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.