On the evening ferry from Oak Bluffs back to Hyannis, I finished reading the last few pages of the book I had brought along, and then I completed a chronological list of the little events that had comprised my day.
Next to me sat a couple with their two young children. The little girl — I’ll call her Rachel — was about six years old and full of energy and sweet sass. She complained about her parents’ lack of a pen, so I loaned her one. Then she enlisted her mother as a scribe. Rachel said out loud the words she wanted on postcards to various friends, and her mother wrote them down. The girl would say, “Dear Maya. Um, today we went to the beach. I had a hamburger for lunch. Then I had chocolately crunchy ice cream -.” Her mother interrupted, “That’s boring.” Her father, who seemed to have educational intentions, gently added, “Rachel, people don’t only want to know what you did; they want to know what you thought.”
Rachel tried again, “Hmm. Today we went to the beach. It was fun. Then I had a hamburger…” She seemed to be thinking. Her mother, who really did seem to be kind and loving, said softly, “Still boring.” Her father said, “Rachel, give your thoughts.”
I sat there, wondering what he meant. Rachel seemed perplexed, too. She kept listing her day. To the mother’s credit, she continued to transcribe although a few times she said, “Boring.” They managed to write about five or six postcards this way until the mother decided to take a break. The girl did not protest. Five or six postcards is a lot of writing for any six-year-old, even one with Rachel’s spark and persistence.
I love getting postcards. They could say anything: “Beach. Kite. Hamburgers. Ice cream. Bicycle. Thinking of you.” It makes me picture my friend’s travel day a bit, and I feel remembered, even in the midst of vacation distractions. Plus, who doesn’t like to get real mail?
I wondered what the family would think of my postcard to me, or what I wrote in the last four pages of my notebook on the ferry ride home. Here it is, with only a few lines about a private conversation omitted. (The first part, all in present tense, is what I wrote on the early ferry, from the Cape to Martha’s Vineyard. The second part, in past tense, is what I wrote on the later ferry, as Rachel and her family discussed their postcards.)
- Missed ferry at 9:30am to Oak Bluffs. Called Pam. I’ll take 12:05pm ferry.
- I sit, first at rotted picnic table under a tree and then on a bench in the sun near the artists’ huts, and read a children’s book I chose for its title (Bird Lake Moon, three nouns), and I love it. A good book attracts readers, period, if it has the chance.
- Betsy calls me.
- Lydia calls me.
- I read the end of the chapter and call James. It’s his birthday, and, by coincidence, I have my cell phone with me, which is rare.
- I’m on the ferry. I have a seat indoors in air conditioning. My second choice, but, now that I’m here, I like it. I’ll have the sun all afternoon.
- Yesterday, in Provincetown and today in Hyannis, I hear many British accents and two German speakers. A sign of the weak dollar, I think.
- [end of first half of day]
- Pam and Lee and I ate lunch at Slice of Life in Oak Bluffs, as we did when Chris and I visited them in 2006. Me? Flank steak salad. Pam: baked eggplant. Lee: cod cakes and beets. His was smallest and looked the best.
- We went to Mytoi, the Japanese garden run by the Trustees of Reservations on Chappaquiddick. Pam identified everything and then looked at the printed map to verify her guess or, if she didn’t know, find out. Lee is amiable and patient.
- The mosquitos and chiggers were attracted to Pam. This bothered her mildly.
- Then we drove to the Wasque Reservation and walked the trail near the pond. It was hot in the sun and cool under the trees. A dry day. The smells of warmed sand, pine, and the sea is a scent that never changes. It smells like summer, like childhood, like a carefree afternoon.
- Later, we waited 45 minutes to get the return Chappy ferry. “We’re on Chappaquiddick time,” Lee said to Pam.
- We sat dockside at the Sugar Shack and had a beer each and shared calamari while waiting for my return ferry. I learned that Pam goes to the island’s agricultural fair every year to see the draft horses pull weighted sleds. New knowledge of Pam.
These happenings made a day, a good one.