Our Beaches Then and Now - Diary of an American Shopper Day 295
As many of you know, I grew up in Massachusetts. I still consider myself a New Englander through and through. There is an unwritten rule for those of us who grew up in the tiny six. No, not our cynicism! We summer at the beach - either the Cape, New Hampshire or Maine. Not to neglect the Connecticut shore, but it doesn't have the same weight as the other three. Moving on....
When Jess and I were wee youngin’s, my parents packed our towheads in the back of the car - put Stevie Wonder on the tape deck, and off we went. Now, I'm bound to make people upset with this, BUT us yankees (not the team, gross! GO SOX) are very particular about what constitutes the Cape. Technically, Cape Cod is the eastern most part of Massachusetts – you know the part that looks like a body builder flexing. However, like anyone with a homebound sense of pride, there is an attitude of my Cape is better than your Cape. We break the Cape into who's on it, and who pretends. For most of us, the Cape doesn't start until the middle - sorry Woods Hole. That being said, my family summered in Wellfleet, which is two or three towns from the tip (depending on if you categorize North Truro as it's own town). Needless to say, when we were growing up - we vacationed on the CAPE. No question about it, Jess and I made the National Seashore our home.
Wellfleet is a great town because not only does it have the ocean, but it also has lakes made from old tide pools - great for kids. If my neurotic mother was feeling particularly anxious, she didn't have to worry about us getting whisked out in the undertow or eaten by a shark (Jaws was based on a fictional Martha's Vineyard after all), we could practice our swimming on the peaceful waters outside our cabin. We could sun ourselves on the dock and swim back to shore. Wellfleet had it all.
Jess and I's favorite activity was going to Marconi beach - or as we called it Macaroni. (Side note, I didn't realize it wasn't named after pasta until a few years ago. Oh what a child's memory will create. You should hear how I remember our first house - it rivals Hogwarts).
One thing that we always loved about Marconi was the dunes. They're so high and so soft. They're fun to play in. It was so easy to imagine giant castle walls springing up to protect us. Perfect for the budding thespian in Jess and filmmaker in me. We found horseshoe crabs, quahog shells and the occasional starfish.
The National Seashore was our playground and we were spoiled. It shaped our love of the ocean and our ideas of summer activities. We would collect shells, make sand castles, body surf, and bury each other in the sand. Our picnics would inevitably include sand in our watermelon, but we didn't care - it made it crunchy. After a long day, we would dump sand out of our shoes, and go to Serena’s for dinner followed by PJ's for a fudge nutter bar. Life was good.
Around my tenth summer, my parents decided that the Cape was getting too crowded, so we started going to Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. It had a whole other slew of activities - golf carts, skeeball, make your own sundaes, and alpine slides, but Jess and I missed our wonderland. After a few years of begging and pleading, we took a weekend trip to the Big Linguine. But it wasn't at all like we remembered.
There were beer cans left from a late night party, and the whole beach had turned into a giant ash ray. It was so depressing. The pristine place that we revered was tainted and it was hard to imagine that it could ever be the same. Why would people be so selfish? For a long time, I didn't go back. I found it too upsetting. It was as if someone were stamping all over our childhood.
A couple of years ago, I felt the Atlantic pulling me out, so I decided to take Atticus (my pooch) to the Cape for a week. Inevitably, we stayed in Wellfleet. (I'm nostalgic what can I say). This time, the beach was restored to its former glory.
Was it because I was visiting in September, or was a massive beach clean up underway? I hope it was the latter. I would love to share the Cape with my kids and show them what I grew up with - a magical playground instead of a giant trashcan.
I have visited many times since them - and I am happy to report that Marconi, Nauset and Coast Gaurd are all beautiful and clean.
To ensure that fact, I'll leave the beach cleaner than how I found it. What about you?
I mark day 295 a hopeful improvement.