Today, we’re headed toward the sea.
Since winter, when our plans for this trip were still scattered across the kitchen table, Papa Larry has brought a new scrapbook with him each time he’s come to dinner. They are all full and tell the stories of different trips he and Nanny took to Cape Cod (30 in all, and the first was exactly 40 years ago, in 1971). Sometimes, sketches or punched ferry tickets would fall out of the albums.
On March nights, we’d rifle through his folders of photos and listen to his stories of Ridgevale Cottage, with the knotty pine paneling and brick fireplace and white, windswept curtains, and all the friends they made in that place.
Before I got packing last week, I took Papa’s folders out of the big desk and settled into Nanny’s rocker to look through them. There were pictures of grassy dunes (and staircases down them, to the beach), of cottages with sailboats painted onto the shutters, of red fishing boats with striped buoys, of paths toward lighthouses and Nanny carrying a basket of picked flowers, her permed curls all blown to one side. Her smile looked like Dad’s.
Nanny’s blue rocking chair is, for now, tucked between my bookshelf and desk, and aimed toward my bedroom window. Looking up from Papa’s photos, I could see the arm of our pin oak and the hairs of a cedar, but mostly, blank and humid skies. I’ll want to come back to this place – I always do. But I’d be a fool to stay staring out this window, sort of “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea” (Lewis, The Weight of Glory).
I’ve been offered a trip to the sea, and since winter, I’ve listened to stories and looked through albums. Papa even stapled together a booklet of his poetry for us kids to take along, with a stanza for each place he and Nanny visited. The last one reads:
“The trips back home were always hard,
we had such wonderful times down East.
Now you get to enjoy our favorite places,
while I get to go back there in memories.“
Today, at last, we’re off to see the shoreline and hear the water in all those pictures and poems.
“We do not want to merely see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”
– C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory