20 Sep 2011

Nantucket kids

Nantucket kids

Peter Pan says if growing up means it would be beneath his dignity to climb a tree, then he refuses to ever grow up. One of the most amazing things about Nantucket is it brings out the child in all of us. I had the opportunity last week to experience Nantucket through the eyes of our soon to be 4-year old granddaughter, Madison Tobie. It was a week of firsts for her. She had never been on a 6-hour flight, never been on a ferryboat and never seen the ocean. She landed in Nantucket wide-eyed and full of questions. Where’s the beach? Why do you have so many rocks on your road? When will we see a whale? Her dad reported that she’d been duly impressed with her first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean as the ferry pulled away from Hyannis. She’s believed since she was tiny that “Grammie and Papa” somehow live IN the sea and had much anticipated her first visit to what she calls “Papa’s Ocean.”

Every place and experience we introduced “Tobie” to raised her curiosity. Narrow winding streets lined with one charming gray house after the next. (“Is gray Nantucket’s favorite color?” Tobie inquired.) Miles of sandy shoreline perfect for long walks or sandcastle creation (“Can I bring this castle home with me?” she asked). Secret sand roads meandering through unspoiled moors. (“Grammie,” Tobie wondered, “are you the only one who knows about the secret road?”) Some days, especially in the shoulder season, it feels like it. Nantucket is full of secret places I assured her.

There are bigger questions to consider. As the thick fog rolls across our back lawn, Tobie wants to know if we can eat it (an Arizona girl has only seen white fluffy matter dressed up like ice cream or cotton candy). As she spots her first seal off Cisco beach she wonders who feeds them and where they sleep at night. Speaking of seals, “why does the Nantucket “zoo” have seals, fish and seagulls but no penguins?” she asks. “Penguins would love Nantucket,” she concludes. I suspect she’s right.

Our days with Tobie re-opened my eyes to the many intricate and unique features of this little island. I realized how many things I take for granted each day. I’ve developed a new discipline of taking note of my surroundings and pondering what Tobie would have to say about them. This beautiful island is inspiring and sometimes you have to view it through the eyes of a 4 year old to renew your sense of awe. Like most of us who visit Nantucket for the first time, Tobie has been romanced and hoped to take a little piece of it home with her. As her daddy was packing for their departure he noticed her little purse was heavier than when they arrived. She’d snuck a few handfuls of the Nantucket beach and a dozen seashells into her bag. The island had stolen her heart.

It’s been said that Nantucket is a playground for grown-ups, but the island is also filled with Nantucket kids. The next time you find yourself wandering the streets or strolling the beaches of Nantucket, tap into your inner child. Build a sand-castle, order an ice cream cone (or 2!) or ride a bike. Take note of the many ornate details gracing the island and ask some innocent questions. Renew your sense of awe, let the island romance you and don’t be afraid to sneak a few shells in your bag as you depart.

Never grow up!

Shellie Dunlap

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