It was love at first sight.
For days we had been driving, looking for the perfect town to move our family, up and down the coast from Portsmouth to Plymouth. Newburyport, Marblehead, Hingham, Cohasset – all beautiful in their own way. Lots of harbors.
“What the hell are we going to do in a harbor?” I asked Phil. “We’re from Philly.”
“There’s one place we didn’t hit. It’s off the beaten path a bit – Scitu-ate? I’m probably saying that wrong.” (He was.)
“Ok, sure, we’re here, might as well.”
That ain’t no harbor. I turned to Phil: “This is it.” He smiled. He knows I don’t mess around.
Things moved fast, as they tend to do when you know what you want. Our courtship was complicated. Sacrifices had to be made before we could make it official. Like the temporary lodgings we found online – in a house that happened to be on a marsh.
But we did it willingly, because love is blind, and you were worth it. I braved the late night marsh sounds of a coyote mauling an egret because I knew we could do this, we could make this work. And then, serendipity stepped in. We met the right agent who happened to know of a winter rental in a neighborhood overlooking the ocean called Third Cliff.
Phil looked at me and shook his head. After a decade of living in a landlocked state, he knew I was a goner. I think I was weeping. “We’ll take it,” he said to our realtor.
Of course, no relationship is perfect. We had some bumps in the road, like a hurricane
But somehow these challenges seemed more like adventures. They made us feel tough and resilient, like we could roll with anything life threw our way. And for the times when our energy flagged, the right people always seemed to come to our aid.
When I discovered that the big blue house across the street was for sale, I imagined myself living in it. I saw Phil and I with cocktails on the wrap-around porch after rolling back from the beach, sandy and starving. I imagined the girls dozing in a hammock, being lulled to sleep by the clang of the ocean buoy. I actually printed a picture of the house and carried it in my wallet – my own little secret fantasy.
I didn’t think it would actually come true.
But it did – all of it.
The sandy walks home from the beach…
While I hoped it would last forever, I fought back feelings of impermanence. It all felt too magical to last. I blamed my fears on my pessimistic set-point, on my leanings toward fatalism – that everything good is just one heartbeat from being taken away. But in my gut I think I always knew that we wouldn’t last forever.
And that made me pay attention. For the first time in my life, I was present. For every sunrise and sunset, for every run on the cliff or walk on the beach, I was there. I didn’t want to miss a thing. When I look back at my photos from this experience, I notice that I am always walking behind.
As a mom, I often find myself behind things: a swing, a stroller, a wobbly kid on a two-wheeler. Phil likes to lead the charge, but I love to walk behind. It’s where I can see everyone, where all are accounted for. I can read their body language – if they are happy or tired or holding something in. I think mothers prefer the panoramic view. The big picture.
And in the big picture, our move back to Philadelphia is the right decision. My instinct was probably right all along – this was a passionate fling, a summer romance, not a long-haul kind of commitment. But for a blissful 18 months, we found ourselves on your rocky shores. Why? What did we come here to learn?
You taught us awe. To have our breath taken away daily by nature. To truly comprehend the vastness of the ocean and how small we are in comparison. Hopping from rock to rock on the cliffs became a meditation for me.
Especially when I stumbled upon messages I felt destined to discover:
You taught us that people are good, welcoming, and kind. I have yet to meet a Masshole. Ok, there was that one. Our neighbors – loyal like family – kept us from feeling orphaned. They even attempted to make sailors out of a bunch of Philly landlubbers.
You taught us to be brave.
To feel alive.
But mostly, you taught us how to be together. Just us. And have that be enough.
Better than enough.
It was here that Phil, Emma, Phoebe and I learned how to depend on each other. And while we may not always get along, we are all we’ve got. Moving someplace new is like a Family Immersion Program. It is exciting and terrifying, and at times, really fucking lonely. But we road that roller coaster together. We learned by trial and error when to make someone laugh…
Or give them a hug
Or just leave them the hell alone.
You taught us how to be a family.
And for that, a piece of my heart will always belong to you.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Oh, my God – I am reading this through real tears and feel like I’m out of breath. Yes, yes, and YES. How beautiful. I hate that you’re leaving before I even got to meet you!! xox
Thank you Lindsey – I am not giving up hope on us yet!
It’s taken me four years to “love” where we live, but after a 2000 mile move, I can now say that I love it for all these reasons you state so eloquently. I love it because it is the place in which we have really grown into ourselves as a family. Thank you for this!!
Thank you! Yes, it has been a real growth experience for my husband and I – a real game changer for our marriage. In a good way;)
I don’t know you but your story hit home for me. we moved here 27 years ago from Boston, so afraid to leave the city. We kept our two family in Boston because we “might want to move back” .27 years later we are still in love with Scituate. We found it one night driving back from Nantasket beach when we go lost and ended up having dinner at pier 44. In fact a few years ago, I think I fell in love with your house on third cliff ,the “Jordan Marsh house” if I’m correct?.
Good luck to you and hopefully Scituate will be a summer vacation for your family!
Noooooo! Not Philly. I only go back there to visit family. Ok, I do have a soft spot for Margate and Ocean City, but cities are best enjoyed as visitors. Not residents. Fantastic blog post. You’re a great story teller!
Thank you, Peter!
love love love this…. you’re experienced some family love that some families never experience. you’re a special family!
Love you, Marie!
This really made me cry!! All of this will be in your heart forever which is as big and wide as the sky holding your beautiful family and all these poignant memories. Please keep writing!
From another gal from Philly we are sorry to see you leave. I will miss your visits to Everygirl in the harbor. Your girls were lovely!
Thank you Amy – and we will miss you and Everygirl! Such a great addition to the harbor. Hopefully we will be back for a visit soon.
aaaaaahhhhh I was hoping to get to know you all better. Esp after I called your cellphone while you were on your yoga retreat in Mexico! Wishing you all the best. You are a beautiful writer with a beautiful heart.
Darcy! I know, it is sad. The wonderful people we have met makes it so hard to leave. I cried at Erdman yesterday! But, we are happy to have had this experience. Best of luck to you. xoxo
My daughter Kendall was just telling me about her classmate Emma moving, and how they had a party for her in class today. And then I saw your beautiful story. Good luck with your move. . .although you may move back someday. 😉
Ha, you never know with us!! Thanks for commenting – Emma will miss her class.
Loooooovvvvvvvee this!!! I love my town. I just read this to my husband. I am so passionate about Scituate…I was just about crying (and for those that know me…like Darcy…that doesn’t happen often). Best of luck and Scituate will miss you…
Thank you Ann-Marie for reading and commenting! Yes, Scituate is truly magical. The silver lining is all the wonderful people we have met – and all potential places we can crash when we visit in the summer;)
Meka-Mari just shared this and though I don’t know your family – I had this same feeling about Scituate. This town swept my hubby and I off our feet. So glad you got to experience living by the sea for a bit. Scituate will miss you. x
Thank you! And we will miss Scituate. My heart is in my throat just typing this. Thanks for commenting – and I love your blog, btw!
As Scituate native living in Florida for 30 years now all I can say is that the biggest losers in your move are your kids. In my opinion there is no place anywhere I know of that is a greater place to be a kid than in Scituate. A beautiful memory of my hometown from your article. Thank you
Thanks for reading, Charlie!
I’m not sure the kids will loose. It doesn’t matter where we live as along as we are with our family. Family is always placed first. I was raised in Norwell but I did raise my sons in Scituate. That happiest times of our lives were in Scituate. All though as I said, I don’t think geography can change the tightness of family. My sons go there all the time. They both would love to move back there and raise their family’s there. Me I’d love to move back there too. But it has changed drastically in the past 10 years. The harbor is no longer the quaint little fishermans harbor now is bogged down with condos a business galore. Even the quarterdeck is closing shop. It’s sad. I miss the bell buoy and the grog shop and all the beauty it brought. Regardless, I wish you all the best in wherever you go and always stay tight with your family values and you will always find happiness.
No need to scold, I am sure it was difficult. We were there, yes right there for over 14 years. It was and is a magic place. Ours remained a simple Welch colonial with a few embellishments. You have captured the essence of the oneness with nature. Who knew about the rythym of the tides, the sun and the moon. The ever shifting sandbars that made each trip to the Spit a brand new adventure. The joy that the Jones and others brought to the street. Third cliff as an island during the Perfect Storm. the sand and the sweat coming back from the beach. The pink hued seagulls returning from the dump to the harbor. Chris and Molly will agree that it was a most wonderful place to be a kid and it was even better I think to be an adult, you were able to compare it to other places, other summers. I am happy that you enjoyed it so much. The memories are to vivid to ever fade.
Thank you for your beautiful and thoughtful comment. We actually rented the Jones’ place for 9 months! They are lovely people. And I remember the first time we walked to the Spit – we thought it was a mirage. There is no place like it. Thanks again.
We lived at 14 and were very close to the Cullens. Watching the sunrises march up and down the horizon as the seasons changed is a memory that will never go. Nor will the clanging of the bellbuoy if the wind was right. Nor the flood tides that came in August and November. Nor the ride up the Driftway and the change in the air when you turned onto Collier. Nor collecting driftwood and watching the colors that appeared when it was put in the fire. Nor grilling bluefish that was minutes from the ocean caught by Bobby Jones. Nor gardening in the front yard and turning your head and seeing scores of sailboats and the ever-changing colors ofthe ocean and the sky. Nor the golden diamond Ike surface of the water in the morning. Nor taking a chance on the steamers that we had just dug even though a red tide warning was issued that morning.
During the perfect storm the ocean roared like a locomotive for three straight days. The northeastern sides of houses were sandblasted of any trace of paint. The waves reached the height of the Men of Kent sign.
Felt every moment of your story and identified with your love of your young family and the town of Scituate, which still takes my breath away almost every day. Don’t really know the
reason for the “hit you in the face” F-bomb
coming out of nowhere in an otherwise
perfectly crafted memoir of a time and
place. If you thought it needed an “edge,” it didn’t. It was fine without it. Good story nevertheless. I enjoyed and admired your writing style almost all the way.
Thank you for reading, Marie, and I apologize if I offended you. I do have a bit of a mouth, I must admit;) It does comes from a genuine place of feeling, however….although I appreciate the feedback.
Reblogged this on emptynestwritings.com and commented:
Happpy Valentine’s Day. I love Scituate, too. xoxoxo
Thank you! I am very flattered and so pleased that it spoke to you. xoxo
That big blue house means a lot things to a lot of people. It has had a long life filled with happiness and laughter. It holds such beautiful memories for many of us and it has loved all who have lived in it…because it has given back to all who enter, the joy that it has received.
This home was in my family for almost 30 years and though your residence there was short…I am sure it was a game changer. That a physical object can have a heart beat and a personality is hard for some to understand. But that big blue house on Third Cliff does just that.
I hope you feel it’s love as your family moves on. We will always remember our time there fondly.
Alana Cullen Aschenbach
— my family owned the home
I miss 3rd cliff so much, wish I could move back there.
We never met,…but… Thanks for telling your story, makes me proud you lived here and fell in love with our town. Godspeed to you and your family.
i grew up on third cliff as well .. moved there when i was 5. heaven on earth. absolutely loved growing up there. thank you for sharing your story.
What a beautiful story about my home and life!
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