I learned how to row a boat on the river, stomp the clam holes to make them squirt as we walked across to the beach at low tide, and find the periwinkles and barnacles that grew all around the dock.
The Dunes will always remind me most of my grandfather, Jack McIsaac, who loved it so much that he spent every summer there from 1942 until his death in 1984. Whenever I think of him, I see him sitting out on the lawn at No. 2 in his navy blue shorts and canvas boat shoes, looking out over the water, cigar in hand, listening to the Red Sox game on a small transistor radio as his skin grew steadily darker. He kept a cot with a small green terrycloth pillow out there on the lawn, and he’d take naps there in the afternoons. I loved to sit there with him, even though we rarely spoke.
My grandfather loved to bring his whole family together at the Dunes, and as I was growing up, the highlight of my summers was the week my family would spend there, ideally accompanied by my cousins. Every day was full of fun: walking or rowing to the beach and playing in the warm pools left by the receding tide, playing croquet and shuffleboard, buying sodas from the Coke machine at the garage. On rainy days we’d stay inside my grandparent’s cottage and play endless games of Go Fish or Gin Rummy. I learned how to row a boat on the river, stomp the clam holes to make them squirt as we walked across to the beach at low tide, and find the periwinkles and barnacles that grew all around the dock.
The family – grandparents, parents and as many as nine grandchildren – would gather for dinners on the porch in the evenings: lobsters for the grownups (we kids were given the claws to suck on), hot dogs and hamburgers for the kids, corn on the cob, rolls and my grandmother’s famous blueberry pie, made with fresh Maine blueberries picked by my grandfather in the morning. After dinner, sitting in the cozy living room, we grandchildren would take turns scratching my grandfather’s head to earn a nickel or (as time passed) a quarter.
My grandparents are long gone, but as I discovered when I visited the Dunes with my husband and daughter last year, the simple pleasures it has offered my family for so many decades -- the river and ocean, tidy, cozy cottages and air scented by the ocean mingling with pines – are still alive and well.
- Lee McIsaac