You Can't Go Home Again
or Why I Still Love The Cape - But For Different Reasons
From the first time I went to Cape Cod as a little girl I have loved it almost beyond words. My memories are filled with the simple pleasures of a less complicated time in life. Just thinking about the times spent skipping stones on Peter's Pond, playing on the beach or lolly gagging our way to the camp store with a few coins jangling in our pockets make me nostalgic for that sweet time.
We were not well off, but I never really knew it until later in life. At least I didn't know it by the summers spent on the Cape and in our own backyard "Riviera". Yes, we had a pool!! It was an above ground pool, but we were the only ones in our family to have one so we thought we were living the good life. And the Cape! Well I didn't know hardly a soul who got to spend 3 weeks on vacation anywhere. So I thought we really had it made. I didn't realize that if you were really "rich" you stayed in a hotel, but in looking back I wouldn't have had it any other way. We camped our way through almost all of our vacations and I now realize that it was the only way that my parents could afford to give us a vacation. But what vacations they were!!!
On the Cape we stayed at Peter's Pond Park in Sandwich. The first thing we always had to do upon arrival at our campsite was to set up "The Tent", this humongous contraption that was big enough to house a small army. And setting up this tent truly involved guerilla warfare. If the tent itself didn't kill you, then it was quite possible that we would kill each other during the process. But eventually it got done and we still were speaking to each other. And then the fun began.
Except for meal times or trips to the ocean or shopping we were free to roam about the campground with cousins and new found friends. There were endless games that needed be played, trees that needed climbing, pickup ballgames that needed playing and of course lots of swimming. Warm summer evenings brought campfires and marshmallows, occasional movies shown on the side of an old barn, games of hide-n-seek and flashlight forays to catch crayfish. One summer I learned that even 30 or 40 crayfish yield only a couple of teaspoons of succulent meat! Hardly seems worth all the work now, but the whole process was an adventure back then. And thanks to a patient mom willing to indulge her kids' whimsical fantasy of a sumptuous seafood feast, I still remember it to this day, several decades later. We had no electronics to distract us and even a rainy day offered opportunities to sit in a cozy dining tent and play cards or board games with whoever was around. Some days we did nothing more exciting than lay around on chaise lounges or take a walk to the camp store. Chores consisted of lugging water to our site for doing dishes and hanging up our beach towels. There were almost always cousins or friends from previous year's stays to pal around with.
But alas, all good things do come to an end and our time each summer seemed to pass by faster and faster every year. The day always came where we faced the dreaded task of taking down "The Tent" and packing up from another vacation. As we tucked our clothes and camp gear away in our station wagon, we also tucked our memories away for later pondering. The occasional trip to the ice cream stand, a simple game of miniature golf, playing on the boulders at the Cape Cod Canal, our annual trip to shop at Moby Dick's, and the big night out at a seafood restaurant - more memories that had also become traditions in our family. We headed home over the Sagamore Bridge with a melancholy feeling in our hearts, another Cape Cod vacation passed, a whole year to wait for the next one.
Today I return to Cape Cod as often as I can. I've been living in the south for almost 30 years and love it here. But my heart always goes back to my growing up days in Massachusetts, and particularly to my childhood time spent on the Cape. We don't camp anymore, so I guess we are finally "rich". We stay at different hotels each time so I can write about them for this website. Things have changed over the years, as things do. The ice cream stand we once frequented is gone and the family-owned Peter's Pond Park campground is now an RV Resort run by a conglomerate that owns 42 vacation properties. We are headed back up to the Cape in the next few weeks, but I don't expect to climb any trees or play on the boulders at the canal. I may lay around on a chaise and sit by the pool. I'll definitely enjoy some fresh seafood (and yes, more than a teaspoon or two!), and I will remember the innocent times gone by that were filled with simple pleasures here on this place they call Cape Cod. And those memories will always be there. And they will be sweet. Very sweet.