chronicle

Two years ago today, we moved here from New York — back into this tiniest of cottages that my grandfather and grandmother bought, new, in the fifties, and moved into with my father, his brother and his sister. My grandfather had retired from the Boston police force many years before. He had been one of the first to respond to the Coconut Grove fire — a nightclub fire that killed hundreds, while the unlucky patrons stacked up behind the immovable revolving door that was the only exit. My grandfather, traumatized and grieving, commenced to drinking heavily, and was granted early retirement.

When they moved to this house on Cape Cod, my grandmother immersed herself in activism and politics, often hosting meetings of the local Democratic party here. She, along with her family, was doubly in the minority here at mid-century, being both Democrats and Catholic. She died a few months before I was born.

My aunt slept in what is now my bedroom throughout her high school years. Not long after I moved back here, I found her initials carved into the wood of the tongue-and-groove-paneled wall: A.M + ?

She ended up marrying a very nice man, a dark and handsome Greek man. At my brother’s wedding last fall, I told her about the initials, and she denied any knowledge of the carving, blushing.

My father’s brother died shortly after finishing high school, in a car accident. He might have been on a motorcycle, or in a jeep, I’m not sure. He isn’t spoken of very often.

My father finished high school here, joined the Navy, then returned to the Cape, where he met my mother and married her. I think he lived in this house while they were dating. About 10 or so years into their marriage, his father died, leaving Dad to inherit the house. It wasn’t long after that that my parents divorced, and he moved back here by himself. My two brothers and I would visit him here sometimes, for our weekends together.

Dad has been living with his partner, a lovely, sparkling woman, for many years — in her house, the next town over. He’d let certain friends of his live here for brief periods of time, but was reluctant to rent to strangers. Sometime during college, I started using the house on my short, annual trips home. My three closest friends and I spent Senior Week here, just before college graduation — some of the shells we collected are still on the mantel.

And when it became clear that my boyfriend and I would have to sell our business in Syracuse, and desperately wanted a fresh start, my father invited us to move in here for as long as we liked. i hadn’t lived on Cape Cod since i was eighteen, and off to school.

I’m planting a garden this spring, something I’ve never done before. As far as I can tell, nobody ever planted anything in our yard intentionally, except for the daffodils my grandmother planted next to the house, which are blooming this week. I can see a great expanse of water — a broad river, from the front of the house, although that view will be temporarily obscured in the summertime, when all the trees are in leaf. We’re on a quiet road that only runs for about 200 yards. There’s room for an addition on the west side, if we ever can afford it.

Now, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

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