Welcome back, dear ones, to our nautical trip down memory lane. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed revisiting this experience, walking through each moment, smelling the smells, tasting the food, seeing the beauty, and jotting it all down before the crispness of the memories fade.
My mom was out of town when I published the first three installments of this series, and came home to find this birthday gift waiting for her on the internet. She has tried to speak to me about it, but the words keep failing and she hugs me and says “Someday I’ll be able to talk about it…”
So thank YOU, to each of my blog readers, for giving us this opportunity to tell our story, and for accepting it so lovingly. You’re the best cheerleaders in the world! If you’re new to this series, part one can be read here, part two here and part three here. And now, I present to you…part FOUR! Settle in for this one…
As I mentioned in my last post, if my mom and I ever go back to Nantucket, we will most certainly take the ferry and skip out on the tiny-airplane-over-the-ocean-thingy — in fact, we briefly considered skipping out on our return flight and doing that very thing, if the timing would have worked out! — but I have to say, the Nantucket Airport was quite the fantastic welcome.
This was no cement and brick structure, cold and airporty.
Grey shingled walls and roof. Clean white trim. That tarmac full of tiny, rich-looking planes. And, on the inside, instead of little cushioned rows of seats, there were wooden benches and…rocking chairs. ROCKING CHAIRS!!!
We were in love at very first sight, both of us.
The airport was our first drop on the tongue of what Nantucket had to offer, and we immediately knew we had landed in a very special place on the planet.
In fact, if you want to be a real Nantucket geek like me and know even more about the airport, you can read this interesting article that outlines the airport’s recent renovation, as well as describes the policies that keep Nantucket Island looking so uniform and beautiful. It’s fascinating. Well…it is to Nantucket geeks. The article can be found here.
(Wait, what? Did I just seriously share an article about an airport renovation? Yes. Yes, I did.)
Anyhow, walking through that completely unique airport, feeling SO HAPPY to be alive, to have made it, to be rid of a sinus headache, to have both feet on the ground, I was first met with a precious navy blue sweatshirt on a rack just outside of the gift shop. “OH!!! I adore that shirt!!” I gasped.
“We just got here!!” Mom laughed.
“I know, right?” I chuckled. “But I love it. I need it.”
We took a vote and decided it was ridiculously soon to buy a souvenir, so we kept on walking, but we had this awesome feeling that, if the first thing we saw was purchase-worthy, we were in for a GREAT TRIP.
(spoiler alert: I bought that sweatshirt before our flight home and wear it just about every other day. M’favorite.)
We quickly grabbed our bags because, tiny plane, and, just like that, we were free to go. Our vacation could officially begin!!!
We said goodbye to our fellow tiny plane survivors, all of us exultant and chatty about the experience we’d just shared, and walked excitedly out of the pretty doors, straight to a row of taxis where, before we could even worry about what to do next, an eager driver immediately stepped forward and asked us “where to?”.
Neither Mama nor I had ever ridden in a taxi before, so we were a bit goosey about the whole experience; the cool island air, the exciting week ahead, the fact that we had just zipped across the ocean in a Cessna, coupled with our first taxi ride…it was the perfect formula for face-splitting grins and giggles.
While the driver loaded our bags, the two of us quickly murmured together in the backseat, consulting the little “guide to tipping” I’d printed off for mom’s purse. Our only tipping experience in the world thus far had been at restaurants, salons and spas; taxis, bellhops and concierges were all new to us, and we so wanted to treat everybody right on our special trip!
We quickly got the hang of it, though, and, by week’s end, Mom — a generous person, already — was passing out bills like a post-redemption Ebenezer Scrooge.
Our driver talked easily to us all about Nantucket as he squired us through winding streets, pointing out important buildings and sharing interesting bits of trivia; one thing we learned right off the bat is that Nantucket Island is very pure and historically preserved. There are no billboards, no fast food, no restaurant or market chains of any sort and very particular codes for new structures. The result is a kind of village-type beauty that I had only read about but never seen, and I just couldn’t stop staring, in wonder, at the scenes before my eyes. It was a feast, one upon which my beauty-hungry heart would continue to gorge all week long.
On one narrow street, in particular, our taxi began to slow and we were pulling up to the curb of the beautiful Union Street Inn.
Now, backtracking just a bit, in the weeks leading up to our vacation, we had quickly reserved three of our four nights away at a more remote location on the beach (which you will hear ALL about later), leaving us just one remaining night to find lodging; with the rest of our week taken up in the country, we were hoping to spend this first night in Nantucket proper, close to all the action.
The only problem with that is there were about a thousand choices and, oh my goodness, they were all beautiful. It was like “pick a mansion, any mansion”, you know?
That is, until I landed upon the stellar website of the Union Street Inn. Once the site loaded upon my screen, with its gorgeous photography and magazine-quality decor, I simply could not move on. I was absolutely smitten.
I couldn’t believe our luck when their reservation calendar showed that one room was still available for our free night…yay!!!…
that is, alas, if we were staying for more than one night.
Like most popular inns and b&b’s, Union Street had a reasonable two-night stay minimum.
“Noooo…” I wailed, sure that we were destined to be at this inn, determined to be a part of its history while the opportunity was ours. How could we possibly set foot on the island, knowing it was there and yet not calling it home? T’would be tragic, I tell you!
My heart pining and pounding like it does when there is a sale at Anthropologie, I e-mailed the inn, told them of our situation, and basically groveled at their feet. They were so nice, encouraging me to keep checking back and, if it was nearing our trip and no one had reserved the room, they could open up a one-night reservation for us. It wasn’t very likely to happen, I was warned, but it wouldn’t hurt to try, so long as I didn’t mind waiting until the last minute to snag a reservation.
I could handle that. I was in love, after all, and love will make you do crazy things, like go on the trip of a lifetime without nailing down your reservation until it’s too late to get another room!
The inn’s manager and I e-mailed back and forth a couple of times, touching base about the room and, by jing, what do you know??? Just a few days before our trip, glory hallelujah, we GOT it.
I was beyond thrilled.
I had just known, of all the websites I’d visited and all the beautiful places we could have stayed, that mom and I needed to kick off our trip at the Union Street Inn — we HAD to! — and, though I’m wrong a lot…
this time I was so right.
The Inn was amazing. Situated right there on the narrow sidewalk and street, just down the block from Nantucket’s picturesque main thoroughfare, it was nestled snugly in a row of shingled houses that looked like something straight out of historic New England.
Wait, that’s because it WAS something straight out of historic New England. Listen to the description…
“Occupying an 18th-century whaling captain’s house, this high-end boutique inn is a 1-minute walk from Main Street, a 4-minute walk from the ferry terminal at Straight Wharf, and 0.4 miles from Children’s Beach.
The luxurious, individually designed rooms include period details and feature free WiFi and flat-screen TVs. Some have wood-burning fireplaces.
Complimentary hot breakfast is cooked to order and there are also free afternoon snacks. A patio overlooks a garden.”
Is anybody else out there swooning right now?
Lucky for us, since we had left Tulsa before dawn, we arrived at Union Street Inn just in time for those free afternoon snacks! Making the acquaintance of the manager and then stowing away our things in our pristine room, we had the sweet luxury of sitting down at a table on the spacious and quiet back patio to a variety of teatime treats and coffee.
Heaven, it was.
The air was crisp and perfect, the mood was tranquil, and the treats, delicious. What a perfect way to kick off our time on the island, and to fuel up for an afternoon and evening of exploring.
Mom, by the way, was still beaming. 🙂 Is she not the cutest 64-year old girl you’ve ever seen??
There was no doubt about it, we’d found us a spot in this world, one of incandescent happiness and relaxation. We leisurely finished our repast, had a refill of coffee, took some time to unload our things and freshen up in our room, and then set out, on foot, to see what this Nantucket had to show us.
Now, I will save the details of that unforgettable jaunt for my next post (stayed tuned!! You won’t want to miss the bustling Main Street, the homemade ice cream and the shopping!!) and, fast forward, instead, to the moment when, many hours later, tummies full, hearts SOARING from all we had just seen and experienced, we walked, in the dark, back to the inn to call it an early night; our day had begun many, MANY hours ago, and 8:00 p.m. was feeling an awful lot like midnight!
As we approached the little steps that led to the front door, however, a light fell across the threshold and I looked up to see a couple exiting the foyer, starting their night on the town just as we were ending ours. We stepped aside as they descended the stairs, nodding and smiling at them in greeting before beginning our own trek up the stairs to go inside.
But before we could, the woman stopped, laid one hand gently on my arm and another on mom’s, looked us deeply in the eyes with the most genuine expression I think I’ve seen this side of heaven, smiled like an angel, and lilted, with a voice full of otherworldly joy, “I hope you two have a wonderful night…”
It was a simple but world-stopping moment, an extraordinary act of friendliness in this increasingly unfriendly world and it sort of stopped mom and I both in our tracks. We thanked her, gushingly returned the sentiment, and then stood, gaping, at her retreating back.
“Who was that?” I whispered.
“I don’t know…” Mom said, her voice matching mine in wonder.
“Does she own the inn?” I guessed, marveling over the kind familiarity that had passed between us. “Do you think she recognizes us from our I.D’s or something?…”
“I don’t know…” Mom repeated.
The woman had just been startlingly beautiful, for starters. The kind of beauty that you don’t see every day. Her figure was petite and perfectly trim, her bob haircut was sleek and shiny, her eyes sparkled with a rich soul, and that outfit, though: figure-skimming ankle-cut jeans, a simple and classy black sweater, a leopard-printed belt with the perfect amount of taste, and skim brown flats that just shouted style and class.
At least that’s the way I remember it. Sometimes I think she might have had a detachable fur collar on her sweater. And then I think the sweater might have been a twin-set cardigan. And then I wonder if I made up the leopard-print on the belt…
regardless, she looked like a movie star from days gone by, one who had voluntarily left Hollywood before becoming jaded, and had been living out her days in anonymity and health and beauty. And the John Hamm lookalike who was escorting her looked so happy to be hers and she looked so happy to be his. They were, in a word, dazzling.
Mom and I eventually retrieved our chins from the path and scuttled up the stairs and into the inn, but this unusual encounter had somehow added the perfect story to end our day.
Our night there in Room No. 5 at the Union Street Inn went on to be as relaxing and luxuriating as I had hoped it would be. The bathroom in our room was minuscule, as the reviews at Trip Advisor had warned, but I didn’t see what the problem was in that: it was gorgeous and clean and looked straight out of a magazine!
The room was perfectly cozy and immaculate, the kind of clean that refreshes your soul, the very essence of what you shoot for in the look and feel of your own home, but in this instance, on this one glorious night of your life, you didn’t have to lift a finger to get it to that state.
How delicious it felt to shower away the day of travel, not one responsibility on my brain, not a worry, not a timetable; I might have gone through a thousand degrees of mental anguish to find my way to this island, wrenching my heart away from my husband and children, flying across the country on those dying-flying machines, but now, here, with my mom beside me in this perfect room, I was immediately tapping into a deep rest, a time of refreshing, that I didn’t even know would be beneficial for me.
And here I thought this trip had been for Mom!
With open windows pouring sweet Nantucket air into our room, Mama and I settled into our four-poster bed for the night with our books, two like-minded and like-hearted women propping up our feet in the primary way that delights us, whether we are in the Northeast or the Midwest, and we read to our heart’s content.
One thing that can be said about our time in Nantucket is that we didn’t waste time.
Primping and long grooming sessions could be done in Oklahoma, but not here: we had exploring to do! Food to eat! Stuff to buy!!
It struck me many times on this trip how happy I was to have this experience well into my adulthood, all of my man-hunting days behind me. “Let my hair be untamed! Let my make-up be passable! No one knows me here! No one will remember me! Hallelujah, no one cares, and neither do I!!!!”
It was a fantastic way to live, especially since my very thick hair, next to the ocean, was an untameable beast. And I just let ‘er fly, like never before.
All that to say, we typical slow-pokes readied quickly the next morning and made our way back down the stairs, full of excitement for the day ahead, to the inn’s dining room and kitchen where a hot, made-to-order breakfast awaited our command.
“Is this real?” I asked myself as we walked through the maze of historically-preserved rooms. “Have I died and gone up yonder?…”
The dining room, so quaint and picturesque, was a tempting place to sit and enjoy our food, indeed, but the fresh fall air beckoned us back out of doors with a call that we couldn’t resist. To the garden patio we went!
I marveled once more over the beauty of Union Street Inn, the cleanliness, the order, the perfection.
“Could I not live here, for good?” I sighed. “Or at least stay here once a month?…”
Mom and I are dreamers, both of us, and we had only been eating for a couple of minutes before we started imagining out loud about how often we would frequent the inn if we lived in Boston. Every fourth weekend, to be sure.
Our laughter and our daydreams mingled in the air and unbridled joy was our comrade as our breakfast was consumed.
The blueberry pancakes were scrumptious, the sausages the fattest, and we felt like the queens of the manor. But before we had quite finished our patio breakfast, one more blessing came our way when, to our surprise, the celebrity couple we had briefly met the night before, looking just as beautiful in the daylight as they had under the street lamps, came outside and took their seat at the table nearest us on the patio.
We exchanged polite greetings once more and, before too long, had begun to acquaint ourselves. They did not own the Inn (ha!), they were not former movie stars (aww, shucks!), and they, too, were as enamored as we were with the beauty of Nantucket.
It was a nice, lively chat, with words easily flowing and, before we returned upstairs, they offered to take a picture of mom and me on my camera. “That flower behind you is just so beautiful,” the woman said. “You two look just like a picture!”
We returned the favor for them and, just like that, we were on our way, my heart a little sad to know that, since we would be checking out of our room in just a few minutes, we would likely never see this couple again.
It was a pity, for I could have stared at them all the day long.
We said our goodbyes to them, then to the inn’s manager (who kindly offered to store our bags for the day until we checked in to our new hotel), to our beautiful Coastal Living bedroom, to the screen door that I adored, to the quaint lobby, to the yellow buffalo-checked dining chairs, to the spacious back patio and garden, to the kind wait staff and, with our hearts already full of memories, my adventurous mother and I, her homebodied mate, made our way back to the streets to do some more exploring, which, again, I will share in more detail in my next installment.
Our precious time at the Union Street Inn had come to a close.
Skip through the hours with me, if you will, to late in the afternoon when, full-up on sight-seeing and shopping for the day and eager to begin the next chapter of our trip, our feet stepped one last time over the threshold of the Union Street Inn to retrieve our bags from the foyer.
At least I thought that’s why we were there; what I could not see with my common eyes is that a sort of magic — my favorite kind in the world — was at work in that room and strange and amazing things were about to take place.
Grabbing our bags from their neat pile in the corner, we were about to load ourselves down like pack mules and walk to our shuttle location when, would you believe it, our new friends materialized once more, and the four of us again began to converse. Turns out, some friends of theirs were also vacationing in Nantucket and they were meeting them in the foyer for a group excursion.
I was so happy for this chance to say a final goodbye, and I tried to convey to the woman, without sounding like a flatterer, how happy I was to have met her, and how she and her husband were genuinely special to us just from the short time we had conversed, but I needn’t have worried, for God, as ever, was very near, and had very special things in store.
“I know the answer to this already,” she said, smiling knowingly at mom and me from behind her shaded glasses, “but you two are believers, aren’t you? Am I correct in guessing that you are my sisters and that we’ll be spending eternity together?”
“We are!” I confirmed, delighted to my toes. A mid-westerner, through and through, I had just never once dreamed that we would stumble upon other Christ-followers in Nantucket and, though I had not been able to shake the familiarity I felt with this couple, I had been reluctant to put my finger on its source. I had hoped, I had prayed, I had wondered, but, to my shame, I hadn’t dared believe it.
And now my joy knew no bounds.
Wordlessly, like magnets, we crossed the room and embraced as family.
“I knew it,” she murmured, hugging me like a daughter, a sister, a friend.
“I did, too!” I laughed, tears filling my eyes as I recounted how reluctant I had been to leave them that morning.
Our entire group exchanged heartfelt hugs and greeted each other anew, one by one, our acquaintanceship left behind us as our true kinship took root and sprang up like some enchanted tree in a faraway Kingdom. Clasping hands with mama and me, the woman went on to recount the recent loss of her mother, the way God had allowed her to speak to her mom about Christ, and the way she had been abundantly blessed just by watching mama and me interact with each other.
“Hold on to each other,” she encouraged us, tears spilling onto her cheeks. “It’s so beautiful to see a mother and daughter together, loving each other, enjoying each other….it has ministered to me so deeply in my grief.”
I’m telling you, and I will tell you all the way to glory-land that, right there in the foyer of the Union Street Inn, the floor just fell out from underneath my feet.
Why? Why was this “chance” meeting such a big deal to me?
Because, though I have seen proof of God’s sovereignty and kindness my entire life, though He has led me, faithfully, every step of the way, I never stop being shocked and amazed by it.
In the “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief” sort of trajectory I was born into, I am always looking, always inspecting, always longing, to see this work, to see this power, to see this proof that God is, indeed, real and active and working, and yet, when I do see it — again and again and again — I see it as if for the first time. Like a hungry child, I cry out and He feeds me. And He does it the next day. And He does it the next day. And I stand amazed, every single time the food reaches my soul.
Precious readers, to see and know, deep down in my heart, on our first full morning in Nantucket, that this mother-daughter trip might have been about something bigger than just my mom, than her birthday, than me, than our relationship, than the things I could see and understand and orchestrate…
to see that it reached beyond our own life, our own state, our own story…
it just made me want to weep.
My mind reeled back through what it had taken to get us to this inn, at this moment, with these people, the little things that had seemed random and circumstantial, those reviews I read that kept us away from Martha’s Vineyard, the room at Union Street Inn that had remained free, the timing that had allowed us to bump into this couple one, two and now three times…
not a bit of it seemed so random, anymore.
It was just another beautiful step in my long, long journey of learning to trust the God who made me and to rest in His will for my life, whether he has me in Tulsa or Nantucket, and any hidden doubt that I’d held onto about this trip being Spirit-led, planned by God, every detail, just flew out of that beautiful screen door, never to alight again.
I was free in that moment, free to trust Him, free to praise Him…
free to believe.
Mama and I had left our nests in Oklahoma to find this sister and brother in Nantucket, and it was one of the most joyous and awe-inspiring parts of our trip because, yes, Nantucket was beautiful and remains so in our memories, but the REASON it is so beautiful is because God was there, from start to finish. What joy. What grace. What LOVE!
As we bowed in prayer with our newfound family, hand grasping hand, voices lifted to God, I realized once more that the Christian life truly is a pilgrimage and one of the most beautiful aspects of that journey are the fellow-travelers we meet across the way. Some we do life with, day in, day out, meeting to worship together weekly, through the breadth of our days….
some we simply pass as we’re walking and, joining hands for a moment on our way, we spur each other on.
We meet to part.
We part to meet.
How sweet it was to meet at the Union Street Inn.
Ah, lovely memories! Thank you for hanging in there with me through the recounting of this sweet tale. I can’t move on without sending you first to the Union Street Inn’s website, but I urge you to do so cautiously…you just might fall in love. To take a look, click here.
And stay tuned, for a fun-filled visit to the sights and shops of Nantucket! Until then, find us on Facebook!