I’ve written many stories about growing up in the cottages of oak Bluffs, which are on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard. It was the place of my childhood, my youth. According to my wife, it was equivalent to being Christopher Robin in the 100-Acre Wood.
One of my friends said spending summers there was like living under a protective force field. It was the 1960s and 1970s. We didn’t have the Internet or Xbox, we ran around all day; our moms never knew where we were and we had a blast!
It was a unique time and place. Looking back, I think of a line from the movie “Patton.” George C Scott, in the title role, speaks of having precisely the right instrument at exactly the right place at the exact correct moment in time to achieve a great goal.
Patton spoke of the army under his command being poised to defeat Nazi Germany. He also said such a moment comes once in a lifetime and changes quickly. Well, that was our lives on that Martha’s Vineyard.
Over time, our little world faded away. My dad had called Oak Bluffs, “The poor man’s town on the rich man’s island.” That changed.
Little by little, the wealthy bought the cottages of the Middle Class; the number of families, such as ours, dwindled. Every year, I heard about still more places slipping away. Prices went up, times got tough for anyone who wasn’t a member of the one-percenters; the world of my youth destroyed.
I couldn’t help but think of all the kids who would not have the sort of childhood, not build the sorts of memories that my friends and I shared. Yet, what could I do about it? Given my slide down the socio-economic ladder from Middle Class to working poor, I could barely afford to visit the island, let alone buy a place there.
Then I saw something that gave me hope.
These days, there are so many cable channels you can pretty much find anything to fit any tastes. I happened upon a show about small houses and started watching it. Some of the episodes were really quite neat. They showed people who were downsizing for one reason or another and thus needed a house to live in, but needed a small one.
When I say “small,” I mean very small. Some of the houses they build were literally less than two hundred square feet! Yet, they were cute little places that had all the warmth and delight of the small cottages of my youth.
Seeing all the sneaky features of some of the buildings, the drawers built into the stairs, the office lofts, the foldaway beds and tables. I saw a hope for the future. Here were places that the average person could afford.
Here were the potential cottages for a future generation. These were not mere tiny houses; these were homes. There’s an important distinction.
There’s a reason we have a saying that says, “Home is where the heart is.”
There’s a lot of empty land on Martha’s Vineyard and I now have a vision for the future, The Dream Reborn. Although not a rich man, not by any stretch, I can see me one day being able to buy a little piece of land on the island and building one of those tiny homes.
My hope is to organize others to do the same near me. It won’t ever be the cottages of Oak Bluffs, that place is like Atlantis, lost in the mists of time. Yet, it might be a place where ordinary folk could enjoy the simple pleasures of summer; a place where simple folks could enjoy sun, swimming, sailing and so on. Yeah, all those old-fashion ideals we talk about when we speak of the “Good Old Days.” Maybe together we can give a few kids the sort of childhood I and my friends enjoyed.
Now that is something truly worth striving to achieve.
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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