Before I dive into this, let me say: I know that as far as issues in our world go, this is at the bottom of the list. In fact, to even characterize it as an "issue" goes way too far in contextualizing it in the greater scheme of things. We all have personal events that make us sad and bring us joy, and I don't mean to be self-important writing about this thing in my life. So if you find yourself rolling your eyes at any point, I get it, but please grant me some grace and understand that I had to write this so I could fall asleep. (If you silently just said "yeah, but you didn't have to publish it," well...good point. But still.)
It's July 3, 2020. Actually, it's technically July 4, because midnight passed a bit ago. Tomorrow is our family's last July 4th celebration at my grandparents’ home on the beach at Plaice Cove, fitfully coming during what has already been a surreal year. The sale closes in a couple weeks. After 56 years, the property will have a new owner.
"You guys have no idea how lucky you are," mom would say to Andrew and me as we made the 45-second drive to our grandparents' place, on what felt like every summer day when we were growing up. "You think you do, but you don't." At the time, it felt almost condescending (even abrasive!) how she (and our aunts) would tell our generation about how good we have it and how ignorant we were about that fact, even as we did our best to understand.
Today, I'm grateful for their words, because they provoked their intended effect. I savor every day I have at that beach.
It's been a slow march toward the finish line, and I think it's given our family a long time to reflect on the house’s meaning.
We all have traditions and memories intertwined with the property and I couldn't (nor is there any need to!) cover them all here. One thing that does stand out for me is excitedly unpacking the summer furniture with my grandfather each spring, then packing it back up a few months later (after what felt like a cruelly short season) and him saying that, if we were lucky, we'd get to do it all over again in the spring. I shared his infectious optimism, and I never stopped thinking we'd get one more year. One more year. One more year. He had a system that he'd proudly take out — an extension cord fashioned into a sort of pulley, to help lower the chairs from the deck down to ground level — that always made me laugh.
But no, there's no one tradition or memory that I'll miss most. Instead, it's the way the property serves as a beautiful setting for spontaneous time spent with family. It's an unusual privilege to have a spot where you can run into your cousins, aunts, uncles (and of course, and maybe best of all, grandparents!) and end up talking for an hour...or all day. Not because there's a dinner party. Not because it's a night out. Not because there's a birthday, or a graduation, or a wedding. Just because you both happen to be at this place you love at the same time.
My grandparents bought the property in 1964. It was just a summer cottage back then. "You might've overextended yourself with this one," my grandfather's dad told him — but what an investment, in every sense of the word, it turned out to be. They knocked down the cottage and built the current house and moved there full-time in 1990, my mom and her sisters having already made Hampton, where they spent their childhood summers, their home.
5 generations have enjoyed that same sand and water. Love stories happened there. It always felt like it belonged to all of us, and in a way, it did, but really, my grandparents were always the only owners. It's easy to forget, but it brings me some comfort that it's not the end of the book, but just a chapter.
It's been said that humans are biologically drawn to the ocean. It's almost magnetic. There may even be something evolutionary about it. (I'm not sure...I wasn’t great at science.) But just as, in some way, humans are of the ocean, I feel like I'm of that spot on Plaice Cove. And I'm so grateful for it.
Thanks for reading. Happy July 4th.