The Same Me, Only Better

I want to live on Nantucket. Let me qualify that: part of me wants to live there. The artsy, romantic, writerly side of me is drawn to the moors, and the fog, and the endless views of blue water. This tiny island off the coast of Massachusetts inspires in me a sense of calm, of freedom, of anything-is-possibleness, like no other place in the world. On Nantucket, I would be a better writer, a better mother, a better wife, a better me.

On Nantucket, I would cook, and bake, and goshdarnit, I might even sew. I would grow my own vegetables in a garden I tended to myself and then can those vegetables for the long winter months. I would collect berries and make pies, preserving the leftover fruit as jam, in jars with those cute little fabric tops. I’d give this jam to people as gifts.

I would not watch The Bachelorette on Nantucket.

My weak-ankled children would ice skate, since that’s pretty much all there is to do off-season on Nantucket. Andrew would grow tough and broad, learning to breathe with a huge mouth guard attached to his palette, playing ice hockey and skating backwards. Zoe would join the championship figure skating team in winter, spending her summers surf casting for stripers off Quidnet.

On Nantucket, I would eat striped bass caught by my daughter.

I would fillet it on the beach with my bare hands.

On Nantucket, I would dress more J Crew and less Pamela Robbins. I would choose Sperry Topsiders as footwear in an un-ironic way, because they are practical. Not because they now come in metallic silver and gold. I would wear a bright yellow rain slicker as my every day outerwear, so that someone would notice me in a nor’easter and therefore be able to rescue me if a gale-force wind swept me down Main Street. (The rain jacket I have now is really cute. It’s from Barney’s. It’s like this wheaty-tan color, and has three quarter sleeves and that you can roll up or down, depending on how wet you want your arms to be.)

We’d get a dog, or maybe two. Forget my idea of a toy-sized, hypo-allergenic suburban fluffy puppy with a little “poo” or “doodle” in it (think cockapoo, goldendoodle, schnoodle, cavapoo). What we’d need in the New England wild is a pair of Portuguese water dogs, animals that swim the Atlantic surf with gusto, taking pleasure in long runs on the beach with us.

Speaking of which, I wouldn’t have to seek out opportunities for exercise on Nantucket, because my daily existence would just be so active. I’d bike to the market. (Don’t laugh.) And, even though I’ve never in my life tried this, I’m sure I’d be an excellent paddleboarder. Just for fun, I’d cruise through the marshes and bogs, boarding in Polpis harbor to investigate the native flora and fauna. In fact, I’m sure that I’d get so good at paddleboarding that I’d start taking sunrise yoga classes on a paddleboard, even though I am not a particular fan of a) sunrises or b) yoga.

What would my husband, Brett, do on Nantucket? The question is, what would he not do? He’d paint en plein air, whenever the mood struck and the light was right. He’d just pull over his truck and hop out, grabbing his folding French easel and pastels from under the tarp and dragging them onto the beach grass. He’d surf. He’d create. He’d distil his own vodka. He would not shave. He’d be.

As a pair, we’d certainly be well received, and not just as That Funny Jewish Couple Out In Eel Point. No, we’d have much more to offer the year-rounders than New York shtick.

Immediately, people would notice our keen intellect and diverse talents (I can write my name upside down and backwards, in script; Brett speaks a little bit of Dutch) and we’d be asked to apply our savvy to their Nantucket-specific conundrums. We’d be invited to lecture on someone’s yacht, and neither one of us would vomit. And, in that way, we’d endear ourselves to this community of fisherman and fisherwomen, restaurant owners and shopkeeps, bartenders and raging alcoholics, becoming as intricately woven into the tapestry of the island as cashmere is woven into a $2,000 Nantucket Looms blanket.

“So, why don’t we do it?” Brett asked for the thousandth time. We were enjoying a few beers at Cisco Brewers, while a local musician played guitar, Zoe already his biggest groupie. Andrew was playing lawn games with my father-in-law. The rest of us were inhaling a brick oven pizza made on site. “Why don’t we just move here already?”

“Because,” I said for the thousandth time.

I realize this argument is lacking in strength.

“Now is the time,” Brett pressed. “I’m in between jobs. You can write from anywhere. The kids will adapt. You always say you want to live here.”

Tons of excuses flooded my brain. I’d miss my mom. We love our house. The kids have friends in Scarsdale; I have friends. There’s no Bloomingdale’s on Nantucket. They don’t get the good movies on island fast enough, like that lame, quaint town in Cinema Paradiso. We just paid our temple dues, so we can’t leave for at least another year.

And, while all of that is true, or true enough, it doesn’t really get to the heart of the issue. For as much as I like to imagine that my heart belongs to Nantucket, it really beats right here. I grew up in Edgemont; there are still pictures of me in old theater production posters lining the high school hallway. I went to college upstate, moved to the city, and then settled in Scarsdale.

Did I…“settle” by picking a life that is so predictable, so similar to the way in which I grew up? Sometimes I wonder. But each time, I come to the same conclusion. Nope. I chose to live here above all other places, even Nantucket. Although I entered the main office at the Nantucket Middle School once in the late 1990’s and asked if they had any job openings for English teachers, I was relieved when they said no, and I never followed up by submitting an actual application for the following academic years. Instead, I applied to the Scarsdale school district.

Oh, I talk a good game, and I can fantasize with the best of them. But let’s be real here: what’s so great about living on an island with three lighthouses and no traffic lights? Sure, it’s got gorgeous vistas, but what a schlep. I mean, Nantucketers have an entirely different definition for away games at the high school than we do. Think Somers is far? Try Martha’s Vineyard. In January. I can barely make it to rec basketball at Fox Meadow; you think I’m putting Andrew on a plane to Chattam to compete?

And, by December, the gray weather really starts to wear on one’s psyche. As a diversion, there’s only so many sailor’s valentines one can make out of shells before developing a pirate’s accent and a permanent twitch.

“I have the perfect idea,” I said to Brett. “Let’s compromise. Summers on Nantucket, and the rest of the year in Scarsdale.”

“Great. So the solution is to have two houses?”

It makes perfect sense. After all, the same me, only better, already lives in two homes: the real and the imagined. And for a while, anyway, I guess that’s how it will stay.

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