This will be our last Summer Series Guest Post. I am so thankful to all of the bloggers who shared their family traditions with Be The Difference over the last three months. This month I am excited to welcome Meg Zucker. I guest blogged for Meg and her readers a few months ago. Visit Meg on her website here. “Think Before You Judge” is something Meg stands for. She is an inspiration to her readers and I am thrilled to have met her!
Nantucket Freedom By Meg Zucker
C’mon, Ethan! With his training wheels still attached, our five-year-old son had already completed half of the nearly seven mile ride down the Milestone Road bike path on Nantucket Island. Ethan and I shared a mutual love for this long bike ride together, and these moments were always particularly precious. The path ran next to the road that stretched from the center of the Island to Sconset, a charming old village nestled on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
For the past ten years, at the end of every August, my husband John and I have taken our three children to Nantucket, a pristine little spit of land (as it is commonly called) off the coast of Massachusetts. Now eleven years old, Ethan has been taking the three hour ferry over from Hyannis since he was in diapers, and Charlie (age 8) and Savanna, (age 6) since they were both newborns. When most people imagine summers on Nantucket, they probably think of phenomenal beaches, cobble stone streets, grey cedar-shake houses (virtually every house is grey shingled, with white trim), adorable boutique shops, authentic island lightship baskets, great cuisine, towering lighthouses and beautiful sunsets over the ocean.
While those attractions certainly describe the typical Nantucket experience for most, they pale in comparison to what the Island actually represents to my family and me: Freedom. Of course, for any family, a vacation represents a freedom from work, school, bills, and all of life’s typical obligations. But for my family, Nantucket has also represented a different kind of freedom; a special place where I could hold back and watch my kids try and accomplish physical tasks most onlookers would assume nearly impossible.
You see, my children were born with my genetic condition called ectrodactyly. Although the name sounds rather complicated, it is a Greek word that merely means, missing digits. Just to set the record straight, based on that definition, I am missing a lot of them”eighteen in total, actually. I only have one finger on each hand and one toe on each foot. Both Ethan and Charlie have a similar version of my physical difference.
Unless you live in our shoes, our condition might sound quite life-altering. But actually, our days are just like everyone else’s. Other than the challenges of unscrewing certain types of bottle caps or playing certain musical instruments, our physical differences don’t really hold us back at all. When I think about it, the only thing that really could potentially hold my kids back could be, well, actually¦..me. In reality, I am the independent adult that I am because my own parents allowed me to grow up assuming anything was possible. I was encouraged to try everything I set my mind to (tying shoes, ballet, trombone, gymnastics¦.), and they resisted the ever present urge to intervene.
It is in this context that our trips to Nantucket factors in for my own family so importantly. It represents a place where I can follow in my parents’ footsteps, let my kids explore, and let go of my natural urge to overprotect. It was on Nantucket that our kids had many firsts: They climbed their first rope jungle gym to the top and down again at the Children’s Beach playground. They rode their bikes for the first time for any distance on the Milestone Road to Sconset. They first learned to play ping-pong in the basement of our rental home. Their first ocean swim was in Nantucket Sound. The first time they reeled in a fish was in the waters close to Brant Point. The list goes on, but for our family, the significance of each new accomplishment has been undeniable.
As we grow excited once again with anticipation for our next visit later this month, I feel grateful knowing that Nantucket represents a destination where our kids assume anything is possible. It is a place where they have been able to explore life and their abilities naturally and happily, in a beautiful, even magical environment.
Even more importantly, they always bring their never say never attitude, their freedom to try anything, home with them. In that sense, we live on Nantucket all year round.