My Cape Cod Story

“If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air . . . ’’

My Cape Cod Story Vintage PhotoBy six years old I was a goner. I was head over heels in love with Cape Cod, and my love affair has never gone away. Back when I was a fresh-faced little kid, the trek to the Cape from New Jersey took a whole lot longer than it does today. In the wee hours of the morning, my father would stealthily carry me and my brother’s (nearly) sleeping forms into our spiffy green station wagon. As we edged into the early morning darkness, my dad naively hoped we’d sleep until the sun came up over the Sagamore Bridge. No such luck. Before we ever hit Boston, he’d hear a chorus of “are we there yet’s” and “I’m hungry’s.” My mother doled out the snacks to hold us over, but there was no way to hold back our excitement. My parents were doomed.

Utopia was a small group of weathered shingle cottages, complete with shuffleboard and concrete pool, nestled in a copse of towering pines. There was no air conditioning, but we slept like hibernating bear cubs in open window bedrooms, cooled by scented nights. I can still picture the Nancy Drew mysteries and games of Old Maid on the beach, and the iconic footprints carved in the Barefoot Trader’s cement walkway. My mouth still waters for the signature popovers served piping hot at the old Chase House. Friday nights, it was tradition to wander the main street of Hyannis past an endless booty of gift and candy shops. Not one to ever bask in the sun now, my lightly sunburned, sandy childhood skin is imprinted in my memory. Decked out in a gaudily printed swim tube and bathing cap (yes, I did), I paddled contently in the Cape’s salty Atlantic waters; the same waters that churned up reams of multi-hued taffy. To this day, I can still see my father’s surprised face as he tasted his first (and last) spoonful of Indian pudding. Far from the creamy concoction he envisioned, the sturdy cornmeal dessert was an epic fail. Luckily, my brother and I opted for ice cream.

Mari with Pail on Cape Cod BeachMy Cape Cod story only becomes richer and more colorful with time. There was and still is something immensely magical about the dollhouse-like homes draped with rambling roses, framed with picket fences. From luscious homemade ice cream to my first taste of lobster, the elegance of Chatham to the coastal magic of Provincetown, I couldn’t get enough. I still can’t.

Through the years, my tastes changed as my household did. From being one of four to having three of my own little Cape Cod visitors, the island has always meant ‘family’ to me. It just changed hands. From the kid who ran barefoot through pine needles with an ice pop, I was suddenly the grownup riding herd on beach passes, wet towels, and pails of hermit crabs. Yuck. I kept blankets stacked and ready for Wellfleet drive-in nights, shovels for sandcastles and change for games of mini-golf. But few things still can compare to the prehistoric awe of watching an enormous whale breech deep waters or seeing your kids scale the sand dunes of Provincetown like clones of Lawrence of Arabia.

That’s when it happened. My adult eyes had begun to appreciate the real beauty of the place, the reason it has always been an addiction for me. I saw beyond the trinkets to the periwinkle blue hydrangeas that somehow never grew in MY yard that way. I stood in awe at the stark calm of beaches that stretched wide with mudflats where the tides went out as far as the eye could see. The take-your-breath-away wonder of this seaside oasis had settled in for good, and the now matured-me felt like I was truly home. As years went by, the spirit of this graphic designer/writer became intoxicated by the creativity that drenched every part of the island. It seemed every pinecone, foaming wave, cranberry field and bobbing sailboat come vibrantly alive. My transformed self was slowly drawn to a different Cape, an authentic, priceless one. Away from the oceanside tee-shirt shops and clam shacks to the tree lined 6A, where Brewster and Barnstable live in quiet beauty. Who knew that sea captains’ houses, lolling fishing boats, and lush, charming roads would later be my jam?

I haven’t seen ‘my’ Cape in awhile now. My husband and ad agency partner died a year ago, and I haven’t yet scaled the emotional bridge to return where two made memories only one will now. But, make no mistake, this boomer beach girl will return very soon. No one loves a succulent lobster roll more than a Cape Cod-addicted wash ashore.

My story isn’t finished.


Author Profile

Mari Small Profile IllustrationAfter Norman Rockwell answered a note from then 13-year old Mari Small, the plan to become a creative was a done deal. And she’s lived that dream for more than 25 years through both words — AND pictures. Training wheels as a children’s book illustrator helped accelerate her graphic design and copy/content skills and finely hone them at several ad agencies. Yearning for her own creative roots, Mari formed Small Talk Creative Communications where results-oriented content and dynamic marketing communications are business as usual. Strategic thinking, kickass content and arresting design is crafted into every newsletter, web content, brand story, feature/travel article, brochure, direct mail and email marketing campaign. Along the way, Mari has garnered an extensive client list, awards for her creativity and frequent jaunts to her first love – Cape Cod. Read More