In the late 1950s, my grandparents began a yearly tradition of renting a small cottage on the Cape Cod National Seashore, escaping New Jersey’s heavy summer humidity for a few weeks on the open Atlantic shore. Each year, they would bring my father and his younger siblings until they began to move away to start lives of their own, one by one. I was the first grandchild brought to the cottages near Marconi Beach, starting another generation of family tradition. I have vivid memories of getting lost in the dunes, listening to Grammy’s baseball games on the radio and reading books in the low light of the living room. We all loved that place, but it was Grammy who loved it most.

For nearly 30 years, my grandparents migrated to Massachusetts for the summers, where a small smattering of rental cottages became a second home. When my grandfather passed away in 2002, I stumbled upon a stack of metal tins while rummaging through the basement of their house. In them were hundreds of Kodachrome slides Grampy had taken over the years on his Exakta VX, all in pristine condition. None of us had any idea what a photographer he had been. And of course, my favorite shots of the bunch were the ones he took over the years of summering in South Wellfleet.

This past weekend, my mom’s family gathered on the Cape and we took a short detour to the cottages perched high on the dunes, 125 feet above Marconi Beach. It had been 20 years since my last visit, and it was refreshing to see everything was exactly the same as I remembered. The same family still owns and rents the cottages, which remain remarkably lo-fi and simple, without telephones or TVs. We walked out onto the dunes to the beach, all of us awash in memory, quite certain that at least Grammy is there to this day, listening to her baseball games, knitting and enjoying the sea.

Here are some of my grandfather’s photos from Wellfleet, as well as a few polaroids I snapped on the Konica this weekend.

Still giving prints away!

To mark the 1000th comment on Little Miss Twig, and as a thank you for your continued reading, I’m giving away a print a day this week. Just leave a comment on any post tagged giveaway, and I’ll pick a random number for each day’s prize.

I’ve loved hearing about your travel wishlists. As summer winds down, I’m curious to know what places define summer for you. I grew up on the New England coast and frankly, it does not qualify as summer unless I spend a good chunk of it here. Where is your summer?

Winners will be announced next Monday.

28 Responses to “Wellfleet”

  1. carolyn says:

    what great treasures to have unearthed. :)

  2. carolyn says:

    p.s. my summer memories are all at camp. somewhere in WI. sitting around the campfire singing songs. swimming in the lake, diving off the pier. accidentally getting my cast soaking wet. (woops!) one year sleeping in teepees. getting bug bites. my brother getting the worst poison ivy that hospital had ever seen. cabins. spiders. macrame.

  3. claire says:

    oh! what a find. such a great tradition.

  4. Erin says:

    What a great find! For me summers are in New England, too, and I can’t get enough of it.

  5. jodi says:

    what a wonderful treasure you have found. oh, kodachrome, why did they have to stop making you?

    i never feel like it is a complete summer unless i am at my parent’s house on the lake in indiana. luckily, i was able to go there for a weekend recently. perfect.

  6. Megan says:

    I know Wellfleet only through the praise that people give its library. Its director won a national award in 2008, the nominations for which came from the people that live there and regular summer visitors.

    I guess I associate summer with Lake Michigan? And/or my parents’ backyard.

  7. amisha says:

    what an incredible find. these are so beautiful and evocative. and that color!

    for me summer is louisiana… damp, sticky, scorching, and buggy… nights that smell like sweet olive and gardenia and jasmine… picnics… ceiling fans… sweet tea and sweet cocktails. not moving much. porch sitting. i haven’t spent a summer there in a long time but if i close my eyes i’m there.

  8. matthieu says:

    Nice photos. I visited your blog the first time … I don’t know why and how, the serendipity of the web :) I would like to go to South Korea now that I’ve read (and see) your experience. Keep going !

  9. mary says:

    oh my gosh what beauty!!! i love these!!!!

  10. Alyssa says:

    Not surprisingly my Summer is pretty much the same as yours… Front beach, Cook’s Camp and Conomo Point. Thanks for the wonderful memories and the good cry.

  11. BF says:

    i’m not sure i can really describe how these photos make me feel. thank you for sharing them, steph. they are full of memories. it is such a beautiful place, and i love seeing your grampy’s slides.

    (and for me, summer = new england. as you very well know. i don’t want to leave!)

  12. Tim says:

    These are too good. Love the second shot.

  13. Tina says:

    These are truly amazing and I love seeing the one of your daddio so young!!!

  14. lisa says:

    These photos are a treasure.

    I wonder if there’s a statistic of whether more memories are made in the summer than in the winter…

    Eric & I spent many a summer with our grandparents in Miami. We’d go to Miami Beach in the morning and abuelita always made us gargle the seawater (because it was good for us…and I still do). Then we’d return in the afternoon, flip on the AC, watch the Banana Splits and then play dominos or Scrabble.

  15. Carolyn says:

    Those colors on the slides are so vivid! Great shots he took

  16. hannah says:

    stephanie. i’m completely and utterly smitten. more please.

  17. leslie says:

    oh, i love the photos. so many memories wrapped up in those. and they trigger my own memories of our family cottage with my grandparents. thank you for that.

  18. Just Bob says:

    Steph – what a beautiful testimonial to the importance of childhood!

    When we were there looking out over the ocean I understood for the first time that when I was there as a kid I knew in my soul that Narnia could be found beyond that horizon. And that was before I’d ever heard of Narnia.

    Thanks for helping me remember.

  19. Cinzia says:

    Your grandfather was a truly talented photographer, his photos are great! It must be a family gift…

  20. joy says:

    Striking, beautiful photos. I love love love the one of uncles Steve and Chris. The summer-est of summer colours.
    And hi, my name is Joy and I’m a lurker. I have admired your photos for a while now. :) Your New York posts got me even more excited about my visit in two weeks, which I didn’t think was possible!

  21. charlotte says:

    yes! ditto hannah. and those blues. they’ve knocked me off my feet.

  22. Aunt Katie says:

    Wow! What memories. And who is that funny looking red-haired girl sitting next to your Dad on the wrecked hull of the boat? Tee hee!!

  23. Jess says:

    Stephanie. Stephanie! I have no words.

  24. hanne says:

    ditto hannah and charlotte!

  25. Mari says:

    It looks lovely. I love finding hidden treasures. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Monka says:

    im far away catching up with all the blogs and flickr but this one is far the most favourite blog post this year. this is above precious.

    for me summer can be anywhere as long as i get to swim. this year i didnt :(

  27. emdot says:

    those photos! so great. and i also loved reading about your family’s history on the shore. :) (hey — and a contest did not lure me to comment; how could i not with those awesome photos?)

  28. What an amazing find! We have a family farm (a non-working dairy farm) that’s been in my family since the 1960s. That’s where all my summer memories spring from. I’m glad you got to go back after so long and revisit old haunts.

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