Martha’s Vineyard is only about two hours over land and sea from where I live, but it might as well be a world away for the detached state of mind you get when you’re there. Concepts of time and space are lost; the rest of the universe seems a blur from the coasts of this isolated island.
I suppose Martha’s Vineyard is different for others: for the families who come with their grandiose beach setups packed into shining SUVs where their sun block-lathered children whine in the back seat; for the day-trippers with their backpacks and bicycles, prepared to leave on the last Island Queen. These people, these tourists, are not the types who comprise my family. We are “Islanders,” or at least as close as we can get without being born there.
Grandma says she, Grandpa, Dad and Aunt Thornie have been going to Martha’s Vineyard since the 1950s, a much simpler time when kids could run around the beach and town without being covered in SPF 60 and their mothers could watch, or not watch, from a friendly group of beach chairs. Martha’s Vineyard was a different island then.
There was a sense of camaraderie and amusement that went farther than the reaches of cellular phone antennae and computer wires. The same families, mine included, returned every summer to the same houses, friends and beaches. Grandma, Dad and Aunt Thornie spent the entire summer on the island, with Grandpa coming on weekends. Dad and Thornie would spend their days swimming, tanning, and coin-diving with their friends, the self-proclaimed Pay Beach Gang. Nights were devoted to the front porch of Samoset, the home my family stayed in and now runs as a guest house, or to finding trouble to stir up around town. It is a picturesque time to me, the kind of summer I imagine seeing in old graying photographs, the kind of summer I wish I could have.
But those days are gone. Familiarity has fallen to tourism. Hordes of people now come to Martha’s Vineyard for hurried mini-vacations clouded by thoughts of the outside world. However, while on the island, everywhere else is nonexistent to my family. Apart from the constant arrival of tourists passing through Grandma’s guest house, I see the same people every summer; it is hard for me to liken these tanned and tired adults I know to the wild and free youth I so often hear about. Their stories are told on the old beaches, the ancient streets, and the front porch of Grandma’s house with sad laughter and eyes glazed with memory.
I feel sad for them, for Dad, his friends, Thornie and Grandma. They still go to the island because of the better times, but have to settle for the present. Time still passes and they are anachronisms searching for magic on an island that is now devoid of anything magical. It is a land where ghosts haunt them at every familiar turn into Ocean Park, down Sea View Avenue, or at the Lamppost. But they are content to live in their esoteric world of antiquity, sharing their wisdom with those who will listen; with those who care to travel the short two-hour trip over decades and decades to the far-off island of Martha’s Vineyard.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.