The summer house was nothing special. A small white building with no basement and a front porch squeezed between a larger red building and another white cottage on a short strip of road with sketchy grass and tufts of sand and dirt. The driveway was a worn out area with some embedded tire prints and no garage where we sometimes played as children.
Inside was a big room which contained the living area, kitchen table and kitchen all in an open space with some worn furniture, a ship to shore radio, and large grate in the floor covering a hot air furnace through which you could see “fire” if it was turned on.
In the back were two small bedrooms separated by a short hallway and a small bathroom and that was all there was to it, save for a miniature shed outside barely large enough for one of those funky push lawnmowers with offset wheels and a small charcoal grill.
However looking out the front windows you could see the fog lift off the bay (usually) every morning and the scent of heavy salt air was thick with dampness and dew. Sometimes you could see the sun over the distant fog burning it away from the top down like it was being squashed back into the ocean from where it came.
This small building and the location represented a magical area for grandchildren because it was owned by Grampa. This was where we could play in the dust under the porch and not get in trouble for getting dirty. It was where we learned that Grampa could blow cigar smoke in our sleeves and it would come out behind our ears. It was where we were told that a pressure cooker could explode if someone didn’t let the steam out. It was a time before childhood was legislated out of existence and we could drink from the hose, run around with squirt guns, and freely visit the neighbors.
This was the Snug Harbor I remember from the 1960s and 1970s and it was also where I said goodbye to my Nana in 1966. I remember well my grandmother laying on that faded couch at the summer house and that I had not been allowed to bother her or wake her up by making loud noises. I remember the orange ceramic plated butter cups (with caps and saucers) she gave my parents for holding lobster butter which are now in my own kitchen.
Most importantly I remember Nana telling me I was a good boy and that I was getting all grown up. She told me I was smart and handsome and that she was proud of me and she gave me a hug and a kiss. But I remember most the thing that did not make sense when she told me she might not see me again because it was going to be a long time before my family would make the trip back to Rhode Island. She didn’t explain what she said and I did not ask because she was my grandmother and she was always right and at my ripe old age of eight years I accepted what adults said rather than question them. And so my grandmother said goodbye to me and I knew it was different but I did not know how.
And so Snug Harbor has now become place I can only visit by driving through every decade or so… The people who made it “home” are no longer there and a new family is making memories in the summer house. But the scent of the ocean is still strong and memories of boat trips, fishing, and that darn pressure cooker still come to life in my brain every so often. These memories are a gift given to me by people I loved and I wish to remember them by sharing with others.