Living on Cape Cod, you get used to the ebb and flow of the population throughout the year. Summer comes and so do the tourists and seasonal residents. All the stores and restaurants are open and there are almost too many activities to handle. The traffic is crazy and the beaches beckon, and it all goes by too quickly.
Everyone moans about the end of summer, but fall comes and it's still gorgeous... and even better? The traffic eases up! As winter creeps in on us, businesses shut their doors for a few months and things slow down even more, and although it might sound depressing, I love it. Sure, I'd appreciate my favorite restaurants staying open year-round. And yes, the stores do seem to carry less of everything I want... and okay, I'll admit the weather often sucks. But good things happen, too - for example, the "seasonal water view" (as the realtors say) from our deck comes back, and the foliage is often lovely.
A more magical thing than a pretty view happens, though:
The distillation of the population down to the year-rounders turns my part of the Cape into a small town again. I recognize most of the faces at the grocery store, and I've learned to give myself a little more time to get my shopping done because I know I'll undoubtedly run into someone. It may be someone I haven't seen for a while, or it may be one of my friends, or it may be the mailman or a teacher or the check-out person I end up chatting with. It doesn't matter who, though, because the important thing is that I feel a sense of community that sometimes escapes me in the summer.
I drove my son to school this morning, and we ended up following one of the school buses. I found myself beeping and waving to several parents I know as we rolled slowly along behind the bus as it stopped and started and stopped and started, and I was struck by how content and happy I was. In my 20's and 30's, I lived in cities and I moved around the country often. We've now lived in our house for 4+ years, which is the longest I have every lived in a particular dwelling since I left home for college in 1983. Toodling along behind the bus, I felt this enormous sense of community, of being home. This fall has not been the easiest time for my family, but it suddenly seemed as though everything was right in the world, just because I knew the kid waving to me from the back window of the bus.