Last year around this time, I was finishing up chemotherapy and trying to think of ways to explain to my children that soon, I’d be going to the hospital for surgery. Practically everyone I knew was going on some sort of lovely vacation. But we weren’t going anywhere, of course.
I tried not to feel sorry for myself. I am well aware that there are many, many people everywhere who cannot afford food or housing, let alone a vacation.
Last year, though, struggling through cancer made me feel so far away from my family and old friends. I adore my California friends, and ironically, their unyielding support and love made me realize just *how* far away I was from my East Coast folks, many of whom I have barely interacted with for 12 years.
There was a specific moment one day last spring, when I was in the midst of chemo treatments — I looked out of the window of my apartment, and I saw the fire raging in the San Gabriel mountains above our town, not so close that I feared that we’d have to run for our lives, but certainly close enough where I feared for my asthmatic daughter.
Watching those giant flames lick up over the ridge that separated the wilderness from civilization, I thought to my bald self: “I’m from Philadelphia. I’m done with this.” Luckily enough, it timed out so that my husband was also ready to return to our roots, and here we are today — living on the East Coast.
One of the benefits of living on the East Coast is that we are closer to Maine, where my grandfather owns a cottage about halfway between Ellsworth and Bar Harbor. I have been going there for nearly 40 years, since I was a very little girl. My heart and soul grew up there, I’m quite sure, on the rocky beach below my grandparents’ house, where I was allowed to play for hours and hours, collecting rocks and sea glass.
At night, my sister and our summer friends would play poker for toothpicks, and we’d do a bunch of nothing, just as children should do in the summer.
I yearned desperately for Maine when I was undergoing chemo.
After two weeks of crazed unpacking at our new home in Pennsylvania, we left to come up here to Maine for a dear friend’s wedding, and I have gotten to see my daughters romp on the beach as they collect treasures. They met a couple of friends this morning and did a bunch of nothing with them, just as children should do in the summer.
It’s so good to be here, hanging out with old friends and watching my girls send out flexible tentacles to the beach, the wildflowers, the lobster buoys, the old farmhouses, the glorious sunset.