The Wedding Chronicles, Part 3

The day was brilliant, and the wedding took place by the sea.

Molly and Alex had written vows that included references to water--they had met in it, the pool at Connecticut College.  And it flows and surrounds and falls from the sky and brings everyone and everything together.  As they spoke to each other, they held hands, and just behind them the cove glittered in sunlight.

The day was joyful.  We were so happy for Molly and Alex, and to be together in such a spirit of love, to be with people so open and positive.  People had traveled long distances to be there: from California, Texas, even Wales.  The weather was pure September: warm in the sun, cool as the afternoon progressed.

The wedding began with a moment of silence, for beloved friends and family who were not there.  Alex's stepmother Deb played cello and Maureen and I noticed an osprey fly overhead.  It was a moment, probably not that meaningful or significant, or maybe it was.  How hokey, to look up in the sky and see a fish hawk and get choked up thinking of who wasn't with us.

Molly held a bouquet of blue hydrangeas.  She'd woven the stems with a bracelet made of sea glass given to me by her mother.  I remember the day Molly visited the cottage at Point O'Woods and spotted it on my bureau.  She'd gone straight for it, picked it up as if it had called her.  I suppose it had.  She didn't have to ask--I gave it to her.

Maureen and I sat in the front row.  We'd been instructed to by Molly, who wanted us in her line of vision.  We are her aunts, her family.  Mia, her cousin, was a bridesmaid.  Alex's family embraces her as if she was their own.  All the toasts and comments and conversations and actions say as much.  They have taken her to their hearts.  It was moving to see.

Michael, who officiated, spoke about the mysteries of water and of life.

The reception was held under a tent.  It was festive and fun, and with Twigg at our table full of laughter and stories.  He and Audrey Loggia were also "family of the bride."   The food was delicious.  The band began to play, and Alex's aunt Penfield came for me and Maureen and told us it was up to the aunties to start the dancing.  Which we did, no problem.

P.S. Arleen, I posted the picture of Molly's gold shoes on my Facebook page.

Random wonderful thing

A great beach friend from childhood and, in some ways, even before--our parents had been friends when they were young, and our grandparents before that--posted on my facebook page today.  We were reminiscing about Helen Hubbard--a neighbor who lived on the Point, and for whom my fictional beach town "Hubbard's Point" is named. Betty reminded me of how we used to crouch under Helen's window to listen to her practice.  Helen was an opera singer and voice teacher, and when she sang it was beach music--as much a natural sound as seagulls and wind blowing through the pine needles.  Once or twice a summer she would give recitals and invite grownups from the Point.  That didn't stop us kids from sitting outside and enjoying the performance.

Betty and her sisters and brother and my sisters and I were across-the-road neighbors, and pretty much inseparable from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  We loved summer and each other.  The beach was OURS.  As I wrote back to her, we swam and laughed all day.  Mim, my grandmother, and her great-aunt Florence would hang out together too, tell old stories, go for swims in their skirted bathing suits and white bathing caps.

When Betty's family visited Ireland--often--they would come home with Irish linens, wall-hangings, and tea towels.  My cottage is still filled with the many gifts they brought us.

Her family had a party every Labor Day.  Such a bittersweet gathering!  The weather would still be summery, but fall and school and--especially-leaving the beach--were in the air.  We'd walk down the steep steps from their cottage to glacial rock ledge sloping into Long Island Sound.  Black-eyed Susans, bright pink sweet peas, and lavender flowered spearmint grew at the top of the rocks.  A picnic table would be set with plates of sandwiches, platters of sliced honeydew and musk-melon, and--the piece de resistance--Aunt Florence's soda bread and blueberry buckle.

We'd make that party last as long as possible, because as soon as it was over it was time to pack the station wagon and head up to New Britain for the school year.

As Betty says, our memories are a treasure in themselves.  She is so right.  Just connecting with her today makes me remember everything, and smile, and feel so happy.  I wish I had a picture of us all as children--if I did, no doubt our hair would be wet, someone would be adorned with seaweed, there'd be sunglasses, flip-flops, and a few Good Humors in the picture.  And we'd be doing our best and not succeeding to keep from laughing.

There's No Place Like Home (An Earlier Perspective on the Subject)

Another perspective on Hubbard’s Point… There's No Place Like Home

By Luanne Rice

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that several years ago I bought the beach cottage where my family spent every summer; this proverb is that dear to my heart.  A small grey-shingled house perched on a rocky ledge overlooking Long Island Sound, it is shaded by oaks and pines, smelling of salt and beach roses.  After a long winter in New York City, I walk through the kitchen door, and a lifetime of memories floods over me.

My maternal grandparents built the house in 1938, just in time to withstand the brutal hurricane roaring up New England’s coast.  My father’s family owned a cottage just up the road; he met my mother the summer after he returned from World War II.  It was a rainy day, and he and his mother were sitting on the screen porch.  As the family story goes, my mother went striding by (I love that they use that word—“striding”—I can just see her) in a yellow rain slicker, and my future grandmother urged her son to go after her in the car, and offer her a ride.

He did, and they got married, and my sisters and I were born.  We lived inland during the winter, but every June we’d pack up the station wagon and head for the beach.  My grandmother let us plant the window boxes; my mother gave us each a section of the herb garden to plant; my father taught us how to fish.  My cousins would be a two-minute walk away at my grandfather’s cottage, and we’d all go swimming and crabbing together.  We looked forward all year till the August meteor showers, when we’d lie on the beach and wish on shooting stars.

My Aunt Jan has a party every year, on the date of her father’s birthday.  Pop died long ago, but the last weekend in August, his house and yard are alive with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Home” can encompass more than a dwelling—it can be a gathering, an activity, a state of mind—a moment that tells you who you are, where you come from.  During last year’s party, I took my cousins’ children—twelve of them—for the time-honored Rice family tradition of blue crabbing in the swamp, at the far end of the beach.  Armed with nets and drop lines, buckets and bait, we waited till the tide was right, and then trudged through the tall grass to the creek.

We lined the banks.  Sun beat down on our heads.  I remembered my father telling me to be still, that my shadow would scare the crabs away.  I could almost feel my sisters beside me, our bare feet silver with silty mud, thrilled by the sight of blue shells skulking through the shallows.

Last summer, it all came back.  Nothing can conjure childhood memories like hanging out by a tidal creek with twelve young cousins.  I felt so happy to show them what I knew, to watch them catch and release more crabs than we could count.  We took time out to watch egrets in the pond, to follow an osprey as it circled overhead.  Two of the older kids went exploring, and found the Indian Grave that my sisters and I had often visited so many summers earlier.

Many of the people I loved so much are gone.  My grandparents, my mother and father, some of my aunts and uncles and cousins.  As often as memory makes me smile, it makes me sad for those I’ll never see again.  I think that that is one of the secrets of life: to know that it all goes by so fast, that sometimes we have to let go of people we love before we are ready.

Ergo: the ruby slippers.  Thank goodness we all have a pair.  Your mother’s brownie recipe, your grandmother’s quilt, the picture of you and your sister at the State Fair.  Click your heels three times…

My cottage has withstood many hurricanes since 1938.  So have I, so has my family.  I’ve lived in big cities and small towns, made more mistakes than I can count, roamed far and wide, lived a complicated life.  One thing I can always count on is the feeling of peace that overtakes me when I climb the steps, up the hill to my cottage.

I see the 1938 penny my grandfather pressed into the step’s mortar; I smell the rosemary, thyme, and mint from my mother’s herb garden; I feel the salt breeze that has so often blown my troubles away, that has inspired me with countless stories…and I feel in my heart what I know to be true: there’s no place like home.

No Woods

The area is called Point O' Woods, but now it might as well be called Point O' No Woods. The new houses have air-conditioning—who needs the sea breeze, and who needs shade? Instead of the rustle of leaves overhead, walk down the road and hear the low, constant hum of a big air-conditioning unit.

Read More