Black dogs and Roses

Dear Nantucket,

It wasn’t intentional – honest. I’ve loved the very idea of you for almost as long as I can remember. I’m sorry that it took me 60 years to visit.

You see, my nana had friends who vacationed and sent her postcards. That’s what they did back then: They sent each other postcards. There were notes from Bermuda and Myrtle Beach. There were color photos with scrawled handwriting on the back from England and Florida…. Vermont and Maine. But my most favorite were the postcards from Nantucket. They showed quaint little seaside cottages with weathered shingles obscured by climbing roses – Red ones, pink ones – beautiful roses. I could almost smell their gentle scent as it mingled with the salty air.

I suppose it reminded her of the English gardens she knew in her younger days. Nana gave the postcards to me, somehow knowing that I’d treasure them. After studying the picture, I loved to read the note on the reverse side. It always began, “Dear Florrie.” The signatures might be Agnes, Lydia or Bertha. I had a black scrapbook – The old fashioned kind with heavy, yellowed pages. I’d carefully affix each postcard using little black corners that were held in place with glue.

Someday, I would visit Nantucket and see the cottages, with their beautiful gardens and climbing rose bushes. Someday.

Life got in the way, as often happens. I went away to college and eventually married and left home. The scrapbook was long forgotten and most likely packed away in the basement and eventually tossed out during one of my dad’s cleaning frenzies. 

In my late twenties, I visited Martha’s Vineyard for the first time. It was nice and the gingerbread cottages were adorable. But it wasn’t Nantucket. I remember thinking that Nantucket would be next. It was no big deal, really, to hop on a ferry and cross the little bit of ocean that separates us from them. Now I knew how.

In my thirties, I visited Block Island for the very first time. By then, I had developed a good case of motion sickness. I vowed that I would never return home unless they sold Dramamine on the island. (Luckily, they did.) While the island was lovely and fun, it still wasn’t Nantucket. 


In my forties, the daughter of a friend was going to Nantucket for the first time. I told her about my lost postcard collection and my desire to visit. She brought back a postcard for me – One with a little grey shingled cottage covered in roses. Someday…

In my fifties, I returned to Block Island. It became an annual day trip. Last year, I went to ‘the Block’ three times. Then, I returned to Martha’s Vineyard for a couple of days, where a friend was house-sitting. It was great! But it still wasn’t Nantucket.

A few years ago, I discovered an author named Elin Hilderbrand. She writes love stories that take place on Nantucket, where she is a full time resident. Her books are perfect summer reading. Through her writing, I became familiar with the villages and neighborhoods of the island, as well as the beaches and lighthouses. My desire to experience them for myself grew as I devoured each novel.

When I turned sixty, I made a list of things I planned to accomplish. Visiting Nantucket was on it. 

Monday night, I went for my usual two-mile walk, dragging along a reluctant nine-year-old. “What should we do tomorrow?” I asked Spencer. “Nana has the whole day free, so we could drive somewhere that might usually be too far for a day trip.” He had a couple of ideas, but nothing that we could get excited about. “How about Martha’s Vineyard?” He asked. 

Last summer, I’d bought him a yellow tee shirt from the Black Dog tavern store there. He loved it, especially since I had bought myself an orange one and we sometimes wore them together. Then, he scratched at a bug bite on his back and it bled, staining the shirt. “Nana travelled so far to get that shirt,” he cried to his mother. “She had to take a boat!” Now, he was clearly on a mission to get a new one: Preferably in green, his favorite color.

“How about Nantucket?” I asked. He shrugged. I was hopeful. Indifferent was better than opposed. “Maybe we can go to the Vineyard another time,” I offered. 

When we got home, I looked at the ferry schedules. If we got up at 5:00am, we could take an early, high speed ferry out of Hyannis. This apparently qualified it as an official adventure and Spencer was all in. I booked our round trip ferry rides before he could change his mind. I discovered that the cruise company also offers a one-hour bus tour of the island, so I booked that, too!

We arrived at the docks in time to check in and grab a quick breakfast before boarding. The 60 minute boat ride was pleasant and my Dramamine did the trick. We were thrilled to see that the boat deposits you right smack in the center of town, with enough stores, shops and restaurants to keep us busy all day. We wouldn’t even have to walk far.

Off the ferry and onto the cobblestone road, we took it in. About the second or third shop was a Black Dog store! Score one for the boy!

The bus tour was great, passing through the village of ‘Sconset with the weathered shingled cottages. The roses were fading but still blooming, climbing trellises that went up the sides of the homes and extended onto the roofs. It was just beautiful. But it was very warm and pretty boring for Spencer. He was a trooper and didn’t complain (much). Turned out to be worth his while, since Nana showed her appreciation by purchasing a green Black Dog tee shirt and a Black Dog cap. And a stuffed black dog. 

On the ferry ride home, I asked him what he thought of Nantucket. “I think it should be a regular trip, every summer!” he said

That sounds good, to me.

11 thoughts on “Black dogs and Roses

  1. Loved this! Tried to leave a comment, but computer said “page could not be displayed.

    I’m trying to do some of those “somedays” too. Not always successful in the execution of them, but I intend to keep on trying.


    Liked by 1 person

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