I don’t often write personal posts, but today I uncovered a cache of photos from my past, and I have to share this story with you.
Here I am as a toddler, my hand mysteriously extended in mid air.
On the back of the photo, my mother wrote: Beth holding hands with “Jenny Wren” her important imaginary friend! We lived in Milton, Mass. and I was the first born. According to my mother, I insisted on this portrait of myself and Jenny Wren. At the ripe old age of three, with my baby sister maybe six months old, I can imagine I felt the need for a someone who I could really talk to about losing my mother’s attention, someone who listened, someone to hold hands with when I felt scared.
And there were lots of things to be scared about. The world was changing everywhere you looked — civil rights, women’s lib, Vietnam. I remember the nightly news reports with strange names that I whispered to Jenny because I liked how they rolled off my tongue: Ho Chi Minh … My Lai… I remember running naked through the sprinkler until I heard news about the arrests of streakers which scared me into a bathing suit. I remember the Great Dane next door, especially after our paper girl arrived on the doorstep with her thigh ripped open from his giant teeth. Yes, there was plenty of scary stuff back then.
Little could I imagine that 25 years later, I would meet my friend Jenny, and she would become a real-life Jenny Wren for me. I kind of think I was preparing for her here in this photo, making room in my growing brain for a friend so loyal that she would do anything for me (and visa versa).
The real-life Jenny Wren and I found each other in Los Angeles in the 1990’s, discovered that we were both from Massachusetts, and recalled that we had once met through the odd world of high school speech team. We found ourselves thousands of miles from the cobbled lanes of old Boston, wandering among the sushi bars, nail salons, parking lots and palm trees of Hollywood. Should it surprise you that we clung to each other like Mork and Mindy?
Everyone should have a friend like my Jenny Wren. She is warm, caring, kind and a great listener. You can count on her to tell it to you straight. She will support you to the ends of the earth with her spirited laugh and wide smile. Imaginative, talented, a great storyteller — my Jenny Wren is so great, she became a successful film writer and director. She is everything that little girl in the top photo dreamed of in the perfect friend.
Jenny Wren and I have some pretty great plans about growing old together (after our husbands are gone — it happens, you have to plan!) We will make sure to have plenty of younger friends, so we keep in touch with pop culture. I will teach her to knit, she will teach me charades. We will buy audiobooks when our eyes fail. She is a killer poker player, so we will go on the pro circuit — she will play and I will handle her marketing. Granny Jenny? That is ratings gold! We will eat out, laugh plenty and always hold hands in icy weather.
In case you are wondering what the real Jenny Wren looks like, here is the photo also discovered today that inspired this post. It’s the day before my wedding, back when Jenny was my “new” friend. She looks older than she did when we were three, but that is to be expected when you move from imaginary to real.
The real Jenny Wren is now traveling the world with her husband and two kids (you can learn more about her amazing journey on her blog AYeartoThink.com). While we are miles apart, and in different time zones, she is always in my heart. In fact, if I miss her, I can reach out my hand and feel hers right there, warm and calm, squeezing me back.
Just like when I was three.
The winter months pass faster than you might imagine, as you count the days for Cape Cod summer to return. The sunsets are glamorous and this winter has been unusually warm — a mixed blessing for those of us so close to sea level. If global warming is for real, then we are looking into the maw of the beast. The silver lining? The mild weather makes it easier to dash out at sunset and catch this kind of panorama.
Construction continues at the Woods Hole Inn. The second floor, where the new guest rooms are located, is almost done. This week they put the finish paint on, and next week will be consumed with refinishing the amazing original hardwood floors. Radiators went back in, the old school cast iron kind, and french doors were hung on the doors to the decks. Deck railing comes next week as well.
On the third floor, where the staff of the Inn will live soon enough, the drywall and plastering is complete and carpenters are putting the trim on the windows and molding along the floor boards. Sadly, the old wood floors up there were trashed, a cruel fate required for structural reasons by the Falmouth building department. In it’s place, the sustainable cork tiles will look modern and clean. The shapes of the rooms can finally be seen fully, and it’s odd to have such an intimate memory of the bones underneath the skin of the walls.
We are ordering a special wallpaper for the front hall, made from the piles of 1946-era check in cards we found stashed in the attic. I am confident that it will look graphic and interesting, and also delight those who want to reminisce about Mrs Josiah Smith of Vineyard Haven who stayed at the inn in 1946 for $3 per night. In addition, I found two incredible Russian ship lanterns, galvanized metal with red paint and old marine glass. I am having them made into lights for the front porch. You will tell me if you think they make the right “vintage restored” statement when they are finally hung in place.
I took my copy of building plans and wrote a love note to the person who will unearth all our work 50 years from now. I tried to express the joy I found in the doing, but I secretly hope they will know my passions from the lines of the house before they ever find my rushed scribbles.
A few images for you:
View from the top of the stairs looking down. The splattered wood you see in the middle will be removed so that you can experience three stories in the entrance. These are the walls that will be wall-papered with the check in cards from 1946.
Top floor, a lovely living room with private balcony and views to Martha’s Vineyard. Grey from the fresh plaster, this will be painted white and all trimmed out.
Another view of the same room, the light streaming in from the side of the building that faces the Martha’s Vineyard ferry.
New bathrooms with combo shower-tubs and the vintage floors brought back to their pre-paint glory.
Cast iron tubs came from the tub doctor in New Bedford. They look happy to be out of the showroom and back in the action.
Finally, the perfect image of the summer coming, from my friend Denise at the Sippewissett Campgrounds. This is what we are all waiting for. Thank you for sharing this, Denise — Nobska Lighthouse on an incredible summer day.
I can’t wait to be out on my boat looking up at that lighthouse, waiting for the fireflies to come out, basking in the last light of the day as the sun sets over Vineyard Sound. See you all this summer.
The Martha’s Vineyard Chilifest is coming up this weekend, on Saturday January 28th in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard.
FAQ’s about Chilifest –
How do I get tickets? This is hard but not impossible. You could have mailed a request to WMVY but that is sold out now. Here is what the MVY Radio website has to say about it today:
Tickets are on sale now at Shirley’s True Value Hardware in Vineyard Haven, Trader Fred’s in Edgartown and they go on sale at The Courtyard in Cataumet on Wednesday, January 25th at 6pm. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door on the day of the event.
How much are they? Tickets are $30. Limit of 4 tickets per person.
How do I get there? Steamship Authority from Woods Hole. See the schedule here.
Who is playing this year? This according to the MVYRadio website:
Under the tent
12n-1pm Mexico Lindo
2pm-2:45pm Mexico Lindo
Inside in the New Bar
4-6.30 DJ Alvzie
Will I have fun? Oh yeah.
What about the chili? Lots to pick from, all free once you are inside. Well worth the trip.
Where can I spend the night in Falmouth? Usually I would say the Woods Hole Inn but we are closed for renovations. Try the Palmer House in Falmouth, the Holiday Inn in Falmouth or Inn on the Square in Falmouth if you decide driving post the Chilifest is not a great idea.
Good luck and tell me how it went!
Even though it’s Sunday, I feel like today is a real snow day here in Woods Hole. I mean who can pay bills or even watch football (OK, maybe by late in the day football is OK) when it looks like this outside?
My photo essay on the January 21, 2012 snow storm:
The venerable Woods Hole Inn, looking stately and a bit half-dressed while under-construction in the snow.
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Late September is often cool and crisp, punctuated by the smell of woodsmoke as people start using their fireplaces to take the chill off rather than fire up the gas-burning boiler. Grass mowing ends as the cool air ends the growing season and the tomato crop withers on the vine.
Not this year.
It has been hot, like middle-of-summer hot here for a week now. Research vessels in to prep for peregrinations to southern climes are lingering to enjoy the fine weather. Even the hard-working scientists are off early to go fishing or ride the bikepath. I know the locals are into it because I see people sneeking off from work in their bathing suits, and heads bobbing way out in Buzzards Bay on long-distance swims. In this calm, warm weather, why not?
I got out in my boat over the weekend, trudging across to Great Harbor with my oars, launching my tiny rowboat from the beach on Penzance and rowing out to my slightly bigger boat to go explore the Elizabeth Islands. I brought a sweatshirt because you never know on the water but, wow, was that unnecessary! It was so hot I was yearning to jump in by the time I had the engine fired up.
Woods Hole Great Harbor is filled with the most wonderful and eccentric boats. I love this one, a tiny tug boat all made of well-polished wood from another era. Not too practical, but adorable.
Clearly, I am a little obsessed with this vessel as I look through my photo-files for other shots of the harbor and find only more of the “Amycita.” I don’t see her off the mooring often, but I do look forward to meeting her owners. Imagine a cruise over to Oak Bluffs (a great destination on Martha’s Vineyard) in this stylish vessel!
And this is NOT the only miniature tug in our little harbor. My friend Kimberly is lucky enough to have this wonderful boat, small as the smallest skiff but ooh, what style. She was seen leaving work early yesterday madly texting to friends about a sunset tug cruise. These are the perks of living so close to the water:)
So I guess this is what you would call Indian Summer. Since my visit to Plimouth Plantation, I may need to re-name that Native People’s Summer. Whatever you call it, it is something to be relished — summer weather long after is it expected to be gone is like a gift from the Gods (the Wampanoags called him/her “Moshop”). Something to inspire us and help us prepare for the long winter ahead.
Off to swim!
Memento Vivere…Remember to Live.
“Memento Vivere” was tattooed on the arm of a friend who died unexpectedly last month. Like he was trying to send a posthumous message to the rest of us… And so it was I embraced the carpe diem of it all and wandered off the beaten path this week in Woods Hole.
Ahh, the fall weather on Cape Cod is so unbelievably sweet. I walked in the full moonlight around on Harbor Hill Road and back into town at School Street. It was about 10 pm on a quiet Monday night and once I was on Harbor Hill I did not see a person or a car until a got back into town. The crickets were singing to me, moonlight filtered through the leaves and a soft warm breeze followed. Magical, zen, very in the moment.
Jon Kabat-Zinn lives in Woods Hole, with his family, and if you have read any of his books (“Full Catastrophe Living” or “Wherever You Go, There You Are”) you will recognize the splendor in a moment like that one.
So I share a few fall photos of Woods Hole. This is from the Great Harbor where the ferries pass daily to the Vineyard, looking back across the water at our little town. Windy day, but not cold yet.
The Woods Hole Passage, they call it, and it is one of the most treacherous crossings on the eastern seaboard — currents of 4-5 knots pull industrial sized buoys sideways at peak tides and the narrow channel is peppered with rocks the size of small islands. A boat a day goes on the rocks here in the summer and there is a Coast Guard station around the corner to service all the rescues needed. Through these waters pass huge yachts, old wooden racing boats called “Twelve Footers” and “Knockabouts,” Hinckley picnic boats daytripping to Quicks Hole and fishing boats of all shapes and sizes following the striped bass and bluefish.
And this is Hadley Harbor in the off season. A short boat ride from Woods Hole, through the Woods Hole Passage, any local charter fisherman can take you there. Empty and undeveloped, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth.