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Random Thoughts: Eating Mangoes Over the Sink

I’m guessing many of us have family spread out across the country and beyond. I miss the old days when most families lived in the same state.

My very large extended family has always spent parts of each summer together. Because we lack imagination, or we like doing the same thing in 2023 that we did in 1943, my memories are a jumble of “did we do that last year or 20 years ago?” The answer is usually “yes.”

And many of my summer memories revolve around food, which is not a surprise when you come from a family in which a dozen people sitting down for lunch is normal.

It’s easy to remember it all because as I said, it happens again every year…

Taking outdoor showers in an elaborate cabana at the family “homestead,” but still feeling like nature girls because we can look up through the lattice and see the sky. We used to stand guard for each other to stop comedians from climbing on things to try get a peek. Oddly enough, once we hit our 60s, we stopped having to do that.  

Leaning over the sink, juice dripping down our chins from the mangoes our Miami cousins (who lived in Waltham until 50 years ago and we still miss that) bring up to the Cape from their own trees, and lemons the size of grapefruit (which they used to have too, until the city of Miami decided the trees were diseased. They weren’t.)

Doing 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles on the dining room table, for which we just used to need our eyes, and now we borrow each other’s glasses.

Digging clams on the beach and steaming them with onions and beer, sitting on the porch eating them with juice glasses of ice-cold beer (the only time beer appeals to me), and tossing the shells on the driveway.

Standing on the shore watching cousins kayak out to the island in the middle of the bay and warning them about that time they convinced me to ride along, and an extremely large something bumped the bottom. (My second kayak ride was a request, and there were enough of us that I could yell “eat them, not me, I’m too gristly now!” if it became necessary.)

Having lethal Mudslide cocktails at sunset at a marina restaurant and always being shocked the restaurant doesn’t serve fried clams. We ask every year. Who has a restaurant in a marina on Cape Cod and doesn’t serve fried clams?

Whispered to newcomers: “I’m sure you didn’t know this, but the largest chair in the corner of the front porch is for grandfathers.” (Get up.)

The flatware goes in the top drawer, serving utensils go in the middle drawer, and do not, under any circumstance, use a hand towel to dry the dishes.

Walking uptown for soft-serve ice cream and watching the servers make a swirl that mixes chocolate and vanilla. The brave ones ask for a chocolate coating, and those of us who ask for sprinkles instead giggle when the chocolate falls off.

Wondering how the bathing suit-shorts-dress that fit well enough last year shrank over the winter in the closet.

Not venturing in the bay beyond where the high-tide blocks were until 20 years ago, because that was a parental decree when most of us were under 10 years old.

There probably are a dozen traditions/current events I’m forgetting, but you get the idea. Seven decades is a long time for a bunch of people to spend a chunk of the summer together at one house. Many are gone, but many have been born, married or friended into the mix. For us “olds,” it’s a joy to see the “youngin’s” doing things we did because we tell them to, or because it makes sense to them just like it did to us, and to our parents, and to their parents, too.

What summer traditions stay with you?

XO Brenda

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10 months ago

Thank you for letting me live your childhood with you through your beautiful prose, working the best adjectives into your colorful scenery. That love of all those decades of years exudes such light 😘💥from you as you pass it down to the next generations. Walking that timeline journey makes my heart beam, that I could for one glimpse be with you during that time. Thank you for lifting my day.❤️

10 months ago

What a lovely tribute. Reminds me that it’s the simple things that become so monumental when we look back 🩷

Sheila Hamwey
Sheila Hamwey
10 months ago

Ma’s donuts on Sundays. Running and jumping off the wall into the sand, seeing where we land. And kissing rock at the point. “Don’t slam the door” Onset will always be my very best memories with my cousins, who were my first and forever friends. And who still are. Love you all.

Margaret Ede
Margaret Ede
10 months ago
Reply to  Sheila Hamwey

I remember watching you launch off the wall as an adult, Sheila. You’re my hero!

Elaine F
10 months ago

When I was young my Dad took his two weeks vacation from the telephone company in July and we would head up to Hampton Beach, NH along with the grandparents. I have fond memories of looking for starfish and shells on the beach ( we released the starfish), playing skeeball in the arcades and selecting little trinkets with my tickets, playing spin art and eating salt water taffy. Good times! All of the relatives except for my sister are gone now. We make our Summer memories together with our friends now. We have a new spot that we love, by Nubble Light in Maine.

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