Have you ever had an overwhelming urge or feeling to do something or to go somewhere but you really don’t know why? That was the Nantucket summer of ’98 for me. I had really only been there one other time several years earlier which involved a day trip from the Cape, but I knew how special it was right away. I loved how it felt like home, yet felt like it was so far from it all at the same time.
Law school was an epic fail for me, the whole experience. My right-brained approach simply would not fit into a logical left-brained law school. One night as I was avoiding studying, I was talking to a friend from Ohio State who had spent every summer working on Nantucket. A little seed was planted. It wasn’t too far into the academic year that I knew I would finish the year, but not complete law school. I set out to do something radically different. What that was, I did not yet know, but at the start of second semester, January or so—I decided I was going to spend the summer in Nantucket.
I ran an ad. in the local Inquirer and Mirror (The Inky as Islanders call it) offering my services as a nanny in exchange for housing. (the tricky part about working in Nantucket for a summer, is finding affordable housing) I had many responses, actually, and quickly aligned with a family; a woman recently divorced who was going to be relocating to the Island with her two children in pursuit of her dream, opening a B&B. We talked frequently by phone, getting to know the children in advance and they agreed I could work in a restaurant most evenings when not watching the kids. I was set, law school was essentially in my rear view mirror. Or so I thought. Right after my last exam, I got a call—they weren’t coming to Nantucket after all. Her father had been diagnosed with Alhzeimers and they were aborting their plans to come to Nantucket. I was crushed.
That was bummer news, but I was determined. I scoured ads in the Inky, found one that provided lodging for employees at a fine dining establishment, Toppers at The Wauinet. I told a little white lie that I had fine dining experience. I figured I was a quick learner, though truth be known, I was a terrible (in fact, I don’t think I’ve been so bad at anything in my life) server. I didn’t care, it was a means to an end. I set out with my mother along for the one-way ride (she flew home) in my black old VW Jetta filled with garbage bags of clothes, a lacrosse stick, which was not used once that summer, and other random items.
We got to the Cape and miraculously got the car onto the ferry without a reservation. Off we went 30 miles out to sea in pursuit of my dream, a Nantucket Summer. We arrived on island and set out for the Wauwinet employee housing, pulled down one of Nantucket’s bumpiest and sandiest streets pitted out with huge holes that the Jetta never really recovered from. My Mom hesitantly left me in a house full of Chefs, who strangely looked at the girl from Ohio carrying in way too many garbage bags of clothes into the very “rustic” (a kind word)communal beach cottage, actually more like a shack. Suffice it to say that my tenure at the Wauwinet was short. One night I drove home and realized I had been dragging the a carcus of a flounder home with me attached to my bumper. I think those Chefs really hated me. To this day, that was one of the many many unexplained stories from that summer.
I recruited my brother who had just finished his first year of college to come to live on Island where we shared a room, a car (that barely ran by the time we got it off island), too many laughs, lobster rolls and beers to count and way too many discriminating shenanigans to list here. He worked for the Hyline and sailed back and forth and back and forth many times a day getting people to the Island from the Cape, wearing polyester pants that chaffed and eating the free popsicles and hotdogs on board. He saved tons of money that summer and I spent every dollar I earned. Like me, he got the Island under his fair freckled skin. We met an absolute cast of characters that summer, many of whom still remain.
And so it began, the love affair of a beautiful and quirky island. The summer of crazy adventures and interesting people and an Island I will never get out from under (way under) my skin or out of my heart. I met some of the loves of my life (including people, beaches and experiences) on that trip. Including my husband, though we really only walked past each other on Main Street, as I glanced at him (he is 6 ft. 4 and thus, memorable!) and a familiar looking group (they also went to OSU) of people pushing bikes up the cobbled roads on a weekend visit. It turns out I would run into this exact same group in Chicago about a year later, and a couple years after that we were to be married on Nantucket. I knew I was meant to go there.
I met “my bookend” or partner in crime as we were called, who was also involved with me in a fair amount of island funny business, (I figure in about 10 more years, the statute of limitations may be up on most of them, and I’ll share some anecdotes that will make you laugh so hard you may wet yourself) as we went out every night spending our modest earnings from the store we worked for in town, oh yeah, we were also called the Rosa Girls. We are still in touch and still share an insatiable love for this island. This is us actually only a few days ago in Nantucket and we make a point to reunite there every summer.
And there you have it, for me, summer will always equal Nantucket–no matter how far I am from it. It Is a special place, and has taught me so much more during that crazy summer and the trips back since then than I ever could have learned in law school. I learned to listen to my gut, to be authentic, to appreciate simplicity, to be vulnerable and so much more. Here’s to responding to those big internal calls, to opening your heart and letting things under your skin.
I will always love you Nantucket.