The Summering Sort
When I was a kid our family summered on Martha’s Vineyard. It wasn’t something that we had planned to do. It was one of those things that happened due to sheer good fortune. When I say summered, I don’t mean we were on vacation in a, “the Robert’s of Acushnet, Ma. summered on Martha’s Vineyard” kind of way. We were in fact, “The Robert’s of Acushnet, Ma.” but we were never of the summering sort, financially. My dad had secured a long term job as an electrician on Martha’s Vineyard the winter before. He had hit a cycle of being laid off in the early 70’s which forced him to have to travel to other states to keep his brood fed and clothed. I am the seventh of ten children, which explains why we didn’t summer as a rule. Our summer vacations mostly included open air camping on the lawn and running through sprinklers. However, the year that dad landed the Martha’s Vineyard job set us up for a very nice summer when the job dragged on. We owned a hard top Nomad camper and the previous few summers we camped for a week or two at a time here and there. The Nomad was transported via ferry in the winter and served as my father’s lodging. He enjoyed winter rates at Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground. It was an economical solution to a more expensive room in a boarding house. He would come home to us on the weekends. That summer it was decided that my mom and the youngest six kids would join dad on the job so to speak.
I’m Not Sleeping Near Him
The eldest four kids were grown and had families of their own. They didn’t summer much either. Having home base set up on Martha’s Vineyard served as an instant getaway for many of my older siblings and their little ones. Moving us from a six bedroom, two bathroom house to a camper and a tent left some problems. Where were we all going to sleep? The girls certainly didn’t want to sleep next to any of the boys. We were brought up to be very private and conservative. I remember a time when one of my brother’s exited the bathroom after a shower with a towel wrapped around his waist. My dad made a beeline up the stairs after him. From that day on towels were left on the bathroom floor (where they belong) and brother’s emerged fully dressed after showering. In keeping with an insistence for privacy for his girls my dad put up a tent for the boys. All males, be they blood or visitors were relegated to the canvas house. The camper was reserved for mom, dad, babies and girls.
They All Rolled Over And One Fell Out
Occasionally, we would have a large influx of extended family all at once. When that happened dad would execute, Plan B, for bunking. Two boys would be relegated to the tiny tent. The dreaded pup tent. Appropriately named as I think back on my two youngest brothers, shoulder to shoulder and breathing the same dead air for eight hours. One night, one rolled over and by morning we found the youngest one half out of the tent, almost face down in the dirt. Happy campers will sleep anywhere and even endure dirt naps. We were happy kids, summering on Martha’s Vineyard. We would have slept anywhere. I know I did.
Station wagons Should Be Stationary
On the odd weekend, even Plan B would fail us. The boys would strain the seams of the tents. Two babies in portable cribs would be stacked end to end in the middle of five or six adults in the camper. On those weekends, the back seat of the station wagon would be lowered. Mom would roll out a one inch padded beach mat and make up a bed for the last man standing. In all honesty, I preferred the station wagon to the crowded camper. Babies don’t sleep at night and sometimes they smell. At least in the station wagon I could read with a flashlight and not bother anybody. My dad would lower the windows a few inches for fresh air and I would lock myself in. Unfortunately, my private dream sleeping quarters turned into a nightmare one morning. I remember waking to the sound of lots of people chattering. I felt the sun beating down on my sweat soaked body. Finally, I cracked my eyes open enough to realize I had no idea where I was. It took a few moments for me to remember that I had gone to sleep the night before, at our campsite, in the station wagon. The station wagon that should have remained stationary somehow didn’t. I just laid there motionless, trying not to be noticed because I was in a summer nightgown. Sweating profusely under the comforter that was needed the night before but no longer needed as morning had brought with it a sweltering heat wave. My mother forgot I was sleeping in the back of the station wagon and drove me to the IGA Foodliner in Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard to do some grocery shopping. She finally returned to my great relief. Still not wanting to be noticed by the throngs of vacationers I lay there frozen. She threw open the back door of the car, noticing me only when she nearly plopped a watermelon on my head. She let out a scream that is familiar only to her children when she is startled. It is loud and shrill and it turned more heads that day than I care to remember. I was exposed after an agonizing hour of sweating out my embarrassment, by mom who startles more easily than a scared rabbit. Vowing never to sleep in the station wagon again I helped her load the car in my nightgown. I learned to sleep in a pair of shorts and a tee shirt to avoid the hazards of sleeping in station wagons that may or may not be driven to a public place while summering on Martha’s Vineyard.