We stayed up talking until almost one in the morning; three generations spread out across three houses. My mother and my children were asleep in one house. My husband was watching TV with my cousin Annmarie and her husband in another. Isabel was in the cottage packing lunches to bring to the beach the next day.
I sat on the deck of the cottage with my father, my uncle, my cousin Paul and his wife Stacia. The citronella candles did a poor job of discouraging the mosquitoes. The wine was gone. We were just five people sitting in the dark but we represented something enormous to me.
Just as the stars are more visible in the sky at the Cape than they are at home, my place in the Universe is more obvious when I am there too. At home, I am just me: imperfect, sometimes happy, sometimes sad. At the Cape, I am part of something big; something that can’t be broken. At the Cape, I am part of a large family. We are fun. We are kind. We are together.
On the Cape, I can feel my grandparents’ presence. The older generation tells us our Nana wanted the cottage to be a place where her family would be together. Many times when I am sitting on that deck I whisper silently to her and thank her for creating this world for us. But I thank my generation for building the deck. Since we erected it seven years ago, it has become the focal point for the family compound. Our compound is three small houses on three adjoining lots: my uncle’s summer home that he shares with his three grown children; my parent’s retirement home, and the cottage, full of all of our stories.
To me the deck is more than extra living space for a cramped house. Nana and Grandpa built the house. Our parents, aunts and uncles kept the house. But it was the cousins who extended and improved the house. It was my generation that made the house more functional, that started a new tradition and erected a new gathering spot. To me the deck represents hope that our family will stay together. As our parents age and someday die, as our children grow and our lives evolve, we will return to the Cape each summer to be together. We will step into the roles vacated by our parents and we will be okay.
Off the Cape we are eight related but separate families. We experience cancer, addiction, death, birth, love and success. But as a group, we create something powerful and unconditional. We don’t speak of problems because we don’t make any room for them. We don’t want because whatever we might lack can be found in the group. We don’t hurt because we are together. Love and laughter are the only currencies in which we deal.
I believe in that deck.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.