Remember that episode of Seinfeld when Kramer found the old wooden screen door and attached it to the outside of his apartment door? He took it several steps further and found a lawn chair, planted flowers in pots, and in one scene he is found sitting on his chair with an American Flag and a sparkler. He claimed that the sound of that wooden screen door hitting the door frame was the sound of “Anytown, USA” and he couldn’t get enough of it.
This last week we packed up my family for a week in Cape Cod. For anyone who hasn’t had the fortune to visit “The Cape”, and more specifically the Outer Cape, there are picturesque towns that seem to be somehow sheltered from modern times. I wouldn’t say they are frozen in a specific decade (although the drive-in movie theater we visited had been purposefully frozen in 1955 complete with a before-movie announcement assuring me that even if I had worn my “housedress” I would still be welcomed at the movies—but I digress). Rather, they seem to be non-affected by excessive commercialism, extreme technological gadgets and toys, and, most importantly, the increasing threats of violence on daily life. Life for the people living (and visiting) these small towns is simpler, easier, and (I believe) happier.
Our vacation to The Cape coincided with the Democratic National Convention and was the week following the Republican National Convention. While I am working very hard to limit my time reading, watching, and listening to political commentary, it is impossible (and ill-advised) to avoid it all. It is also impossible, thanks to social media, to escape reports of violence, vandalism, and vile acts occurring all over our country. Even my hometown has seen incidents of theft, vandalism, and injury to others increase exponentially. I have begun to feel a bit helpless and hopeless, especially as I wonder how I should raise my children in such a changing and scary world. Needless to say, our week respite to The Cape was well-timed and much needed.
We spent our vacation with my husband’s sister and her family. The combined six kids had a blast exploring the old farmhouse we rented. The house had a front porch complete with rocking chairs (the favorite spot of the adults), sloping, creaky floors, too many doors, hidden closets and staircases, and four (yes four!) wooden screen doors attached to the doors leading to the back yard and driveway. All week, as the kids ran in and out (and in and out again) of the house, those wooden doors smacked against the door frames with that glorious sound that Kramer couldn’t seem to get enough of. Every night we sat on the front porch, rocking in the chairs, chatting with the people who walked by, and listening to those screen doors thwacking. Every now and then one of us would tell one of the kids, rather halfheartedly, to stop slamming the door or to watch her fingers in those doors, but honestly I loved it.
We spent most of our days at a beach and every afternoon we returned to our old farmhouse, sunburned and sandy, and the kids delighted in the outdoor shower. After everyone was (mostly) rinsed of sand the adults would start dinner. The smell of charcoal would mix with the sounds of the kids laughing and squealing, the adults talking, and those screen doors cracking against the frames. Every night we squeezed the ten of us around the old dining room table in mix-matched chairs we pulled from other rooms. We talked about the fun of the day and we planned for the next day. We laughed, the older boys belched, and someone would spill something. It was perfect.
After dinner the kids would look for something to do. While our kids were not prevented from time on their “devices” they seemed to understand, without us specifically saying, that this was not the week for excessive screen time. Instead, on their own, the kids organized ball games, board games, and hide and seek. Even my teenage nephews played along delighting in the dozens of hiding spaces they could find in the old farmhouse. If anyone tried to sneak outside to find a spot they were instantly given away by that thump-thumping of the screen door.
One evening, while sitting on the front porch with my husband, I sighed and said simply, “I love it here”. Someone ran through one of the screen doors and I said, “Hey, remember that episode of Seinfeld…” and he cut me off and responded with, “Anytown, USA”, reading my mind as he often does. It was then that I realized that while I certainly loved the beauty of Cape Cod and while simply being on vacation was relieving my overall stress level, I was also feeling something else. I was feeling safe. Life was feeling simple and easy again.
All of this talk about leaving the United States, and making America great again, and last week I found a piece of America that IS great, that I wouldn’t want to leave. I had the opportunity to sit on that front porch, and listen to those screen doors slamming because I AM an American and I grew up with many opportunities that many women in this world are not afforded. My husband and I work hard, we have made both good and bad decisions, and all of that had led to that vacation. We found a way to give our family a break. We gave them a week to live simply and happily in a beautiful place. We could do that because we live in the United States and that beautiful place was the essence of what our country was meant to be.
Is our country in trouble, yes, I believe it is. Are there many, many people in this country that do not have the opportunities that I have? Of course and it’s tragic and I’m not sure who has the right solutions to the deep-rooted and systemic problems facing much of this county. But…for me…I was able to spend a week with my beautiful family remembering why I do work so hard. I was able to appreciate the beauty that is my life and my country. I was able to show my children that life without big commercial business and fancy digital advances can be great—maybe even better than the lives we live normally. I went to sleep every night with the windows wide open and little worry for the safety of my family. I found a little hope again for my future and for the future of my family.
And I picked up a book from the local realtor to see what houses may be for sale in the area. Maybe…some day.