LOBSTER, LOVE, AND LIFE LONG FRIENDS ON NANTUCKET
This week two of my dearest and oldest friends made the long and arduous trip from Los Angeles to Nantucket to visit me for a week. We formed an interesting trio. I have been retired now for more than a year. My friend Pam will retire in July, and she is nervous about it. Our friend Siri could be our daughter. In fact, she is exactly the age of my oldest daughter, but she is definitely an old soul, and she fits perfectly into this group of the three musketeers. We all met when we were at the same school in California, and we quickly formed a strong bond.
I had big plans for all that we would do together on the Island. I wanted to take my friends to every restaurant that I love; I wanted to show them every beach; I thought we would hike the trails on Coatue and have drinks at the Wauwinet. I had a long list made of everything interesting going on in Nantucket that week—concerts, lectures, movies, historic walks, museums, and other points of interest.
But it didn’t quite work out the way I had planned. Instead, we stayed in, talked late into the night, cooked and ate lobster, and cherished being together again. Fortunately, my friends were here for the very best three or four days on the Island this spring. The skies were blue, the sun was out, and Nantucket looked it sparkly best. Instead of an island marathon of sightseeing and eating out, it turned out that we were largely content to sit in the sun on the deck and catch-up with each other’s lives.
We walked for miles on the beach, and we talked and talked.
Pam and I talked a lot about retirement. I told Pam that my first year was tough but now, after almost two years of retirement, I am the very happiest that I have ever been in my whole life. We both discussed our concerns about money. I always assumed that I would die early like my mother who died before she turned fifty. Consequently, I spent way too much money beliving that life is short, so it is important to celebrate every minute of it rather than saving for a future that one might not have. Well, it turns out that in my case life is long. I now suspect that I will live to be at least 96, and I certainly did not plan financially for that. Pam is in the same place. We fanaticized about forming a sixties style commune—cottages for each member of the commune and a large central house for meals and entertaining—a community in which we all would laugh a lot, support each other, and find the perfect balance of privacy and community.
Siri is busy starting a school of her own in Washington, D.C. She has strong financial backing, an innovative and progressive curriculum, and an exciting future ahead of her. Needless to say, as we are all experienced educators, we had a lot to talk about. We worked collaboratively on her first open house speech. We discussed her approach to curriculum, and we applauded her bravery in taking on this challenging and potentially risky venture. We wrote a Facebook post, and, of course, we discussed the outfit she should wear for the open house.
Of course, this is not to say that we didn’t hit town a few times. In fact, when I start listing all the things we did, it is quite a list despite my assertion that all we did was stay at home and talk. Siri and Pam shopped! Siri bought clothes and little things. Her favorite purchase came from Bookworks where she bought inexpensive sparkly bracelets in a variety of bright colors. Pam bought beautiful sea blue dishes that will always connect her to this blue and beautiful island. We spent several hours at the Whaling Museum. As many times as I have been there, it never gets old. One of the highlights was the roof of the museum with its 360 view of downtown Nantucket. Inspired by the museum exhibits, we went home and watched in The Heart of the Sea that night.
While we cooked a lot at home, we also ate out few times. We had a wonderful leisurely lunch at the White Elephant looking out on Children’s Beach and the Harbor. A loaded Bloody Mary started our meal, followed by oysters on the half shell for me, fish and chips and clam chowder for Siri, and steamed Chatham mussels for Pam. Everything was amazing, and we lingered over lunch with good conversation on a perfect, sunny Nantucket afternoon.
One of our other two meals out was at Nautilus. I am sure that you have read the rave review of Nautilus by the new Nantucket Chronicle’s restaurant critic. It definitely lived up to expectations. We were greeted by the beautiful and vivacious Kaitlin who makes everyone who comes to Nautilus feel welcome. Along with yummy drinks and fine wine, we ordered a ton of small plates—and each one was fabulous. We had shishito peppers, two orders of the tempura East coast oyster tacos, caramelized globe artichokes, scallion pancakes, and crisp marinated calamari. We left feeling stuffed, but somehow we still managed to hit the Juice Bar. Since there was not a line—something that won’t happen again anytime soon—we waltzed right in. We each had a giant ice cream in a homemade cone. Just as my grandchildren do, we sat on the bench to eat it and to watch the Nantucket visitors and natives walk by.
Our other meal out was at American Seasons. In my opinion, American Seasons is the most creative restaurant on the Island. Impressively, it honored a very old and out of date gift certificate given to me by friends several years ago when American Seasons was under a different management. Again our meal was extraordinary. We shared three appetizers—the spelt garganelli with crispy sweetbreads, the roast sea scallops with cauliflower, and the confite trout filet with celery, grapes, horseradish, and walnuts. My friends, who are definitely wilder and crazier and most outgoing than I am, embarrassed our wonderful waiter by insisting that he should be an actor while he repeatedly assured them that an actor was the farthest thing from his talents or aspirations. I suspect he was happy when we finally left. We did, however, tip him well for putting up with us.
Otherwise we ate at home. We went to the Take It Or Leave It at the dump and found wonderful and beautiful books including a brand new copy of Vegetable Literacy—a well-known and exquisite cookbook. We read cookbooks, shopped, and cooked gourmet meals for each other. We cooked lobster purchased at the Fish Store at Bartlett's Farm and accompanied it with corn and tomatoes also purchased from the Farm. After shopping at Bartlett's Farm, we made our way out to Cisco Brewery where we sat in the sun, tasted wine, and listened to the band.
We lapsed into that wonderful and deep sense of friendship that time and distance can’t diminish. We talked about our families, our joys, our fears, our losses, our triumphs, and our failures. We cried and hugged and laughed. It was a magic week of love and lobster and friendship. We affirmed that our bond will stand the stresses of life, our separation from each other, and the different directions in which life will take us. We made a vow to get together at least twice a year no matter what is happening in our lives.
My friends will return in the fall, and we will pick up where we left off as though three or four months had not intervened. I am so grateful for the life-long friends that visit me here and for living on an Island that invites, seduces, and embraces every visitor. Once you have visited Nantucket, you have fallen under its spell, and you will return again and again.
Nantucket is truly a magic place.
This is Pat Jones' first year living full time on Nantucket. After decades of teaching English at the high school and college level, she is now embarking on a new and challenging odyssey. Both retirement and Island life are new and exciting and occasionally daunting. In this column she will share what it is like to live on Nantucket year round. As a poet, a writer, and a novice visual artist, her metaphor for the journey is “Throwing Paint.”