The impromptu trip to Martha’s Vineyard was literally planned on the way from Boston Logan Airport the day we landed. The organizer in me would have probably benefited from some Yelp reviews and travel websites. Dangerously enough, spontaneity reigned and I along with others (all of Caribbean descent) descended upon this beautiful and quaint island. On the ferry ride over, a fellow traveler and his young daughter were chatting about the boats that sailed by. She asked 101 questions and he was ever patient to answer them all. His gift of this experience would undoubtedly be a memory she will one day cling to in the years to come.
I think of my own parents and the many summers spent at home going to summer school and reading my books. There were no summers in Cape Cod, no summers in an upstate New York art camp or whatever else privileged children were doing at the time. My summers were spent nose deep in books, imagining these very same rocky cliffs with waves that crashed the shores with very little mercy. Of lighthouses that pointed the way to safety. Of centuries old New England homes that truly stood the test of time. No amount of modernism will trump the beauty of those cottages. It was no longer imagination, I was finally here.
The inner geek in me couldn’t wait to take the two and a half hour tour and listen to the guide’s stories of Chappaquiddick. I saw the shores near where John John’s plane crashed back in ’99. Not too far from his mother’s home. I confess, my fascination with all things “Camelot” runs deep. I finally got the low down on who ‘Martha’ really was. How could a place that has no vineyards be named Martha’s Vineyard? The highlight of my time of course was scoping out Inkwell Beach. I was here wishing it was Harlem Renaissance all over again so that I too could run down to the beach with my inkwell and write to my heart’s content. Hey Countee! How’s it going Langston! Hey Zora girl! Didn’t I warn you already about this imagination of mine? Lol…
I scurried in and out of random shops searching for the perfect coffee table book. Yeah, I’m one of those you know who’s . . . I finally got my hands on Thomas Dresser’s “African Americans of Martha’s Vineyard: From Enslavement to Presidential Visit.” OMG! Pages of pictures and narratives of people that look like me who spent time here first as slaves then as servants now as vacationers. There’s a painting of Inkwell Beach I had to leave behind. It’s colorful and filled with brown skinned folks chilling on the beach enjoying all the rights and privileges of being part of this beautiful island’s history. Alas, I had to leave the painting behind. Something about minding my budget and remembering priorities. Le sigh…
I often think of the places I travel to that my mother had never heard of and my father may never see. Their gift to me may not have included summers away to Disney World and beyond. Yet it was the gift of books and the love of reading that has prepared my imagination to eventually become a reality. A shop owner casually asked a sistah if she was there for the day. I heard the pregnant pause before she said, “No, I’m actually here for the week.” I smiled on the inside. Yeah, you tell ’em girl! You’re not here for a quick one day trip like me! You are here for a W-E-E-K! It was as if WE not just HER were here for a week.
Dresser’s book opens with a simple reminder, “Bless all those hardworking, fun-loving souls who preceded us and thus made possible our days in the sun on Martha’s Vineyard.”
Yes, God bless all them good folks.