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Family Week

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It was called “Family Week” and it started when I was six years old. We went to a place called Provincetown. I would call it P-town because I wanted to be just like my mom, and that’s what she called it. We went to a beach which was crowded with people and colorful umbrellas, but there was a disappointing lack of children. People lay sleeping on towels, or sat reading in their chairs. It was a beautiful day, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sapphire sky. The sun was warm on my back, and the waves whooshed constantly in and out. Silhouettes of massive fishing boats could be seen on the horizon. That day on the expanse of sand and sea called Herring Cove changed my life and defined my childhood.

My mothers were in the dry sand at the top of the beach, talking to other parents. I had wandered down to the wet sand near the ocean. I walked up to two children digging a massive hole in the sand, a boy and a girl my age, and started a conversation as if I had known them forever. As we were talking about important things to a child, such as sand toys and pets, the subject of mommies and daddies came up. To my surprise and utter joy they both had two moms just like I did and we were all only children. I ran to my mothers to tell them the great news and they laughed to themselves at my childish wonder. Little did I know that this place was where children with gay and lesbian parents could connect and see that they were not alone. That was the reason that we were here.

We met up with the other families in town that night at the pier. There were booths selling Chinese food, Mexican food, seafood and desserts and the medley of aromas filled the air making my mouth water. The people there were almost as diverse pier’s food selection. After devouring our burritos and lo-mien, we decided to stroll through the main street that was lined on both sides with shops. My new friends, Jenna and Silas, and I bought little touristy trinkets which we thought were treasures and chatted animatedly as we walked. Behind us were our parents, learning more about each other and laughing at things that would have gone right over our six year old heads. After a wonderful evening, we sadly parted ways as the street lights flickered on and the full moon crept into the sky. Our parents assured my new friends and me that we would meet again before the week was through.

The next day we met at the beach to play together until the colorful lights of the sunset washed over the landscape. Each morning I would arrive an hour early at the beach, excited to see my new friends. I would chatter impatiently to my mothers until I saw the forms of Jenna and Silas running over the grassy dunes. We’d jump into the water with our boogie boards, laughing as we swam around. The only thing that disappointed me was that the waves were calmer in Provincetown than the beaches near my home in Rhode Island. We were creatures of the water, splashing all day and coming exhausted, covered in sand. The week passed much like this, carefree beach days and nights in town, watching my mothers forge friendships with the other women on the beach, and making friendships of my own. At the end of our vacation week, we said our goodbyes, some tears were shed, and we said we would be together again the following summer.

The year flew by, a rush of growing and learning more than I thought possible. As summer approached and so did our trip to Provincetown my parents built up the hype and even though I barely remembered the seaside town with many shops and miles of beautiful beaches, I was genuinely excited. As it happened, Jenna and Silas were there again. I laughed when they convinced me that they were brother and sister, a trick they loved to play on their comrades. Jenna had dark, short hair, warm, sparkling brown eyes and skin the color of cappuccino. She was kind and gentle, and one of the most loving people I have ever met. Silas had lighter skin, and a mischievous light in his eyes. Even then I could tell that he would be trouble one day. That week passed much like the one before, and just as we children grew close on the beach so did the mothers. Six mothers, three children and one week of bliss.

Traditions started that would continue for years. One was collecting colorful rocks from the shoreline. There were orange textured ones, and deep purple smooth ones, both big and small. We would bring them to different people on the beach, tanning or reading, and give them away. Another was an activity we dubbed “dune surfing” where we would make paths in the sloping dunes and ride our boogie boards down, smiles sliding over our faces as we screamed like we were on a roller coaster. Maybe in our minds we were.

When we got older we became closer. We also became more daring. Testing our limits and our parents patience we would swim out further than we were supposed to with a bright yellow boogie board in tow and plenty of gusto. We made up codes in the deeper water to sound like we knew what we were talking about. Code brown was for any animals around us, code blue meant it was time to check the depth of the water, and code yellow meant the drift was extremely strong and we needed to move over. Once we were exhausted from treading water and swimming around like we owned the whole ocean we would go up to the dunes. We would run to avoid the burning hot sand, lay out our colorful towels and share secrets. Many “Family Weeks” passed just like this. Eventually we were able to walk into town together and have sleepovers. We grew into individuals together.

At the end of each year we began to have what we called the closing ceremony. This final ceremony consisted of the what we called the rocks, the last dip, and the poems. First we would find a rock of any shape, color, or size, that reminded us of one other and give them to each other. These rocks served to remind us that we would return to the beach the next year and that things wouldn’t change, we would always be friends. Then we would take one last run into the ocean, screaming in the frigid water and laughing as we splashed all around, the sun making rainbows in the salty ocean spray. Finally Jenna and I would read poems that we’d written about the week and the mothers would cry, not sad tears, but tears of joy at the magic of children and friendship.

Now at sixteen, I see the young children on the beach I can only hope that they will have the same experience I had. They are innocent blank slates, screaming like seagulls and making piles of sand they call castles, and I see a spark of myself in every one of them. They don’t know why their families are different. All they know is how to be children.

This town has done a lot for me. I have lifelong friends, a place I feel accepted, and a place that has taught me the importance of accepting others. Each year leaving P-town is hard, but I also know that I will be back in due time and that this town will never change. I love this place more than anywhere else in the world.





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