Taking a vacation was a rare event for my grandparents. The most they could afford in summer, when so much work needed to be done, was to go on outings for the day. And it seems, from reading journals and letters and post cards, that the favored outings took place near bodies of water.
My Aunt Ellen, (my grandfather Ellsworth’s older sister) lived on the farm until she married Henry Norton and moved into downtown Wallingford, Connecticut. Ellen and Henry, to escape the summer heat, took trips to the Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut coasts. In the early 1920’s they started going to what my great-grandmother Lydia refers to as “East River.”
Monday, June 6, 1921 – “Nice day. Men busy hoeing corn. Agnes went to town to the dentist…Ellen and family went to East River yesterday afternoon. Got home about eight. They expect to spend their vacation there soon.” – Lydia Jane Hall
Ellen and Henry must have rented a cottage in East River during the summer of 1921, and my grandmother Agnes took my mother and her brother and sister there for outings.
Thursday, June 30, 1921 – “Stormy some of the time…Agnes is all ready to go. Children are delighted. They have finally gone about half after eight. Went after Hattie and went town way. Hope they will get home safely…All reached home safely at six o’clock.” – Lydia Jane Hall.
In 1928 Ellen and Henry bought a cottage near Circle Beach in Madison, Connecticut, and we have all been delighted ever since. I began my visits to the shore when I was six or seven months old.
I took my own children there often.
Unlike the farmhouse, with its half-remembered rooms, the cottage still sits on a grassy knoll above Long Island Sound. The rooms, with their spare, comfortable furnishings, have changed little over the years. My aunts and uncles, and now my cousins, have gently and lovingly cared for every inch of the house, so that the next generations can also be delighted. It’s a happy place, and a place I’ve tried to make a little bit my own by painting it over and over. On Wednesday I’ll talk about painting the cottage and show you a few of those paintings.
On Wednesday: Painting the Cottage