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Fairy tales can come true; it can happen to you…
if you’re young at heart…

 

What were your dreams when you were young? When you married? With a bow to the realities of life, we can still make our dreams come true.

I dreamed of owning a summer home in Santa Fe, where we vacationed with the children—an escape from Texas heat; of restoring an historic house; of immersing myself for a season in a remote French village, where I would walk to the market each morning and be forced to learn the language and the culture.

Fast-forward to 2009. None of those dreams came true; and as a new widow, overwhelmed both by the aloneness and my new responsibilities, I dreamed a new dream: Running away from home—from the loneliness, the memories, the responsibilities.

How do I deconstruct those separate dreams and assemble a new reality with congruent pieces of my old dreams?

Facing the heat of Texas summer in 2013, I recalled a cold visit to Maine in June 1986, when Lev and I drove from Portland to Bar Harbor. We always wanted to return to those quaint fishing villages and artist communities, but we never made it. So, I signed up for a Maine coastal cruise with a group from the Smithsonian Institution and several other national nonprofits. I flew to Boston first, where I had recently spent several days with a group from the local art museum, and ended in Nantucket, which Lev and I had visited on a day trip by ferry from Cape Cod years before.

I originally planned to spend a week in Nantucket, but I was afraid to be completely alone for so long. I decided that four days would be bearable. Four years and four months after Lev died, as I walked the cobblestone streets of that remote, historic island, I recognized joy, peace, contentment, delight, and safety in a way that I had not felt since Lev’s health began to fail. Those daily walks, followed by evenings gazing out to sea, moved me to want to bottle my joy and keep it. I wanted to come back for a longer stay. I wanted to embrace solitude. I was finally ready to write.

By last summer I knew that I wanted more than short summer vacations here. My son and daughter-in-law accompanied me in my search for a long-term rental. I was glad to have them along to keep me grounded. I loved the 18th c. house that had been redone with exquisite detail, full of antiques and folk art—a real jewel box. They pointed out the steep narrow staircase, the steps in the master suite, the long walk on uneven brick sidewalks to the commercial district. They reminded me of my bad knees.

I was also tempted by the “upside-down” houses on Brant Point, near the hotel where I was staying. With bedrooms downstairs, upstairs great rooms offered views of the water. They reminded me that I would have to carry groceries upstairs and predicted I would spend most of my time in my bedroom.

1830 HouseBut they approved of this house, and I have been busy turning it into a summer home. It has pieces of my old dreams: an historic house in an historic district, an escape from Texas heat, a small town where I can immerse myself in the culture and walk to the market every day.

Sometimes we have to let go of the past in order to build a good future.

The final stanza of Young at Heart, first recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1953, sums it up:

And if you should survive to a hundred and five
Look at all you’ll derive out of bein’ alive
And here is the best part, you have a head start
If you are among the very young at heart.

Photo: Waiting for sunset and fireworks at Galley Beach, Nantucket, July 3, 2016.