There’s really only one thing to do when you make a wrong turn and end up going in a direction not intended….and that is stop…and turn around. Sometimes, however, it is easier said than done. Pulling a U-ie, my dad gave the rotary another try. Then, another. My mom snapped off the radio just as we heard my dad’s mumbled words not meant for our ears. As if we inhaled together and held our breath collectively…the tension in the car expanded. Luckily, the third attempt was successful and we found ourselves heading away from Buzzard’s Bay. Cheers rang out…yes, the day was saved! My mom turned around and winked at us. She said that my aunt and uncle didn’t have to know about this little mishap. We agreed to keep it to ourselves.
Forty-five minutes later, a sign for Harwich greeted us. Pulling up into the dirt driveway, Uncle Jimmy came around to the front of their little white cottage. When he asked, “How was drive?” we all talked over one another saying, “Good! Great! Fine!” Then he said, “I was expecting you a little sooner.” We ignored this comment and followed him and the sweet smell of chocolate chip cookies into the house. We found them, and my Aunt Bev in the kitchen.
From my diary entry June 25, 1973 Harwich, Massachusetts
“Going to the beach all day tomorrow…I brought my new red, white and blue bathing suit!”
Very early the next morning, when my sister and older brother and I woke up, we still couldn’t believe it. While the adults and my little brother slept inside, Uncle Jimmy set up a tent in the backyard just for us! Besides our sleeping bags, we had a bag of Fritos and water bottles in there. But best of all, our accommodations included a portable record player and a few albums my brother brought with him. Until this day, anytime I hear a song by Little Feat or Led Zeppelin, I’m reminded of that summer.
In the house, we helped ourselves to Cheerios and bananas. The only adult awake was my mom. After we gulped down breakfast, we took turns in the bathroom, brushing our teeth and suiting up for the beach. By 6:50 a.m. we were ready! My mom laughed and made a comment like, “If only you kids were this fast getting ready for school!”
Soon we were ushered outside and told to find something to do for an hour. Perhaps, my mom should’ve been more specific. We found a tennis ball on the side yard and proceeded to play a version of handball on the garage. Within minutes, we heard a window being shoved open and a stern voice bellowing, “Stop throwing the ball against the house!” Apparently my uncle and aunt’s bedroom was next to the garage.
Carrying towels, folding chairs, a cooler, and my little brother, we romped to the beach every morning. We body surfed in the frothy cool water and did cart wheels along the smooth shoreline. We ate bologna and mayonnaise sandwiches on Wonder bread and were treated to DQ ice cream cones twice. We got sunburnt in places we didn’t rub enough sunscreen on and played Hacky Sack for hours. We wrote our names in huge letters in the sand with big sticks and we launched a soda bottle with a note inside hoping it would reach someone far away across the Atlantic Ocean.
Lugging sandy towels, damp folding chairs, an empty cooler and my tired younger brother, we trudged back to my aunt and uncle’s home every evening. In their backyard we sat around a picnic table. There they shared stories of living at the Cape. We updated them on what had been happening in our hometown since they left. We ate take out pepperoni pizza from a place called George’s and enjoyed my uncle’s grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, as well. And each evening, we slapped at mosquitoes biting us while playing card games and checkers by lantern light, late until everyone yawned and said goodnight.
The trip home the following Saturday was quiet and uneventful. No radio playing or singing along with the Billy Preston or Dr. John. No breeze flowing through the car or spying cars along the turnpike. Just the content feeling of time well spent, and the soft soothing sounds of four very sleepy kids.