Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Fourth of July musings 2021…

There’s Something about the Fourth of July. Such a complex day around Casa Blanco, at least the part of Casa Blanco that lives between my ears. Many years ago the first two weeks of July meant a family vacation. We lived in a one-company town; American Optical shut down for the first two weeks of July and the town pretty much did, too. Little League games went on hiatus. Everyone who could left town.

When I was super young my maternal grandparents would scoop me up and take me to their Jersey shore beach house for a week or two in June. My folks would then come in on the first and we would have a cottage in the town next door for the two week holiday. Funny, but I just now realized that we almost never saw my grandparents during those weeks even though they were just one town over. I have no memory of fireworks there, either with my little family or my grandparents.

We spent every day on the beach. It must have been funny watching our little caravan of kids carrying chairs and an umbrella. Mom or Dad pulled a wagon with a classic styrofoam cooler containing tuna sandwiches and store brand soda. Full on sugared soda. There was an outing to the boardwalk carnival and miniature golf. I remember a Saturday dinner at Esposito’s near the beach in one of the other of the towns. The kids would fill up on the bread and my Dad would be furious when we ate maybe a bite apiece of dinner. Happened every year, our own little Groundhog Day at the beach.

Still, it’s funny that I am just now after more than 50 years realizing that the vacation was a single family affair. No grandparents, aunts or uncles, or other families. Just us.

Some time after my sister Kerstin arrived (5 years after Tracey) the beach trips ended in favor of Webster Lake in Massachusetts. Also known by its Native American name “Char gog agog man chog agog chabunga munga mog”, it was our summer vacation spot for 2 summers. Not many memories from those days to be honest. Our family was of very modest means in those days. What I remember is kinda like what I remember of the Jersey Shore–day after day of just hanging with my siblings and my parents near the water. Not many memorable outings. Well, no outings, really. Fireworks were a couple of Roman Candles my Dad fired into the lake.

Anyone who has read any of my stuff is familiar with what has come to be known as “Cape Week”. In truth what we call Cape Week is actually Cape Cod v2.0. In the waning years of our life in Mass and the first couple of Rhode Island years we spent the first two weeks of July on the Cape at a place called Radio City. As an aside my brother married a girl whose family had a home there right on the beach. Small world, eh? We crammed the whole fam damly into a two bedroom cottage (my folks slept on a fold out couch) with a classic beach community outdoor shower. My Dad cooked every meal on a grill he bought at a gas station on the way there. Fireworks? We sat in the dunes at the far end of the beach and watched as they burst over the public beach across the river.

Cape Week v1.0 was also pretty much just us. 4 kids, two parents. All of my Dad’s people summered just down the road, maybe 20 or 30 minutes away, in Buzzard’s Bay. Grampa White was there full time, and my Uncles Larry and Kenny had tiny cottages there, too (Larry would go on to retire there, and two of his daughters would spend at least part of their adult lives there as well). Did we visit them over vacations? No clue. I’m pretty sure they never came to Radio City, though. Just 2 weeks of alternating between beach and pool, basketball and tennis, each day bookended by Dad handling the kitchen duty.

Things changed once we all got to high school and started working during the summers. Kerstin is still bitter, or at least she feigns bitterness, that our “away” family vacations came to an end after one Radio City trip where I stayed behind to work. Leaving a teenager alone at home made Mom nervous, although we were all so afraid of my Dad that not a one of us would have dared to crack a beer at home, let alone throw a party. The 4th became just another working day for us, just another round of golf or day at the pool for my parents. We never did spend Independence Day on the Cape during Cape Week v2.0; the family that owned the cottage we rented kept that week for themselves.

Some things didn’t change though: Cape Week as we all know it was still just us, Mom and Dad and the four kids, our spouses and children. With rare exceptions visits from extended family really just didn’t happen.

There’s something about the 4th of July that resonates, isn’t there? Like we are all supposed to do something, SOMETHING, to mark the day. Preferably with some sort of family around. Several years ago I said I’d like the Fourth to be a “thing” at Casa Blanco. I really had no idea what that would mean, what it would look like, but I did the “Field of Dreams” thing, just sort of “built it”, and hoped family might come. How’s it going? Like I said up top, it’s complicated. Kinda like Cape Week all those years. Lots of moving parts, lives moving in and out of each other. There are no rules for my “thing”; Casa Blanco is Beth’s house after all, and “Dad’s 4th of July thing” is an open, casual, fluid invitation, not a command or call to action.

So how’d it go this year? I’m going with great. We saw all of my kids over the weekend. Megan flew in for the Fourth AGAIN! Dan arranged a “field trip” to a local winery where the wine was California good. My sister Tracey and Steve came with all three of their’s. Randy spent an afternoon playing all sorts of beach games with his cousins, just like Cape Week. The lake was calm and all the toys got wet. Fireworks? Compliments of the neighbors, thank you very much! It could have been any summer weekend at all, really, but it was the Fourth, and somehow that made it just a little more special.

And so I sit here with Beth, a cup of coffee in hand, and finish this version of “Sunday musings…” on a breezy Monday morning, happy to have had this Fourth. I close my eyes and the little waves on Lake Erie sound just like they did on the Jersey Shore and the Cape. I feel the sand between my toes on the beaches of my childhood. There are eggs scrambling in the bacon fat, and my Dad is burning the toast. Mom is reaching into the styrofoam cooler pulling out tuna sandwiches. Someone just got a hole-in-one at miniature golf. The wine was just a little bit better, the beer a little bit colder, the sun a little bit brighter. I open my eyes and I am here with Beth on the day after a Fourth of July weekend where just for a bit we had us all.

There’s something about the Fourth of July…

Leave a Reply