My husband and I sat on the coach, sans laptops, iPhones and television last night; a rarity these days. We run multiple businesses, parent a 4 year old, manage employees, our home, our lives. Most nights, we lazily order takeout or throw together a quick dinner and, after our son's in bed, unwind with bad reality TV we both would pretend we were above watching, should our friends ask.
But last night, we laid our heads back on our couch and shared a bottle of wine and my husband initiated my favorite game we ever play: Getting to know each other better. It's a seemingly impossible task, because Shaun and I have been best friends for far longer than we've been married. We met in 2006, right before I graduated college, on a road trip to Nashville- the place we've called home since the year after, and we've seen each other through relationships, jobs, poverty, success, happiness, depression, anxiety, sickness, babies...everything. We often know one another better than we know ourselves in certain moments.
We talked about my mom's side of the family- many of whom Shaun, for whatever reason- hasn't met or spent much time with yet, and what their lives were like growing up with my grandma and grandpa. And then Shaun asked me: "When we're 80...and we're on the deck of our house on Cape Cod overlooking the ocean...what do you want our lives to have looked like? What do you hope we did, or didn't do?" And I gave him a very long answer, that I couldn't help but become emotional over. I couldn't recreate it exactly now, but I said something along the lines of:
My hope is, when we're 80 and we're sitting in rocking chairs overlooking the water, watching our children and their children come up from a boat ride on the bay, that our skin has been wrinkled by decades of summers in the sun. That we have scars from where we cut our fingers clamming in the low tides of the bay. My hope is that our children have learned how to live and that we have shown them the world- even when we're somewhere familiar; that we've shown them the diverse ways people live and work and spend their time, and all the incredible things you can explore if you keep a truly open mind. My hope is that in winters, we never hesitated to hibernate under the covers with our children's cold feet under our own. My hope is that summers are spent riding bikes, and exploring in the woods, and swimming in oceans and that summer nights are spent around a dinner table with family and friends. My hope is when we're gone, our children knew that we lived. We did more than "survived". We knew what was important and we lived like we did. We spent time with each other and taking care of what and who we loved. That we put emphasis on the things that counted.
And today, we got one step closer to that little big dream of a life well lived: We found out we're clear to close on our first house on Cape Cod. As a native Cape Codder, living in Southern, landlocked Nashville, Tennessee for the past 11 years, this has been something I never would have believed would be possible. I assumed I would maybe retire to Cape Cod, but this past summer reignited my love for it. Beyond the beaches and sea grass and smell of salty air, my family is on Cape Cod. I feel more myself there than I do anywhere else.
I grew up on a stretch of water called Shoestring Bay. When my parents bought the little wooded lot for $80,000, I was 10 years old and we toasted with champagne by the little wooden shack that stood on the spot our house would be built. Our streets were a mishmosh of small sea shanty-style Cape Cod houses and up-and-coming luxury houses. Ours would end up being something in between. In my angsty teenage years, I would, in my faux rebellion, indignantly stomp out of my house and walk through the woods to a clearing which, in my opinion, had the best view of the bay. I would sit there and cry over whatever boy had most recently broken my heart, literally talking to myself about my dreams (I've always processed things much better through talking, even if to myself. Ask my husband. I hardly ever stop.), wondering what my life might look like, dreaming of building a home on that very spot- my secret spot- that would overlook my bay from the high, piney hill I had claimed as my own.
Years later, Willowbend Golf Course turned "my" spot into theirs- a new hole on their course. I told Shaun this story the day before Christmas eve in 2015, as we navigated the woods to find my secret place- the place I'd never before shared with anyone (except Willowbend golfers, that is). It was there Shaun found a still-untouched spot of pine needles, away from the fabricated green of the course and asked me to be his wife. It was more perfect than I can describe.
And so, when we started entertaining the idea of a home on Cape Cod- a place we could call our own, but also share with travelers as a vacation rental- we expected very little. Our budget was not much of anything by Cape Cod standards. Certainly not enough to find a home on my- now OUR- bay. But when we saw Our Cape Escape, we felt it. A storybook cottage, just like one I might have drawn while dreaming as a little girl, on a lot surrounded by trees- it seemed to have jumped from the pages of my little girl diaries it was so exactly what I'd expected. But...it wasn't on my bay. The bay wasn't far- I could smell it from the front yard. But I couldn't see it. It wasn't next door to my parents.
We had a week on Cape Cod, and tried to vanquish the idea of The Cape Escape from our minds...we weren't necessarily looking for something immediately- we wanted to make decisions in months, not moments. But we returned to the cottage 3 or 4 times, each time discovering something new. First, we met the wonderful neighbors. Welcoming, lovely-- people I wanted my children to grow up around. In our second trip and conversation with the neighbor, we lamented over the inability to reach the bay from the neighborhood. "Oh no," he said. "You can reach the bay. It's right down that path."
As he pointed, it seemed the path showed itself for the first time. We walked, each step more exciting and exhilarating than the last, each step more beautiful as the pines closed in on us and towered over us, creating a beautiful canopy that seemed to want to protect us. And just moments later, we were there- standing on marsh land, overlooking our bay. Around the bend, we knew, was my parents' home, and my childhood home. We'd found it and I don't remember, but I think I cried.
Our next trip, we wondered how long it might take to skip the roads and walk from my parents door, as if going to my secret spot, through the golf course, to Our Cape Escape. 17 minutes. And I'm not fast. With the halfway point being the very spot I sought refuge in as a girl, and was proposed to as a woman. We made our offer that day.
So, we're 16 days away from officially owning our little dream. With that inherently comes a fair amount of stress. This home is not just a place for us, but a place we want to share with travelers, so we want it to be perfect. We officially ordered our first purchase for the house- the down blend pullout queen sofa, and are slowly designing the rest of the house to be an amazing escape. We'll spend late February into mid March painting and making everything perfect, and then we'll be ready for guests.
We plan to comfortably sleep 10 throughout 3 bedrooms with 2.5 bathrooms. If you or someone you know if traveling to Cape Cod, we hope you'll share our listing with them! I'll leave you with some of the lyrics to the song Shaun and I wrote the night we got engaged. I'm so glad it ended up honoring the place we'll call "Home Away from Home":
Where the pines meet the sea,
in the echo of what used to be
On a cliff, on a hill
lies the start of you and me.
I never could have known in how many ways those words would ring true, but I'm so, so glad they do.