeing less and less of each other for quite some time and besides we could still telephone and talk all we wanted.My other sister, B, living a thousand miles away in Montana, the place of her dreams, encouraged me to go, explore what’s out there and live my life the way I wanted to. To this day I appreciate how she inspired me and cheered me on.
As I was packing to head east, my son did his own packing. My son not going with me was a hard pill to swallow. A and I had talked about moving off and on during the two years his dad and I were separated. I hesitated doing it sooner because I didn’t want to yank him out of the only school he’d ever attended. Witnessing his family splinter into fragments was hard enough, how could I ask him to move away from his friends, his sports teams, and miss out on his senior year surrounded by all that’s familiar. This was my illusion, not his. He wanted to move, but I thought he wanted to because as a son he felt he needed to protect me. I believed I was being the good mother to remain in northwest Ohio so he could attend the school he’d always gone to. Now that the move was happening, he opted to stay in northwest Ohio and live with a group of guys in a house. A began apprenticing with an electrician his senior year, much to my chagrin. I wanted him in college, but he chose a different path and I had to respect it. How could I deny him his heart’s desire? I simply could not, although I tried to convince him that moving with me to Cape Cod would be good for him, too. He could find a job and then after a year be considered a resident and attend college. The pendulum had swung in the opposite direction, so he packed his dad’s pickup with his bedroom furniture and linens and drove off to set up a guy’s place with his friends.
The weeks leading up to the move were a flurry of things to do from contacting the post office to saying good-bye to my siblings and friends. The day before the 800 mile trek began, my son, daughter, and her friend loaded the rented U-Haul with boxes, furniture, and my piano from the farm.
One of my oldest friends and her husband were accompanying me to the Cape, along with my son. L would drive the U-Haul truck, S drive their car filled with stuff, and I would drive my packed car. Late in the afternoon S and L drove up, got out of the car, and came over to talk. I could tell something was up by S’s face. She gave me a hug and then said, “I’m sorry T, but we can’t go.”
She went on to explain that L couldn’t go because of a problem at work. If he took the time off he might lose his job. How could I possibly be angry…but I was, even though I knew this was no one’s fault. This was the first wrench tossed into the wheels of my move and I was pissed as hell. I continued loading the truck, ignoring my friends. I sent the message loud and clear, so they left.
The truck was nearly packed, the plans were made, but who was going to drive my things to the Cape? I turned to my daughter’s friend, a stocky young man with loads of chutzpah, “You could drive this truck,” I stated staring at him with pleading eyes.
“I can’t. I have no more vacation time left.”
I begged him to take a long weekend and do this for me until my daughter asked me to stop. She gave me a big hug. I began calling every person I could think of who might be able to help me. I called all three of my brothers, but they couldn’t take work off at the last minute. My brother-in-law was too busy getting ready for fall harvest. I ran out of people to beg for help. Disheartened, I plopped down on the step and cried. A sat down beside me and offered to drive the truck. Now here’s the thing about driving a U-Haul truck at that time, the driver needed to be over the age of 21 and A was only 18, although he’d been driving tractors and farm equipment since he was 12. Even though I knew it was wrong, I felt I had no other choice, but to allow him to drive the truck. I knew he could handle that truck far better than me.
The next morning, we packed up the last few things and headed east, my red car in the lead and A following behind in the truck. The excitement of the move kept me wide awake and alert even though I lacked sleep. We moved across Ohio, navigated around Cleveland, past the Jake, now called Progressive Field, our destination the New York thruway. I took no chances this time of finding myself and my son heading into New York City unawares. Nope, this time we were circumventing the Big Apple, giving it as wide a berth as possible. My goal was to make it half way the first day. We got a late start and the day was proving to be another hot and humid one. A drove the truck with no air conditioning and was ready to stop by the time we reached Batavia in late afternoon. We spent the night in a hotel and up early the next morning to a clear sky and the promise of another hot day.
We motored along without incident until we had to stop at the entrance to the Mass pike. Cars lined up like the segments of a long caterpillar creeping at a snail’s pace. I saw a U Haul behind me and sighed in relief that A was close-by and we’d not lost sight of each other. I grabbed a ticket and sped through heading toward the exit for Cape Cod. I didn’t see A or any U Haul in the snarled mess of traffic that whizzed by me as if I was standing still. I kept a look out for him, but we’d lost sight of each other. I exited the Mass pike onto Route 128. I’d not seen A in quite some time and the plan was that if we lost sight of each other we should stop at the nearest rest area and wait until the other arrived. I stopped at the first rest area off the Mass pike and waited. After 30 minutes of waiting I was beside myself with worry. I wondered where he could be. The appointed time to meet the landlord at the house was fast approaching. The last thing I wanted to do was miss her and end up spending another night in a hotel or worse, sleeping in the truck or my car in the driveway.
I began seeing signs stating the number of miles to the Bourne Bridge. No, no…I thought. That’s not the right way. I’m supposed to go across the Sagamore Bridge not the Bourne. The closer I got to the Cape the heavier the traffic became. The roadways were clogged tight with vehicles inching their way to the bridge. As I got closer, I spied the orange lettering of a U Haul truck sitting on the shoulder of the ramp to the Bourne Bridge. Sure enough, there was Andrew perched behind the wheel, his red face a thundercloud. I pulled over, got out and met with a very angry young man. He was approaching the bridge when the steering went out of the truck. He jumped out and we were standing next to the truck when a State Patrolman pulled up. I explained what had happened and he chuckled, “This is one of the worst times that a vehicle can break down….Friday evening, the beginning of Labor Day weekend.” The humor of the situation failed to reach me. I was a newbie, what did I know about Cape Cod weekend traffic jams that clogged the main roads and rotaries leaving people stranded in cars, trucks, and recreational vehicles for hours.
The officer urged us to get the truck off the road as soon as possible and then hurried on his way across the bridge. A jumped into my air-conditioned car and cooled off as we traveled down the wrong highway in the right direction. He helped me figure out where I was and where I was going. We found Wequaquette Lane, made a left and there on the corner was the house. The landlord was waiting with keys in hand. She smiled, hugged me and shook hands with my son. She’d set a beautiful bouquet of hydrangeas on the kitchen counter, gave us directions to the nearest U-Haul location, and left us to our own devices.
After a stop at the U-Haul office, we had dinner and took a peek at the ocean before returning to the house. While we were gone the truck had been backed into the drive and parked close to the deck. Something you should know about my son, when he decides to do something he goes at it hard and fast. He wanted to get the truck unloaded immediately, so we started hauling out boxes and stacking them on the deck until we could get to the big items. To this day I’m not sure how we managed the piano without a mover, but we did. We set up my bed in the bedroom late that night. I tossed a few blankets over the mattress and fell into exhausted sleep. A hooked up the TV and slept on the sofa.
I woke early Saturday morning to a wild mess of boxes stacked against walls, furniture helter-skelter and no A. I found a note that read, “I went looking for the sunrise over the ocean.” What could I do, but smile? He came back a few hours later, returned the truck, set up the computer, and hooked up the washer and dryer, while I washed out cupboards, leaving the doors open in hopes of airing out the musty smell.
I had just this one day with my son in my new home and weeks to unpack, so we headed for the National Seashore. I wanted him to see this beautiful place with me. It’s remarkable what the imagination can conjure up, but when it comes to the majesty of nature, nothing beats the real thing. Watching my son, who grew up landlocked, stand there gazing out to sea for the first time, a smile creasing his handsome face as waves lapped at his toes was a magical moment. He walked alone along the shoreline leaving a trail of footprints behind him, while my heart ached just a little. Tomorrow he would fly back to Ohio, but I’d have this memory to bolster me.
We stopped at The Lobster Shanty near the Coast Guard Beach for dinner. Was it really just a few short weeks ago that MJ and I stopped for food and drinks at this same restaurant while visiting? It seemed so long ago. We dined on a bucket of steamers while waiting for our entrees. Andrew ordered up his first ever lobster and all the fixin’s. With a lobster bib tied around his neck he dove into cracking claws and tails, discovering the sweet white meat inside, and dipping bits and bites into butter. I couldn’t yet bring myself to eat an animal that for all the world appeared to be watching me through tiny, glass-bead eyes. I’ll have the fish, please. We licked our platters clean, patted full bellies, and smiled.
Back at the house, I was ready to call it a day. My joints hurt, I had a headache, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I crawled into bed early, while Andrew drove into Hyannis seeking some nightlife. I woke up shortly after midnight, my stomach in a turmoil. It wasn’t long before I knelt at the porcelain throne, the fishy dinner I ate no longer mine. I washed my face and searched for some coke in the kitchen, while A slept peacefully on the sofa. I walked across the room, pulled a blanket up to his shoulders and watched his chest rise and fall in a steady rhythmic slumber. Sunday came too soon and I was about to be alone. The fear rose up like a phantom, in waves of anxiety and nausea. I didn’t want him to go, to leave me alone here. While making exciting plans to move and then physically moving I’d thought about what it might be like to be so alone, but until the moment was but a step away I couldn’t really know how I’d react. I didn’t have a job, yet. I didn’t know another living soul here, except the landlord and what did I really know about her? Facing the consequences of my decision nearly knocked me to my knees. As I watched my son in quiet repose, I was scared…scared out of my wits.
Sunday morning, A was up and ready to head to the airport before I was out of bed. His flight wasn’t until early afternoon, but he was anxious to leave. I felt better than I had in the middle of the night. The only evidence that a stomach problem plagued me was the dull ache of pulled abdominal muscles. I showered, dressed, and we grabbed a fast food breakfast. The drive to Providence was quiet. Andrew stared out the window at the passing land and seascapes. I walked with him into the airport and stayed until the announcement for his flight came. One last hug and it was time. I had to let go. I watched him fling the backpack over his shoulder and walk away. An overwhelming sense of lonely and loss swept over me. Sucking in my breath and holding it was the only thing that kept me from falling to the floor in a puddle of loud mournful weeping.
I drove back to the Cape blubbering like a child, but by the time I reached exit 6, I’d spent all my tears. I drove down Iyannough, made a right onto Phinney’s lane, turned left on to Wequaquette and missed the driveway to my house.
After going around the block and giving it another go, I unlocked the door and stepped into the quiet mess that was my new home. Unopened and opened boxes sat among rumpled newspapers. Disorder ruled the day. Hungry, I searched for something to eat, but the only food unpacked was what I’d brought in an ice chest from Ohio, mostly good beef from the farm. I had no milk, eggs, or bread. I needed to find a grocery store. I got in my car and began driving; searching for a supermarket. The roads wind and twist on the Cape. You think you’re on one road and the next thing you know the name has changed to something else. I ended up lost. I drove around and around searching for a place that sold food. I finally found a 7-11 and bought bread, milk, eggs, butter, bologna, Cheez-its, and coke. This would tide me over until I found a proper market. Back in the little cottage that was now home, I pulled the shades down, poured a glass of Coke, opened the box of Cheez-Its, and longing for something familiar, turned on the TV. I stayed curled up in the corner of the sofa for the rest of the day until Andrew called to tell me he was back in Bryan, Ohio, safe and sound.
The house had a closed-up, musty odor that I’d not noticed when I first visited and the night sounds here were different. I was sure I heard rustling and voices in the brush outside my open bedroom window. The constant whining of cars and trucks on the street that ran behind my house kept me awake. Uncertainty settles in during the deepest part of the night, when the rest of the world slumbers in familiar surroundings. I doubted my decision that first night alone and wondered what ever made me believe that me…a sheltered little wasp from white-bread northwest Ohio, unworldly and inexperienced could ever make it all by herself in a place like this? I tossed; I turned and finally cried myself into an uneasy sleep.
The next morning, I woke to the bright blue skies of a warm day in September. I had all day, all week, all month to unpack, organize, and set my little cottage up just the way I wanted it. Finding blessings in small things, I delighted in the fact that my piano had a wall to sit against and fit perfectly. Two nails just above the rough-hewn mantle over the fireplace were spaced just right for the two, framed, antique-prints of flowers that I’d brought. While my fridge and pantry were not stocked full, I had plenty to eat. I turned on the radio, found a station I liked and began working on creating a home. The dark night had passed, I survived, and the wonderful elation I’d felt when I first drove on to the Cape returned. I could do this and no matter what I would try as hard as I could to make Cape Cod my home.
The last two weeks that I've been remembering, writing, and reliving those moments has been such a journey for me. I'm still very smitten with Cape Cod and miss it every day. I'm going to continue with the next 'chapter.' I'd like to share some pieces of my first year on the Cape.
Have a wonderful weekend!