New Arrivals

The Flynn/Giuliano family landed in Annisquam in 1948 when Mom and Dad bought property on Norwood Heights. Mom was born and raised in Gloucester but the village of Annisquam at Lobster Cove was a bit off her beaten track. The entrance to the village was over the wooden bridge spanning Lobster Cove. The wooden planks felt as loose as those aerial bridges spanning jungle treetops. I have reoccurring dreams that the bridge gives way plank by plank beneath the car. The rumbling did little to calm the fear of arriving on the other side.

Mom paid about four thousand dollars for the ¾-acre parcel. For the same amount, she had options of stately shingled homes. The house overlooking Lighthouse Beach soon to be the Hedbloom house was a possibility. Mom already felt burdened by our thirteen-room townhouse/office 1760 Beacon Street in Brookline. My parents opted to build a four-bedroom ranch situated on the crest of a cedar-studded property. It would be their weekend and summer retreat.

I was born the next spring and by all accounts adored by my sister Jo, age eleven and Charles age nine. Somehow, our newly arrived family was marked. A ranch in this venerated enclave was deemed a blasphemy. Ranch style houses didn’t exist in Annisquam until Dr. Alexander Vance built a modern structure a few houses from us. Our house was surrounded by stately shingle-style structures with commanding porches. Cedar shingles glistened in the setting sun while our raspberry-red clapboards ignited. Dad’s flashy Cadillac was also out of place in the seaside village that sported Woodys and Ford station wagons.

The Norwood Heights neighborhood was already a little fringe with Scottish contractors, the McNeils who built their nondescript houses. We nicknamed their flat roofed cinderblock house sprouting from wetland the “hotdog stand”.  It’s no wonder Norwood Heights was considered the hinterland by residents of the majestic Village, Adams Hill and Squam Rock roads. Rockholm was another “housing development” built adjacent to the romantic Rockholm Lodge with its saltwater pool managed by Danny Karvett and his seeing-eye dog.

But there we were, all the same, three kids and professional parents who neither sailed nor played tennis. Our neighbors Ben and Barbara Smith, (Ben took Jack Kennedy’s place in the senate) welcomed my parents and encouraged them to join the Annisquam Yacht Club. Helen and Nate Ross, (Gloucester High School football coach and later Gloucester Mayor), Betsey and Dr. Fred Breed year round residents also welcomed my parents. Donald and Peg Usher were warm and inclusive.

Social life at the Yacht Club was an eye-opener for a tag-along kid. There was no such thing as a babysitter at that time so Mom and Dad dragged me off to club dinner dances. It became clear that the atmosphere was much too risqué. My eyes popped out of my head when the wild dancing sent couples flying across the floor, falling to a heap. I saw smooching between dancers not married to each other and recognized the antics of drunkenness. It was odd that these loose and playful folks could be so cold and aloof when they passed you on the gangway.

Some urge motivated Dad to take a Coast Guard class in navigation. He excelled at chart reading and navigation but piloting the vessel was a different matter. Dad bought a beautiful Chris-Craft named the Cuttysark. We cruised the Annisquam River and eventually Ipswich Bay as far as the bell buoy. Dad was competent at maneuvering but it was only rarely fun because he was so cautious. He was out of his element on the water. Eventually he replaced the Cuttysark with a 16’ Lyman outboard, which was a lot more fun. Charles had a blast water skiing and tearing around the cape in his chick magnet. Trouble is the speed boat guzzled gas that could leave you stranded if you didn’t keep an eye on the gas gage.

Early on Mom and Dad’s friends were mostly imported from Lanesville; the Hoffmans and Hungs who they knew from years at Red Gates on Coggeshell Rd. Their parties were exquisite. Pitchers of cocktails, small, stemmed glasses and everyone dressed to the nines gathered around the piano singing and twirling. Jane Hung was an opera singer married to Stevie, an energetic and delightful restauranteur. The Hoffmans raised Arabian horses in New Jersey where Fred was a prosperous builder. He was as handsome as Clark Gable and Gary Cooper combined. Fred had dreamy eyes that sparkled. Sometimes the couples danced to music from the hi-fi but mostly they sang and played Dad’s Steinway. Some of their favorite tunes were: Down Town Strutter’s Ball, Tea for Two, Autumn Leaves, When Irish Eyes are Smiling, I’m in the Mood for Love, Night and Day, All of Me, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Indian Love Call, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, I’ll Never Smile Again, Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t (Ma’ Baby). I know they ate snacks but I can’t remember what. It was certainly more substantial than crackers and cheese whiz or the ubiquitous bowl of potato chips served up in Yankee households.

Rituals

Another complication as newcomers to Annisquam; we were Catholics. The church taught us to believe all others were heathens. The Annisquam Village Church situated as sentry to the village represented a house of worship for misguided souls.

Ours was the true church and we had the beloved saints to prove it. The feast of the Assumption was celebrated on August 15th. . On that day if you made absolution with seawater you would have health throughout the year. This was my beloved practice – making holy the place where others were obliviously frolicking. I would make ablutions and bottle some water to take to mother. This ritual dates back to 15th century Italy to Mary Star of the Sea when on the feast of her Assumption, ocean waters had curative properties.

On Sunday morning, the Smiths, Lordans, Hedblooms, Sheas, and Cunninghams left the village for ten o’clock mass at Sacred Heart in Lanesville. Early on, the church entrance was on Washington St. with a sheer flight of granite steps – potentially quarried by my great grandfather, Edward Flynn. Parishioners arrived at the church doors huffing having made the pilgrimage up the steep steps. It was a ritual that sanctified us to enter the church.

Inside was geographically separated into the Bayview and Lanesville sections. The Smiths filled the front bench on the Lanesville side. It was always a treat to watch the family of seven solemnly march down the aisle. Hats, gloves, suits and ties briefly replaced canvas sneakers and oilskins. The Smith kids never caused any commotion. They were a well-disciplined, devout unit.

The nuns taught us not to fidget, to remain as still as possible and to raise and lower in one piece. I was very impressionable and good at following rules preparing myself to someday enter the convent. Undetected, the mysteries elicited by the bells and incense would transport me just shy of ecstasy. My personal communion was not the body and blood of our Lord but the stain glass windows coming to life. No one ever knew what was going on with me. (It is probably obvious that my parents refused to support my career choice of the nunnery. The alternative choice of nursing was also rejected.)

Years later, when Fr. Myron Bullock became Sacred Heart’s pastor, I was mesmerized by his crystal-blue aura. He was a kind and humble soul whose ministry reached beyond the church to a devoted following.

The Archdiocese of Boston promised him an apartment on the Boston College campus upon his retirement. Mounting church scandals resulted in the sale of several churches and the closing of many small parishes as was the fate of Sacred Heart. The sale of Sacred Heart forced Fr. Bullock into early retirement. The archdiocese reneged on its promise and abandoned him to live out his days at the St. Ann’s rectory in Gloucester.

Our pew was on the Lanesville side beneath the stained glass window bearing the name of Mom’s grandfather, Edward Flynn. Seems he came from Londonderry, NH in the mid-1800s to join the Finns and Irish quarrymen. Not a lot is know about him but a reference places him working at Blood Ledge, the huge quarry on the Natti property in Lanesville. Mom said her grandfather resided for a period in Annisquam at the boarding house known today as the Harraden House.

Domestic Help

The “Pillbox”, as our house was named, served as a weekend retreat for our parents. They had active medical practices that required them to return to Brookline on Sunday nights. The kids, Jo, Charles and I were left in the care of “maids”.

For a time, our household was a revolving door for new Irish immigrants of the Kelleher family. One after another, they got a foothold in the new land then vanished. The oldest of the Kellehers, Mary ran the Sunset Inn in Pigeon Cove, Rockport.

This arrangement of domestic help was both a blessing and a curse. In one sense, we experienced a certain freedom, out from under our parents’ watchful eye. Our basic needs were met but the discipline meted out by the young Irish women was often harsh. We were threatened with perishing in hell for one infraction or another. As a group, they were more repressive than the nuns of St. Aiden’s parish in Brookline. For us, a summer in Annisquam was heaven, – for them it must have been purgatory far from the social life of Hibernian Hall in Dorchester.

Our scheming contributed to a quick turnover in domestic help. Eileen was the most loathed in the lineup. The perfect plot of revenge was hatched the day my goldfish died. Much to my dismay, Charles and Jo plunged him into a jar of Eileen’s cold cream.  That evening the blood curdling screams were more than we hoped for.

Eileen was always feasting but never shared. She made elaborate cakes for “me company” never offering us a crumb. In another act of revenge, my sister, Jo invented a plate of “candy.” It simulated coconut squares made of ivory soap covered in Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. The plate was left in the refrigerator as we waited in the living room. Moments after we heard the refrigerator open, screams resounded. Eileen confronted us with bubbles streaming from her mouth. I think our malice did her in but no tears from either side were shed at her departure.

Then there were lovely gentle women who gave us strong cups of black tea, lemon cookies and our liberty to roam. Annisquam was open country without borders. Yards were contiguous without fences. As Knights of the Round Table we used sticks for swords that became rifles when Nazi enemies hid in field grass. Yards were left in their natural state. Manicured landscapes came into vogue much later. Dogs roamed free before any leash laws. Labs and golden retrievers gave wide berth to our boxer, Vote who was my constant companion. (He did get into a fighting match on Lighthouse Beach and injured one of the Lyman girls. This stirred some bad blood and dogs on the beach remains controversial.)

Squam Rock Pasture was my favorite place for exploration. It is a 12 acre parcel of open space, crowned by Squam Rock on the highest point running down to Lighthouse Beach below. Scaling the glacial erratic formerly Young’s rock was a rite of passage that I never managed in spite of numerous attempts.

Imaginary play at the pasture took the form of pioneers most notably Davy Crockett. My impersonation was complete with coonskin cap and mock rifle. Thanks to the example of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Indians and white men lived in harmony in the pasture.

There was a sandy pit in the middle of the pasture with a small log cabin surrounded by woods and fields. Chestnuts, hickory and black walnuts were collected and mashed up for stew. A stream bubbling in the marsh, supplied the water. Blueberries were sweet and sumac yielded a vivid tea. Far in the distance, light glistened on the water and the glowing lighthouse stood sentinel. At days end, full of spiritual sustenance, Vote and I returned home needing to be fed.

Hurricane Carol August 31, 1954

I was five years old and Charles was thirteen. As the storm raged, his Boy Scout instincts kicked and he corralled us into the hallway during the worst of the storm. Our parents were in Brookline so Charles was the reigning protector.

When the storm subsided, we rowed all around the flooded backyard in our beautiful lap-streak skiff. Fortunately, the toppled willow fell away from the house causing no serious damage.

It was always fun to explore Charles’ room. He had tons of books and comics that filled the drawers by his bed.

In the top left corner of his bureau drawer was a pack of Kools. He didn’t much care about those but I did – on occasion. There were smokes available all over the house but mentholated Kools lived up to their name. His drawer had a pleasant scent of pine and spice that enveloped the arrowheads collected from the beach. He perfected the mounting of butterflies and moths displayed in frames on his wall. I remember feeling ambivalent watching him process the insects but the results were beautiful. Bows and arrows for archery lined his closet next to his sail bag. Dad had 22 caliber rifles and a shotgun for backyard target practice. I had a good eye and was a decent shot; channeling my idol, Annie Oakley. Those were the days when Annisquam was rustic and no one cared what you did in your backyard from burning brush to shooting guns and arrows.

First Camp

At age six, I was enrolled in a summer program run by the artist, Mary Jane Gorton who lived with her family in an elaborate Victorian house on Adams Hill Road. M. J. was fun, inventive, and kindhearted. She taught us to swim, build rowboats, pick blueberries and make afternoon Kool-Aid. The magic of red, orange, purple dissolving in water swims in memory and the powder sweet and sour when licked raw.

Mary Jane loved her Irish setters Kelley and…. The campers made chocolate cakes in celebration of the setters birthdays. Something was amiss however, as campers were served slices and the dogs got the entire cake. In Mary Jane’s world, animals were at the top of the hierarchy. Despite the inequity, the devil’s food cake was delicious.

Through all these wonderful experiences, Lindsay Crouse and I became pals. (Lindsay went on to a successful career as an actor of stage and screen.) When the weather was inclement, Mary Jane would leave us alone to invent characters or play with her mother’s costume jewelry. We climbed the tower, dressed in vintage outfits with the amazing view as our theater backdrop.

One camp outing brought us to downtown Gloucester. On the docks, we came upon a litter of kittens. I wanted one so badly but Mary Jane said I needed permission. Mid-week, I forged a note that was accepted and the next day the kitty came home with me. By the time Mom and Dad arrived for the weekend, the kitten was already ensconced. Charles named her Vampira after the film femme fatal/vampire. It is impossible to think Mary Jane was fooled by the phony note. The only explanation was her motivation to give the kitten a chance at life.

At the end of the camp season, I agreed to pose for a pastel portrait. Mary Jane had a studio on Bearskin Neck where we would pass a couple of hours at a time. The act of sitting was boring but there I was occupying Mary Jane’s undivided attention. Two portraits resulted. My siblings dubbed one of them The Bad Seed. When they considered humiliation appropriate, Jo and Charles would adhere the image to my bunkroom door.

Years later, I opened a book of poetry to find woodcut illustrations by Mary Jane. She was a gifted free spirit who cried as readily as she laughed exposing her beautiful set of gleaming white teeth. I note with reverence and appreciation that Mary Jane introduced me to the mysteries of the natural world and to the beauty of art making.

Annisquam Sea Fair

The most glorified ritual of summer was the Annisquam Sea Fair established in 1846 held on the last Saturday in July. You dressed in your Sunday best sans gloves and hat but in newly coated white Mary Janes, a starched organdy pinafore and hair neatly plaited with colorful ribbons.

There was a cacophony of choices: game booths, grabs, white elephant table, Waxworks, Punch and Judy, books, food music and announcements over the load speaker. A friendly policeman directed traffic and performers in a street festooned with flags. One time Dad set up his easel in the middle Leonard Street to capture the thrill of the Sea Fair. I look at that painting hanging in my kitchen and it is as vibrant as the July day it was painted.

By far the most thrilling event was the pony rides down and back Roger’s lane.  On the way down, the pony stumbled and jolted over rocks, thrusting you forward in the saddle. The uphill climb was a delightful, slow return. These few moments on ponies, longed for all year, were pure bliss.

There were no losers at my favorite game: go fish. A rowboat was filled with water, sand and flat metal fish. The rod had a horseshoe magnet in place of a hook. You could fish all day and win a prize. Sometimes I knocked the fish off on the way up just to delay the wonderful sensation of gazing into that pool of water when time stood still and a prize of your choice awaited you.

The fair was a color feast for the eyes. The prize table was laden with carnival glass ashtrays, vases and small plates in blues, greens and reds. Next to them stacks of rattan, lays in rainbow colors and cupie dolls suspended from rods. The white elephant table had plenty of affordable treasures, as did the grab bags of surprises. Punch and Judy was too violent on a beautiful summer’s day and the Waxworks was more suitable for adults. The food table served up great hotdogs and a creamy punch from a giant bowl. Later on, you could buy Twin Lights soda in lime green or purple. Breezing by the flower table more color flamed before your eyes. When you were overloaded and could take no more it was time to return home for a refreshing swim at the beach.

Junior Program Annisquam Yacht Club – 1957- 60s

At age eight, I participated in the swimming, sailing and tennis program at the Club called the Junior Program. Mary Jane had already trained us in swimming and boating so I was well adjusted and eager to try anything. The camp climate was rough and ready. Weather was hardly a deterrent to water sports – only lightning kept you out of the water. The water was freezing cold but you were expected to jump in and we did. Lifejackets were always cold and wet, so jumping into the water was the antidote to that cold embrace.

There were arts and crafts activities: linoleum block printmaking, drawing and painting, knot tying and trips to the Squam Rock pasture for capture the flag. For a treat, we might have a night at the Drive-In or bowling at the Willow Rest.

The program offered a nice balance of fun and sporting rigor. Nate Ross at the helm supported an egalitarian atmosphere. He was coach of Gloucester High School football and later Mayor of Gloucester. Everyone earned his praise and encouragement. The swim instructor, Jim McGuire showed no favoritism whether you were brave or a sissy, whether you could swim a undred yards or struggled with a few feet. His no nonsense reassurance motivated kids to improve their skills.

Winning the favor of counselors was a favorite pastime. What a prize to get Jane Tarr to zero in on you with her azure-blue eyes and to beam her beautiful pearly whites, or Susie Smith to give you a hug and a chuckle, or Mel Lordan to engage in serious conversation. The male counselors were often remote, difficult to engage. Some were attractive and intriguing but always withheld their love. The launch drivers made up for all that deep freeze. They were the stuff of fantasy in their pressed khaki uniforms – Geoff Richon, Peter Parsons, Lars Peterson simply magazine idols to a preteen. To make a good impression you checked your agility carrying the sail bag as you jumped into the Jolly Boat, or maintained your footing when rocked by wake. You were no tenderfoot, you were a sailor. The Jolly Boat was another theater and you were a character capturing the attention of the handsome officers. They too played it cool but they were not frozen like the hotshot sailors in the clubhouse.

Pip as the "Bad Seed" a pastel by Mary Jane Gorton

Lighthouse Beach, Annisquam, by Dr. Josephine Flynn

Annisquam Lighthouse. Giuliano

The family Annisquam, summer, 1949

Jo, Pip and Charles,1949

Our winter home, 1760 Beacon Street. Brookline

The wonderful Lilian Clark was there for us

Mom and Dad with Annisquam neighbors Governor and Mrs.Endicott Peabody

Pip snoozing

Ballet lessons at Miss Paige's

Pip at Versailles

Pip at Windsor Castle

Neighbor Clark Ross wasn't much help in putting out the fire

Pip in Fur

In Thailand

Cambridge boyfriend Jim Brady

Nerds Pip, Susan Roberts and Jill Columbo

Pip and Charles

Pip and Josephine

Pip and husband Dr. Yuri Tuvim

Tending to Mom in her final years

Pip Yuri and Sarah

Skipperdee

In the spring of ’59 our family went to the boat show at the Armory in Brighton. Charles intended to custom design a Turnaboat for me that would blow the fleet away. He had them remove the  floorboards and trim down the rudder and centerboard to lighten the little tub. They removed excess hardware down to bare bones. The sheet and halyard were hemp not a smooth cotton which would prove problematic.

The Skipperdee named in honor of Eloise’s turtle was painted in the book colors of coral and black. It was swell. The beautiful Dacron sail bore the number 12, as I remember. I cajoled Danny Crane into crewing for the Saturday and Sunday races in Ipswich Bay. He was more a landlubber, keen on tennis but our parents were friends so he couldn’t refuse. Later, Marcie Davis was my stalwart crew who expected to be picked up on Wingaersheek Beach where she lived. Sometimes making a landing over there was challenging watching out for swimmers and anchored boats. She wore gardening gloves to protect her hands from the nasty hemp main sheet. Marcie deserves more credit for her loyalty than I gave her. (Marcie went on to become a noted visual artist.)

Racing is about skill; the boat is of lesser importance. Kids in waterlogged boats with cotton sails and full sets of floorboards were hugely competitive. They knew how to judge the winds and tides and how to maneuver for a good start. Many kids came from sailing families – sailing was in their blood. The Skipperdee had major design flaws.  Wind conditions are variable in Ipswich Bay but overall by afternoon, more windy than calm. The boat was too damn light. When the race finished at the Yacht Club a shortcut over the Wingaersheek sandbar could increase your speed. It was a wild sleigh ride unless your bow plunged into the surf or your rudder was useless against the current. The prevailing conditions called for a hefty boat but we managed to stay competitive while having fun. During those racing years, I didn’t disgrace myself. I have some prizes in a drawer and race result clippings Mom kept in a scrapbook. Overall, I was a competent swimmer, couldn’t play tennis for the life of me but loved sailing and racing.

‘60s

With an eleven-year difference in our age, Jo and I led independent lives. Jo spent time with her friends Nancy Shea and Robert Church while I had a full lineup of summer activities. In the summer of 1960, Jo married and moved to Texas. I was heartbroken. Nancy Shea did her best to console me, inviting me over to make brownies and play dress up. Charles was preoccupied honing the young rebel persona, growing a goatee, smoking weed and getting pretty, young women to pose for oil portraits. 

Our dear Lillian soothed me as best she could. Lillian Clarke came to us from Savannah, Georgia. I don’t know the exact circumstances but she left her two children, Gail and Kenneth with family when she moved north to our house. Turns out that Kenneth Clarke had a successful career in the NFL. I don’t know about Gail except I felt jealous when I met her. I considered Lillian my mother and Gail the competition. Lillian addressed me as Ms. Pip when doling out words of wisdom. We often shared a bed, cuddling up together. Her scent was Desert Flower dusting powder that we bought together at Sterling Drug on Main Street. 

That summer, I cried into my teddy bear calling out the name of the boy from the Junior Program who looked through me like a pane of glass. I chose him for boyfriend potential because he was an outcast like me. Nothing ever became of that fantasy and he was only a stand in for the boy I was really attracted to.

Towards the end of the summer I let my guard down and revealed the name of Bonner Starr as my head over-heels crush.   He epitomized the winning combination of blond, blue-eyed and reserved. No sooner revealed than the gaggle of banshees ran up and down Wingaersheek announcing the news to everyone. Bonner looked at me as though struck by a truck. That was the last time we met each other’s gaze.  

I did have devoted friends: Betsey Moore, Becky Fox and Laura Mayer. We were somehow always on the margin of the in-crowd. I recall they had soft, gentle temperaments and they competed earnestly, without fanfare.

My happy go lucky self plunged into sadness. Why was I so ostracized? So many restless nights wondering what I could do to change the course of life. You start with the hair, clothes, image – you can’t change your name or heritage or where you live. No one adopts you – so you go solo. I used to watch Woody Brock and Rosalie Day retreat into books. Woody used to read while walking down the gangway – Rosalie on the front float. My prep school, Beaver Country Day’s summer reading requirement was seven books that for some of the time kept me occupied at home.

I flirted with non-conformity watching Charles flaunt conventions. It worked for him – it didn’t work for me it only made me feel more alienated. One summer, I joined the Cast of the Fireman’s Flame. I had a great part with Clark Fowler as my beau. But in the end, I went home alone. There was no magic on or off the stage except for my friend, Ken Dawson who I knew from Cambridge.  He came to the show and brought me a bouquet with a card that read: “Remember, there are no small actors, only small parts.” Ken didn’t stay for the cast party, I had to brave that alone. We dated a bit that summer. It was fun dressing up; wearing white lipstick and cruising in his forest green Mustang. 

Some nights I could hear voices at neighborhood house parties – parties to which I wasn’t invited. That really cut deep. Fortunately, Charles’ wild parties more than made up for this. When he put out the word, strangers came from near and far. The place without parents was rockin’. Lillian, my loving companion, stayed out of sight in the back apartment only to surface every now and then to inform us, “The po-lice is comin’.” A motorcycle gang from Gloucester showed up one memorable night. This was a bit concerning so I distracted the leader by playing 45s of Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and Bill Haley & His Comets while dancing up a storm to Rock Around the Clock. Now that was a thrill on Blueberry Hill! 

Enter Without Knocking

Autumn came to be a most desirable season when all the summer folk went home. The landscape quiets down and uninterrupted beauty is restored.

My neighbor, Clark Ross only a year younger than I was my friend in autumn and in the early spring. He could talk his way in or out of any situation. Often, he would pick Mrs. Vance’s flowers, ring her doorbell and sell them to her. She always obliged such was his charm. I followed him in and out of houses, picking up a snack here and there making brief conversation then zooming on to the next location. Doors were always open – there was no need to knock. We made the rounds of the Littlefields, Fosters, Ives, Bishops, and Breeds. Sometimes we played in their houses probably without their knowledge. The neighborhood was open country without borders and Clark was the mayor and undeniable town crier. 

We spent many evenings playing softball in the Ross’ vacant lot. Nate Ross kept the game competitive but fun with jokes and antics. He taught me how to hold the bat and swing. His coaching of “don’t choke the bat” still rings; finally, a place of belonging.

One spring weekend, I wanted to take the lead in our adventures. Behind our house, we had a wonderful outcrop of granite boulders and a small circle of stones that looked like a campfire. Native American themes never seemed to capture Clark’s imagination no matter the evidence of their existence around us. So on this day I decided to ignite his imagination by building a fire and creating a story of us as native people. No sooner had the fire taken hold; I realized we needed water to keep it under control. I left him in charge while I grabbed an empty Babson’s milk bottle for water. By the time I returned the fire was spreading like a prairie fire. Clark ran home and I ran to wake Charles who instinctively grabbed the blanket from his bed, soaked it in the tub and ran out to beat the flames. He charged me to call the fire department. The telephone operator connected me to the station where I blurted out the details as best I could. 

It seemed like forever before the truck arrived from the Bayview station. We could hear the sirens as they circled around trying to locate the house and closest hydrant. In those days, houses had no numbers so you had to describe the house’s location. Eventually, hoses sputtered with low water pressure just before the flames licked the shingled house next door. Minutes later, the house would have gone up in flames like a tinderbox. 

Charles found me kneeling in front of the Virgin Mary praying with everything I could promise. He told me to hide under the bed or I was going to jail. 

The episode’s repercussions were deeply psychological but Mom and Dad seemed only a bit perturbed. I owed Charles my life but he scared me to death with the thought of a prison sentence. The event was a landmark in our friendship. From then on, Clark never again let me guide our adventures. We stuck to playing business office where he was always in charge and I took direction.

Year-round Residents

Yuri Tuvim and I married in 1986 and a year later, our lovely daughter, Sarah, was born. In 1990, we purchased a house on Norwood Heights a stone’s throw from my mother, Josephine Flynn at #38. Mom was still dividing her time between Palm Beach and Annisquam but knew she would eventually settle in Annisquam. It was such a happy time for us being so close. Sarah, our pug Jolie and I would make several daily excursions to be with Grammy, all summer and on weekends. 

2001 was a pivotal year: Yuri retired from engineering at the Millipore Corporation, Sarah was starting high school and Mom made the permanent move to Annisquam. We decided to leave Newton and make Norwood Heights our permanent home. Sarah entered Gloucester High School as a freshman, and I continued working with special needs students starting a new job at the O’Maley Middle School. One beautiful fall morning the world ended. Mom called me at school insisting that I find a TV. She and Yuri were watching the events of 9/11 take place. I was struck with panic thinking we were at war and the enemy invasion had begun.

Home Again

Here we remain, rooted in Annisquam. Sarah settled in Gloucester on Harvard Street. We sold Mom’s house after her passing in 2002. 

The neighborhood has seen additions, demolitions and new builds. Most lawns are well watered and carefully landscaped regardless of drought conditions or watering bans. It’s hard to hear yourself think on Saturday morning with the constant drone of landscape machinery keeping the wilds at bay. Concord grapes, elderberry, bayberry bushes, milkweed and chokecherries are continuously eradicated in order to improve water views and land values. 

With most of Gloucester hooked up to the sewer system, every patch of earth is available for development; proximity to wetlands no longer seems an impediment. The Conservation Commission turns a blind eye. New construction is a source of tax revenue. People and officials don’t understand or consider the price of lost habitats. The ecosystem for salamanders and spring peepers has been drained, filled or stressed – what difference does it make as long as one can build their addition? 

Where are the fireflies, and butterflies?  Why do we suffer from black flies that historically plagued Maine but never here? What is happening to the balance of nature? Soon, we will be confronted with plans to exterminate the growing coyote population. The boundaries between our environments butt up against each other as we encroach into their territory. It is convenient to consider them the menace without examining our contribution to the problem.

The topography of Lighthouse Beach seems to change naturally with the seasons. Some rocks are buried, some exposed. Sand is deposited or carried away. Not a blade of eelgrass is to be touched without the approval of the city’s Conservation department. Nevertheless, landscapers mow down the eelgrass to provide more beach space for a growing number of bathers. 

Ben Hedbloom whose house perched over Lighthouse Beach, used to patrol these sensitive areas. He knew the importance of grass in preventing erosion and as essential to the ecology of the buffer zone. Nevertheless and repeatedly, desires of the population override common sense and obscure the responsibility of safeguarding land and shore. 

Increased ocean temperature and acidity has devastated our coastal flora and fauna. Mussels once abundant are gone; there are fewer clams, no evidence of the ubiquitous razor clams, horseshoe crabs, sand dollars, skates, dogfish, minnows, glass eels, sea worms, jellyfish, shrimp, periwinkles, limpets, large strands of kelp or varieties of seaweed. Seagulls are more assertive. They come only to raid a picnic or on occasion score an invasive green crab. 

What is in store for the fully automated lighthouse and property owned by the US Coast Guard? They possess a unique parcel of land, which will inevitably be sold to the highest bidder – only time will tell as that history is yet to unfold.

Kids still jump off diver’s rock at high tide and sun bathe on the flat rock named Adonis when in the 70s, it was populated by a group of handsome, teenager boys. So many new generations of kids, it is hard to keep track of who they are. 

Maybe people view me as indifferent because I don’t lay my towel down with the crowd, to catch up on what’s going on in the neighborhood. I go to the beach for refuge – to gaze out at what’s left of the stone beacon or across at the sandbar, or to observe the play of light on the granite rocks sliced through with basalt. I prefer the solitude of communion with the elementals at this transcendent portal. It requires quiet listening and watching. Words obscure the vision.

Wrapping it Up

Looking back over this reminiscence, the bitterness is palpable but it should not taint the intent of these recollections. Annisquam is a spit of land; virtually a cul-de-sac, on the island portion of Cape Ann. Over centuries, an enclave has been established here.  Generations return to this beautiful, mysterious place delineated by; the Annisquam River, Lobster Cove, Ipswich Bay, Squam Rock, the pasture, the bridge, Lighthouse Beach and Wiggins Rocks. Guests stay at the Brynmere and shop for treasures at the Annisquam Exchange. They pop into the Historical Society to see the restored stagecoach or peruse books at the Village Library. 

From my bedroom, a quarter of a mile up the hill from the bay, I can hear fishing vessels heading out between 4:30 and 5 am. The sound travels quite a distance so when they get to a certain point I can hear the vessel pick up speed. On quiet nights, the melancholy clanging of the bell buoy sets the mood. When fog rolls in turning the atmosphere to pea soup, the foghorn is primed to lay down a blanket of sound. Storms bring high winds and thundering surf that beats out a rhythm akin to a heartbeat. The reverberation creates a sonorous whirr as the action rests in diastole between beats. One’s body is attuned to this constant pulse of wind, currents and tides. The rhythm lapping the shores of this seaside village is the music you move to.

Now approaching my mid-seventies, I wonder if I will make it to old age in the chosen place. Will I live out my years, living not far from the heart of the Village? No doubt, the Good Neighbors Organization will keep tabs on me and treat me to flowers in May and a valentine in February. Members of the Annisquam Sewing Circle, founded in 1837 will note me as a member emeritus in their annual brochure. I hope that some of my family lore will be catalogued in the annals of the Annisquam Historical Society. 

According to my present practice, I will be able to count on a volunteer to drive me to the Good Neighbors fall luncheon and to Monday afternoon tea and a warm fire at the Village Library.

The beauty here is we all take turns caring for one another. That is how the Village has always worked while its legacy continues.