Friday, January 18, 2008

Nantucket Briar

As I prepared for my morning shower, I opened a box of Nantucket Briar soap—one of my Christmas gifts from my daughter who is a master of observation of personal likes. She knows I love this soap—with its spicy floral smell (that makes me smell like a grandmother. . .not yet. . .well, maybe an old lady!).

And as I thought about the name of the soap, I suddenly recalled a trip made about 30 years ago. At the time, my husband was serving on our church’s board of deacons; in fact, he headed up that board. One of the deacons was a lovely woman whose family owned a cottage on
Nantucket Island. I don’t know how the conversation came up, but since my husband was a public school teacher at the time—and not earning all that much money—and since I was working part time, staying home the other “part” with our pre-school son, we had little money and had not gone on a family vacation for awhile. This wonderful woman offered us the use of her Nantucket cottage, at no cost, if we would go there in October. It was rented out through the summer months, but come autumn, no one was renting it.

So on a long weekend, we drove up to Massachusetts, then boarded the ferry to Nantucket. What a charming and captivatingly beautiful little spot of land (at least it was then). I loved the quaint villages, and the wind-swept beauty of the place. The cottage was in Siasconset, on the far eastern edge of the island, facing bravely the Atlantic. If you look at a map, and trace east from Nantucket, there’s nothing but wide wide ocean for hundreds of miles. Our friend who loaned us her cottage told us few people try to winter over in Nantucket as the winter winds and storms bring on all sorts of dysfunctional behavior. Alcoholism rates climb, divorces occur, murder rates go up—at least that’s what she told us.

So perhaps we should have been prepared for bitter cold, but we weren’t. She did tell us the cottage was unheated—well, yes. It was a clapboard construction little house, quite sweet, but with bare wooden walls, no insulation. It was just what you would imagine for a SUMMER cottage. But here it was in October. At night, the temperatures dipped down below freezing. We fired up the wood stove in the kitchen, and huddled together to stay warm as best we could, but barely managed.

Cottage photo from:

When we left Nantucket, after our weekend, we drove back to central Pennsylvania. Somewhere in Connecticut, we stopped in a motel for the night. In the middle of the night, our son developed croup. And, I mean the deep hoarse hacking coughing struggling for breath kind of croup. He had earlier in his young life had one siege of croup, once before, and had recovered without too much time passing. But this time, he was fighting for breath. We did the only thing we could think of—we went in the bathroom, turned the shower on to full blast hot water, and closed the door. We were minutes away from seeking out the nearest emergency room when he fell asleep and began to breathe a bit more easily.

Whew! So, every time I think of Nantucket—where we have never returned—I do think of a charming place with lovely natural beauty—but I also think of a little boy fighting for breath.

I must say, though—I still love the soap: it is my favorite.


RuthieJ said...

What a story, Donna. Isn't it amazing the memories a single word or scent can trigger? I'm glad that all ended well for your son during that trip.

Anvilcloud said...

There was a young blogger
Who went to Nantucket
Once her boy became sick
She ...

Mary said...

You tell a story so well. I could picture it all. When you hold your soap, the memories must always come back.

Nice story with a happy ending!

Ruth said...

Glad things worked out for your son. Croup is very scary and of course is always worse at night. Nantucket looks like a lovely spot, but hopefully more places have heat now. Even in the summer, I am sure it can be quite cool off the ocean.

KGMom said...

I must comment--AC, you bring to mind that Nantucket is frequently used in many limericks!

Here's my comment--not original with me, it is an anonymous limerick--as are SO many.

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical,
But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean,
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Just once she was a gal from Nantucket.
In the cold, with family, she roughed it,
Since then, when she lathered her biar,
To beguile her hubby , the Squire,
Their adventure,-- they would never forget it.

Beverly said...

It makes me cold here in Florida reading about your experience there in Nantucket in that cold cottage.

Everyone's creativity juices are oozing eloquent with their limericks, but I don't have any to offer.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this post very much. I can relate - the house I'm in right now has heat and all that, but I'm still freezing! I love handmade soaps too. That one sounds lovely.

LauraHinNJ said...

A house on the beach in winter? Sounds wonderful! But for the child with croup afterwords!

Nora said...

Oh a child with croup can be very scary ...I remember using the humidifyer... and Nantucket sounds wonderful summer!!! cheers Donna. (ocean) I have no limericks.