Every year my family and I head to Cape Cod for a week of R&R together. And every year, we drive the same roads, take the same s-curve turn in the town center, pass the same grocery store and carry on with the same routine that we’ve had for over 15 years. And we like it. Why? Because we don’t like change. To say that we are creatures of habit would be an understatement.
And then this year everything was different.
(Some stuff was good different though. I got to shoot my first Cape Cod wedding on Saturday! LOVE ME SOME CAPE COD WEDDING DELICIOUSNESS.)
But everything else was just … different. It started early when we headed to the house we were renting – the first house we’ve been in other than the house we had rented every year for the past 15 years+. My dad had already declared he wasn’t happy and I thought he was being a tad critical. I convinced myself it was going to be the same. And then I looked around and took it all in. And NONE of it was familiar. I looked around expecting to the see the things that comforted me; the teapot on the stove that my nana bought years ago because the house didn’t have a good enough one; the floating flower candles that had been at the house for YEARS, the old alarm clock that sits in mine and Jeremy’s room (which used to be my nana’s room) … everything. It all felt weird. And that’s when the tears started. I just couldn’t take that there was no familiarness and although I miss my nana the most when in Cape Cod, it was horrible to look around and see nothing that reminded me of her.
We all were feeling it. To add insult to injury, because of work, Jeremy wasn’t able to come. It hadn’t been the four of us EVER. My nana had always been there and then Jeremy joined in when we started dating. We did the only thing we know to do when we arrive in Cape Cod; we headed downtown to visit our favorite stores. It’s been a tradition for years to visit our favorite shop and shop owner immediately upon arriving in Cape Cod. Auntie Janet, from Cape Cod Collectibles, has been a fixture in our trip for over ten years. My sister and I have this unofficial pack that we have to wait for each other to visit her … and we creep up the stairs and peer in the sliders of her store every year and hope that she’s there when we show up. She’s just THAT person to us – the one we look forward to seeing every year. She squeals when she sees us, hugs and kisses us, takes photos with us and is this strangely important person to our family. We debated inviting her to our wedding! It’s funny as I type this because I can’t help but think that some of you reading this may think I am crazy – I mean, I’m talking about this shop owner like she’s family or something. I can’t explain it. She became a piece of our family and our story and a person we all considered to be incredibly special.
We knew she’d been sick. My parents had visited the Cape over the winter and spring and as they peered in the store windows, they realized with a heavy heart that nothing had changed. She wasn’t opening and that obviously wasn’t a good sign. My mom had tried to reach out to her but hadn’t had any return contact. It wasn’t a shock to assume that we’d find the store unopened when we walked down this past week. But we hadn’t prepared for it to be emptied out either. My sister and I stood peering in the window, dumbfounded to see the empty store with it’s signs down and we cried. My mom did the only thing she knew to do – she headed to the store next door to try and find out what was going on. She came back with bad news; things were really bad and Janet didn’t want visitors. I don’t know what my mom and sister were thinking but in my head, I was already drafting the letter I planned to send her, begging her to let us visit, to see her, to just spend some time with her. And in my head, she’d agree and we’d be able to tell her every.single.thing. we thought about her and what she meant to us.
Two days later we all stood in the kitchen and my dad awkwardly pushed something in front of my mother. I don’t know if he thought we’d see it or if he just didn’t know how else to do it but the paper appeared and my eyes went right to it. Her obituary. It took me a few seconds to really connect all the dots. I mean, I saw it, I saw her name – but I needed those extra few seconds to really accept it. I don’t exactly remember how the next few minutes went but I know we all took off crying in different directions. And then I saw the date; she had died the day we arrived in the Cape. We had stood in the window of her store, crying, worrying how we’d convince her to let us visit and she had already been gone. That for me has been the hardest thing to accept. I just can’t believe she was already gone when we stood there at her store.
What I do know is that she KNEW SHE WAS LOVED. Everyone just adored her and the town loved her store and the happiness that she brought to people every year. And I know that she knew WE ADORED HER. We’d talked, hugged and cried when she first told us she was sick and when she got her wig, we assured her that it was GORG. (She seriously was one of the cheeriest, prettiest people EVER, especially in her wig.) It’s nice to have that comfort of knowing we always let her know we cherished our time with her each summer.
And so this past Wednesday, we headed to the town’s music stroll and walked by her shop … and my mom and I cried a little more. I snagged this iphone photo of her shop, still with one final sign up. I’m guessing it won’t be here when we come back next summer but that’s ok. Change is ok, it just takes me awhile to accept it. And as I mentioned to my dad, one day, he’ll have to deal with change, too. He’ll be dealing with the change that he won’t be golfing every day. And you know why? Because he’ll be joining all the other grampas down at the beach who are babysitting their grand babies. And when that day happens, he’ll walk them by Janet’s old shop and tell them about what the Cape was like before they were born. I just hope Auntie Janet sends someone special for my kiddos to adore because EVERYONE deserves a Janet in their lives.