THE LAST FIVE ...
Closing up shop
It may be time for a change
Entry in the air
Music of the moment
Or ... BE RANDOM!
Tuesday, May 27, 2003 - 3:30 p.m.
What a gang
Mine, however, was spent on Cape Cod, that hook of land that looks like a flexing arm jutting out from Massachusetts. We've been going there for more than 20 years, my family. Mom has kept in close contact with three of her college friends, one of whom has a mother-in-law who owns this eight-bedroom house in Hyannisport, a seaside town on the southern midsection of the Cape. It is in Hyannisport that John F. Kennedy vacationed, where his mother lived until her death, where the compound sits behind sculpted hedges and white fences on the beach. It is from Hyannisport that you take the ferry across the Sound to Nantucket.
When "The Gang" first started coming to the Cape for Memorial Day weekend, the three women in the group who were married had four children among them, and I was the oldest. After a year or two, another boy was born and the group has included five kids since then. I've remained the oldest (duh) and the first to go through life's changes — driver's licenses, college acceptances, alcoholic indulgences, graduations, jobs, etc. It's now weird to look at all of us — with Davey, the youngest, now 21 and about to finish the fourth year of his five-year college course of study — as adults. We're now arriving in our own cars (a record 10 different vehicles spent at least one night in the yard) with our own boyfriends (Liz brought Andy) and girlfriends (Casey came with me). "I'm stunned," Davey's father and namesake, David, said on Friday night as he looked down the dining room table, "I'm not used to looking across the table and seeing nothing but beer bottles."
The basic backbone of the weekend has remained intact: We always plan several group outings together and spend lazy afternoons or evenings playing games. We play miniature golf as if it's our sole purpose of the trip (54 holes in two days for some of us this weekend) and always — always — laugh and tell stories of past get-togethers.
Apparently, in my second-grade autobiography (written as a project for the gifted and talented program in my school), I wrote of our tradition of organizing skits and videotaping them each year. Yet, because of their silly and embarrassing good-humored nature, we never screen them for outside parties. "We make videos that no one else is allowed to see," I wrote. Originally, they were all spearheaded by the adults, who picked the themes and characters and ran the camera. One year, when the adults decided they wanted to play one of those "How To Host A Murder" mystery games — and videotape it for God knows what purpose — the children were shut out. "You can dress up and act as servants and maids," a few mothers suggested. The younger set wouldn't hear of it, and that's when we began filming our own music videos. This weekend's recent review of some of the tapes reminded me of our attempts at M.C. Hammer, Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty's "Centerfield," and of my strange love of Z100's annual Morning Zoo tapes and Dr. Demento. We usually filmed in one of two bedrooms set aside for the girls; they had the larger one because there were three of them. Davey and I slept across the hall.
When Mom told the story about my autobiography quote this weekend, Liz reminded everyone that, "One year, we did one in the boys' room."
What impresses and pleases me about the Cape tradition is its longevity. While I've missed three years before this one because of work at the paper and one year in high school when I joined eight other friends on Nantucket when Will's family invited us, the adults have gone for 22 or 23 consecutive Mays. The last four or five years have been without a fifth woman from the college crowd who, because of some miscommunication did not join the other four on a long weekend in London several years ago, has cut off her association with the group. Only a few months ago, after the death of one of the ladies' mothers, did Becky reconnect. Nothing has come of it since.
But this bond, this enduring friendship of four women who grew up in New Jersey and attended Rutgers in the late 60s and early 70s is impressive. It's a model of friendship I've hoped to emulate for years now, and I'm happy that I still stay close with a good number of high school and college friends. I don't know if I have a top three or four — that is, a group like this one with which I could try to begin to plan an annual get-together such as that which my mom has with these women every Memorial Day and December (to bake cookies). For one thing, Mom and all her friends all live within hours of one another: One in Washington, D.C.; Mom and another in central New Jersey (with the holdout a little bit north); the last in western Connecticut. But I do have one thing in common: I have some good, close friends with whom I can get together after months or years apart and pick up right where we left off.
The Cape weekends and cookie bakes are filled with voices talking over one another in several conversation circles with peals of laughter ringing out regularly. Dinnertime quiets everyone down for a few minutes, but we often linger at the table and the laughter picks up again.
Returning to that house in Hyannisport is something of a trip back in time. The house has changed little over the years, with the exception of it perhaps feeling a little smaller (if an eight-bedroom house can feel small) and the ceilings seeming a little lower. But the large living room can still accomodate the entire Gang and our new additions (15 people this weekend), albeit with some of us sprawled on the floor, and outings with the entire clan necessitate three vehicles — one a minivan — but we're not letting lifestyle changes or orange alerts or Republican lawmakers slow us down. Sure, the jokes about senility and old age are coming more frequently — and from the "kids" too — and words like "condoms" and "sex" are tossed out to get a laugh rather than whispered in a corner of the kitchen, but it remains clear that this is a group that can adapt to change on the fly to maintain tradition.
It felt good to get away to that.
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