Tuesday, August 26, 2014

the cousins

Every day, for the seven days that we were on Nantucket Island, we made our way to the beach. Even on days when the sky looked like this...


Whenever I go to the beach, I longingly observe those people that are surrounded with an abundance of friends and family.  While I'm always thrilled to be with OUR immediate family, I've always loved the sight of the really big crowds - with 20 or more people - gathered around and playing catch, or paddleball, or digging holes in the sand, or constructing castles, or just sitting around in a semi-circle talking and laughing while the kids run back and forth to the waves.   For the first time that I can ever remember, that exact scene was our reality.


Here I am with two of my four sisters, Beth and Eileen.


We were laughing because I had two sets of sunglasses on my head, and moments earlier, had been asking if anyone had seen my glasses?


Cousins Michael and Tommy, walking and talking ... probably about fish.


A photograph of all the cousins who had gathered on one of the days...


And a silly photograph of all the cousins who had gathered on one of the days. Emily wins the record for the most joyful jump!


A huge fox hole that cousin Tommy dug for his little cousins ... I was moderately to slightly worried that if it collapsed on them, they'd suffocate and questioned the need for shoring.


Cousin Tommy attempting to ease my mind by demonstrating how quickly he could swoop a child out of the pit if the walls were to suddenly collapse.


The most awesome Uncle Clark, taking my nephews in to the water. They were so nervous after the big waves the day prior, he promised them that he would hold their hands and never let go.


When Wyatt heard that Clark was a doctor, and his job is to take care of people, he jumped in to Clark's arms and together they waded out past the wave break.


The umpteenth game of paddle ball.  This game never gets old.


Elizabeth, demonstrating the difference between skate egg cases and seaweed.  None of her cousins believed her that what she'd found on the beach were actually egg cases, until we Googled it. We would be absolutely lost without iPhones and internet access.


This is the face of victory.


A photograph of 12 of the 20 cousins who had gathered on one of the days...


Here they are in birth order...


Here they are in birth order as the tide came in...


Shown: Angela (#2); Emily (#7); Tommy (#11); Diana (#12); Michael (#13); William (#14); Elizabeth (#15); Carolyn (#16); Wally (#17); William (#18); Wyatt (#19) and Henry (#20).

Not shown: John (#1); Sean (#3); Janine (#4); Philip (#5); Mary (#6); Frank (#8); Katherine (#9); and Maggie (#10).  Also not shown are the four and a half great grandchildren.

Here's a silly photograph of the 12 of 20 cousins in chronological birth order... On this day, Diana most definitely takes the cake for the most joyful jump!


Big families are awesome. And family members that break away from life to help you celebrate a wedding anniversary are even more awesome. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

an anniversary to remember

So, our 20-year wedding anniversary was two weeks ago, and that event was what precipitated Charlie and I taking our family on a trip to Nantucket.  

(By the way: Charlie's not in a shadow, he really does get that dark when exposed to sunlight or other forms of ultra violet radiation.  After a few days at the beach, he makes me look like the Ghost of Christmas past.  It's especially fun for my super white-skinned honky self when he holds my pale hand in his brown hand and sings, "Jungle Fever!") 


As I mentioned, our anniversary is also what precipitated a lot of our friends and family joining with us on our Nantucket vacation.  (If you guessed the kids were aptly watching TV {National Geographic} you'd be correct. It would appear children, under the age of 10, are physically unable to divert their eyes  from Nat Geo Wild to look at the camera and say "CHEESE!")


The day of our anniversary, Charlie, who loves to do things up in grand style, put on his whale shorts and went to the store to purchase approximately one-dozen 1.5-pound lobsters.  He also bought a 5-pound lobster that was probably hatched the year we were married (or perhaps much further back) and looked as though he had enough wisdom to tell us a thing or two about life.


We named the BIG LOBSTER Atticus and it was my wish that when the guys went on one of their deep sea fishing expeditions, they bring Atticus and release him to the ocean.


Charlie did not agree with my logic and instead released Atticus along with his 12 little friends to rapidly boiling pots of water.


Sure as I'm alive, I have memories of my parents cooking lobster when I was a child and after I would play with them on the floor while the water heated up - and I would form as deep of an emotional attachment as is possible with a crustacean - my parents would put the lobsters in the pot and they would SCREAM and try to FLICK the lid off with their tails.  

Is there a worse way to go?


Charlie was trying to console me (and the children, who were basket cases of sorrow, especially Carolyn) by telling us that the lobsters are so excited because they are going to the spa and they would be so pretty when they were finished!


For what it's worth, I prayed over every single lobster that went in to the pot, and I did my very best to clean every ounce of lobster meat from their shells.


Tommy, who is not much of a lobster fan, cooked steak and I didn't think twice about what remained of a bovine on the plate. So it seems I really form an attachment to animals that I see alive before they are eaten ... lobsters, fish and gummy bears.


Twenty years of marriage ... its hard to believe how fast time keeps marching on. Like any couple, we've certainly had our share of highs and lows during that span of time, but with divorce statistics as high as 67% ... I think our secret (thus far) is that we try to stay focused on the positive and we strive to have fun together.  


It also helps that he's not only a wonderful father to our children, he's my dark skinned, whale short wearing, lobster boiling best friend.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

divine donna

On Wednesday of our vacation, my brother's wife, Donna, and their three boys, nine-year-old twins Wally and William, and seven-year old Wyatt, joined us on Nantucket.


Soon, I'll write about our trip to Massachusetts in July when my brother, Wally, Charlie and I, attended my nephew, Philip's wedding, and Donna stayed home with all seven children, by herself. That reminds me: we need to send her away to a spa for the weekend.


Donna is amazing. She is such a gift to our family and we are so fortunate to have had her in our ranks the past nearly 30 years. She and Wally have never had a formal wedding ceremony - and I recently told my brother that Charlie and I want to throw them a wedding.  We totally mean it ... all they need to do is show up. 

This past week, Donna and the boys showed up on Nantucket and their presence was a highlight of our trip. Because our children are the same age; the twins are nine months to the day younger than the triplets; and Wyatt is five weeks to the day older than Henry - they all get along fantastically. (For the most part.)


On the day that they arrived, the waves were especially huge and very intimidating for little people who are not accustomed to the surf.   I'm not sure if there's someone in this particular wave, while I can't see it now, I wouldn't be surprised if you are able to spot a foot or some other random body part.


Donna, ever the vigilant mother, stood over the flock keeping watch and holding seashells and ocean treasures the children collected.


I also stood over them keeping watch, but while Donna had both hands available to grab children who were pulled in to the waves, I had one hand clutching my camera.


It is because I had one hand on my camera that I was able to capture this moment when a huge wave came in and took out all of the children who had been standing with their feet in the water.


Donna rushed in to grab her son, William, before he was pulled out in to the Atlantic, and in the process, was flipped over by the surf backwash, herself.  This whole thing happened so fast - it wasn't my intent to be snapping off pictures of Donna toppling over head first in to the waves.


In this photo, the only thing you can see of Donna are her arms that are wrapped tightly around William. The rest of her is submerged beneath the rushing sandy water.  This picture perfectly captures the woman who I've known since I was a young teenager. She's always standing by ready to do absolutely anything for those that she loves ... even if it means sacrificing her own comfort.


Right after the big wave, I swapped out with Charlie for "Kid Watch" and retreated to the top of the beach where I continued to take pictures with my soaked camera.


Donna persevered and stayed in the surf with the kids. Which further illustrates why she is not only one of the strongest and biggest hearted women I know ... she's also one of the most waterlogged.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

the naked nantucket boogie

Tonight, I downloaded all of the photos from our trip to Nantucket and I had the difficult task of sorting through the nearly 1,000 pictures to select a few that most aptly tell the story of our week vacation in paradise. But then I decided that I couldn't possibly capture the whole story in one blog post, so this adventure will need to be broken in to installments.


Today's installment is about the day we took my 14-year-old nephew, Michael, fishing at Surf Side.  Now what I might not have mentioned is that my nephew, who has earned more than 90 Merit Badges in Boy Scouts and is a Service Project away from becoming an Eagle Scout, has a passion for fishing.  He took our kids fishing at a local lake before we left for Nantucket, just to whet everyone's appetite for what lay in store.





On the trip to Nantucket, Michael lugged along more fishing gear than I think he did clothes. He had expressed a dire interest in fishing at Surf Side Beach, but because that was an approximately 10-mile bike ride from our house, past the center of town, it was ruled out because the logistics of our family riding 10 miles in one direction and then, after a day of playing at the beach - riding 10 miles home again, seemed a bit ... how do you say? ... ambitious.  


But last Monday night, we took the five children in to town for pizza, which we ate on top of cardboard boxes, perched on our laps, as we looked over the harbor and talked about the kind of boat we'd like to own one day.  At the end of our pizza eating, it was dark and instead of riding our bikes the nearly seven miles back home, we decided to lock them up, take the shuttle back, and retrieve our bikes the next day.  The next day, I told Michael, because we'd be more than half the way to Surf Side, maybe we could just ride the additional three miles - he could fish - and then we'd all ride the 10 miles home again.

My nephew was absolutely thrilled and told me I was the best Aunt in the world.


So Tuesday rolls around and we wake up and take the shuttle in to town. Michael jumps on his bike and takes off for the live bait store; we jump on our bikes and take off on the three mile ride to Surf Side Beach. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, everyone is happy. Michael catches up to us before we reach the beach and the seven of us ride the last 1/2 mile, together.


We no sooner get to the beach and a thick fog settles in. We also notice that the surf is huge, because Hurricane Bertha (or something...) is traveling up the eastern seaboard and kicking up the wave action.  Within less than an hour, we cannot see more than 20 feet in front of us.


But despite that, the kids are having the absolute time of their lives.  Michael is fishing with his live bait (eels, squid, octopus) and his little cousins are jumping around in the tide and building castles.


After an hour, Michael throws in the towel on fishing because he hasn't hooked anything. He instead jumps in the water and plays with his little cousins.



A few hours later - maybe three or four - Charlie and I decide it's time to go home. Remember, we still have a 10-mile bike ride in front of us and we want to be sure that the kids have the energy to get there without a melt down at or around Mile Zero Point Five.


It was at that point Michael gives me a very concerned look and says, "Aunt Jenny, I don't think I can ride my bike home."

Um, what? I asked.

Then I laughed because surely he was kidding.


He continued, "Well, you see. I don't know if you remember but a few years ago, when I visited you in California, I was playing in the waves and afterwards, I had some really serious chaffing. I'm afraid I can't ride my bike home now because I'm totally covered in salt and sand from the beach and the chaffing would be really bad. Like really, really, really bad."


He gave me a look with raised eye brows and a downturned chin to express just how bad the chaffing would be.  Still thinking that he was kidding - just a little bit - I continued to chuckle, "Yes, but Michael. We have four children and our options for getting home NOT ON A BIKE are very limited. We don't have a car, and the shuttle bus - which runs every hour - only holds two bicycles. Seeing as there are seven of us, five of us would have to leave our bikes here, and we'd have to come back again tomorrow. I'd rather not lose half a day shuttling across the island to get bikes."

I continued, "Also, it'll be four dollars per person home - and four dollars a person back again tomorrow, and I'd rather not spend $40.00 shuttling when we're strong able people that can easily ride these bikes home. Am I Right or Am I RIGHT?!"

He shook his head and again said, "Seriously, Aunt Jenny, the chaffing would be AWFUL."

Realizing that my rationalization wasn't having the intended effect, I added, "Yes, but that's why there are SHOWERS at the top of the hill. We can all shower off the salt and sand and then ride home in salt and sand-free pleasure. By the way,  I'd like to point out that if YOU ride the shuttle, our four kids will also want to ride the shuttle and because they will be riding their bikes home, it will be a meltdown of epic proportions.  My ears will chafe."


I then added for final measure, "I'd also like to remind you that we came out here today, because you wanted to come to this beach, 10-miles from our cottage, so that you could fish. If you hadn't wanted to fish in this exact location, we would have gone to the beach a stone's throw from our house and would not now be discussing the challenges of chaffing."

My nephew looked at me solemnly and asked, "Are you trying to guilt trip me? Is this a guilt trip? If so - wow - you can do it even better than my Mom and I thought she was the best!"  He paused for a moment and then said, "Fine. I'll ride my bike. Even though I'll be totally chaffed and unable to walk for the rest of the week. I can do it."

And my husband, who is a lot nicer than me, that had remained quiet all this time spoke up and said, "Michael, if you want to take the shuttle back - take the shuttle back. Screw chaffing!  It's no problem, we'll be just fine. You take care of yourself!"

The words no sooner left my husband's mouth, that my nephew bolted like a flash of lightening to the shuttle buses where he threw his bike on the front and was gone in a blur.  I'd turned my back for a moment to help the kids get their shoes on, and didn't even know that he'd left until I turned back around and asked, "Where's Michael? Where did he go?" 

And so it is, we took our four very sad children who wanted to also ride the shuttle bus, up to the public showers to rinse off the salt and sand before we rode 10-miles home.  The showers were hooked up to a garden hose - which means the only temperature was COLD.  Our kids had so much sand in their bathing suits, the crotches came down to nearly their knees, so I brought them in to the bathroom one at a time and had them take off their suits.


Carolyn was the most covered in sand, and I wrapped her in a towel and after I washed all the sand from her suit, walked her to the outside public shower.


While Charlie and I held the towel around her for privacy, she turned on the water to full blast and did her best to scrub the sand off every inch of her body. We called the crazy moves that she was making under the frigidly cold water,  The Naked Nantucket Boogie and we all laughed like a bunch of crazy mad sandy people that were stuck on a beach.


We then hopped on our bikes and our kids - the little troopers that they are (doesn't Elizabeth look thrilled?) - rode the 10 miles back to our cottage.  Everything was fine and the whole ordeal was and always will be ... fantastically funny.


Michael is a really awesome kid and we were so lucky to have him with us on the trip. He's helpful, he's smart, and he's so kind with others.

But as I told my nephew, I'm going to remember this day forever and if he decides to one day get married, and invite me to his wedding, I promise that I will stand up and recount the story of the time our (almost) Eagle Scout left his four little cousins on a beach 10-miles from home, because he was afraid of chaffing.