Down at State Beach, the main public beach on Martha's Vineyard, there are a series of jetties at the Oak Bluff's end. They aren't much to look at, just a line of huge boulders stretching out into the water - just like the jetties that guard the entrance to Oak Bluffs Harbor - yet there is one that's special; you see, it has a cave in it.
When I and my friends - and later my niece and nephew - went to the beach, we often had the problem of finding something to do. After all, a bunch of little kids got bored easily. Yet, my Mom, ever the resourceful lady that she was, always had some beach toys to bring along. She was also good about bringing a first aid kit, as we were also prone to getting the occasional cut or bruise!
When we'd go the beach, it was always the question of what area to settle on. Did we stop near the Oak Bluffs end, where the beach was narrow, but stony? Did we head to Second Bridge, where the beach was wide and sandy, and we could jump from the bridge? Or did we end up going all the way to the Edgartown end, which was the best of both worlds: narrow - so it was easy to get to - and also nice and sandy? That was my grandparents' favorite spot!
Most times, our selection was dictated by the available parking.
Still, we did enjoy stopping at the jetties, and I always made a beeline for the one with the cave. It wasn't all that big a space, and it wasn't much of a cave - really just a small open spot - and then there was this narrow gap between some stones that we could crawl through and climb up out of a small opening.
It was our little "command center", our "army foxhole", and our "diamond mine," after we saw "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Once we found that place, it became our favorite spot on the beach, and we could play there for hours without getting bored. So, needless to say, my Mom made a habit of taking us there - a lot!
The only drawback to the cave was that it remained static, whereas we kept growing. By the time Heidi (my niece) was old enough to participate in our games, I was getting too big to crawl through the small crevice. This was also about the same time that the old bunker on South Beach slipped into the ocean and was no longer available to play in (that's another story). So, I was finally faced with coming to terms with loss, with understanding that some aspects of my life would not always be there.
Now, the cave remained our play-place for a good number of years, but it was never quite the same; I was really too big to fit in it, I could only sit in the open area. So, in a way, I became the adult; I would sit there and sort of direct the younger ones, and I started to worry about them. Would Nick be able to fit this time; would Heidi be able to climb up without scraping her knee?
These games became more elaborate as time passed. Soon the cave was our spaceship ferrying us to whatever planet we'd seen in the latest "Star Trek" episode. We'd re-create whole shows sometimes - right down to the dialogue - and then we learned about whaling. Oh, now that led to the best game of all. Of course, it certainly wasn't politically correct; I mean, we were throwing harpoons in whales and killing them! Not the sort of thing a parent would teach a child today. But, I'd seen the movie, "Moby Dick," and my Dad had taken me to the Whaling Museum; so there was no way we were going to skip that game.
We'd walk out to the end of the jetty and throw rocks into the water (they were our harpoons), and then we'd mime holding the rope as the whale took us on what was known as a "Nantucket Sleigh Ride". Finally, we'd "kill" the beast, and turn its blubber into oil. We didn't really understand how that worked, the movie had shown the whale getting cut up and then cooked somehow, and then the barrels filled with oil. So, the jetty was our ship, the place where we made the oil, and then we stored the barrels down in the "Hold" (the cave).
Once again, it was a game that went on for hours. Looking back, I have to wonder what my mother and the other adults on the beach thought we were doing out there? We jumped and lept over those boulders - many of them covered with seaweed and barnacles - and got a goodly number of bumps, scrapes, and stubbed toes. Darn those barnacles could cut so very easily! A lot of those games got interrupted by someone clutching an injured body part and wailing - tears in their eyes - as they raced to Mom for comforting.
The funny thing is, I don't really remember the pains, only the joy from all those times with friends and family, and all those games and flights of fancy.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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