It was the day we’d all come together in Martha’s Vineyard for. After five years straight of July 4th spent abroad followed by a stateside one stunted by a storm, I was back in the USA ready to give one of my favorite holidays (who am I kidding… they’re all my favorite holidays!) another shot. Our kicking crew of nine was ready to get this flag wavin’ party started.
We started the day strong. While the “grown ups” of the group slept in, the “kids” drove down to State Beach for a stand up paddle yoga class, one of many amazing yoga offerings on the island. We’d actually planned to take a class earlier in the week but got rained out — while it was a little tight to do it on the actual fourth of July, it was well worth the early wake up call.
Afterwards, we rushed back to the house to get ready for the charming little parade around the Martha’s Vineyard Campmeeting Association in Oak Bluffs. While the day’s big fancy parade takes place in Edgartown, we wouldn’t trade our sweet little neighborhood version for anything.
Unfortunately, I report with a heavy heart that I lost all of my Canon dSLR photos from this morning. Somehow, I never copied them over onto my laptop, and breezily deleted them from my memory card just days before realizing my enormous error. Lots of tears and hard drive combing and data recovery software later, I accepted that my sweet family candids and adorable Tucker portraits were gone. I was able to cobble together a few iPhone photos from the rest of the crew, and you can always peek at last year’s photos too.
Post-parade, we retreated to the house for brunch and a patriotic nap (it’s like a regular nap, but you dream in red, white, and blue and snore the Star Spangled Banner.) When half of us found ourselves awake a short while later, we decided to sneak out and let those still snoozing rest peacefully. A simple grocery run quickly morphed into a group field trip to a destination I’d long been hoping to tick off my Martha’s Vineyard list — Island Alpaca Farm!
Though it’s been a decade or two since my last alpaca themed birthday (if you think I’m kidding, my mom has a twelve pound family photo album that proves otherwise), I would still consider myself quite the fan of these South American mammals. While wandering the farm, Ian and I regaled my family of tales of our seperate travels to Peru, land of the abundant alpacas — I swear I saw a few of them look up with alarm when we admitted to trying the steak — and we cracked up watching these awkward creatures go about their days.
I’m sure this won’t be my last stop here. Future visitors to the island, consider this a potential addition to my itineraries for you! (The $5 admission fee is a little womp womp, but what can you do — it is Martha’s Vineyard.)
Me and my aunties
Back at the house, things started to get a bit silly. My attempt to get a festive portrait with Tucker for my Wanderland social media accounts erupted into a family-wide photo shoot with as many outtakes as final framers. Wine may have been involved.
Eventually, we all gathered for a big feast where we took a Thanksgiving tradition of rattling off lists of things we’re grateful for and gave it a patriotic twist, listing off reasons we love ‘Merica (this was a major test for Ian, who hails from our neighbor to the north.) We spend a lot of time bitching and moaning about political foolishness, corporate greed, consumer culture, and Kardashians, so it was kind of nice to get some unbridled flag waving going.
After dinner, it was finally time for the fireworks show I’d waited six years to see!
Now, pause for a moment of real talk. With all this talk lately of social media and blogging not being authentic, I’m conscious as ever of portraying myself and my life as picture-perfect. I love my family more than pretty much anything on this planet (but please don’t bring Nutella into this ranking, that’s just cruel) and when I write posts about our time together, they come off as rose-colored as my memories of time with them always is. It’s an accurate portrayal of the way I feel about these very amazing and special people. But it’s probably not an accurate portrayal of the usual day-to-day hurt feelings, petty fights and general drama that we along with most families on this planet deal with. I don’t write that because I love to air dirty laundry (that’s what washing machines are for), I write it because I know that I along with so many others can be guilty of comparing the highlight reel of someone else’s life with the behind-the-scenes of my own, and I would never want to make someone else feel bad about their family situations by zippily presenting mine to be some kind blissful made-for-tv musical of domestic joy (though we do sing a lot).
So anyway, I could post some amazing fireworks photos and tell you that Ian and Janine and I had a great time traipsing over to Edgartown to see them, and that would be true. But if I told you that the big moment was magical, and my Fourth of July was non-stop fun, that would be a lie. The truth is, I choked back tears several times that day, and really let them rip as we watched the sky explode in light and color. The truth is, my sister and I were at each other’s throats for reasons I now struggle to remember, and my mom and I were in our second of two enormous blow up fights of the week. The truth is, I was shattered that no one in my family wanted to watch the fireworks with me — I didn’t want to leave them for the night when we have such little time together (especially my cousin and aunts), but I couldn’t imagine letting the night pass without this ritual I love so much. Not to mention, I felt funny hosting two visitors and not bringing them to the fireworks — it kind of felt like inviting someone for Thanksgiving and then telling them that you weren’t really into the big meal and dinner would be takeaway chinese food. I know it’s selfish, but I wished that considering how much this holiday meant to me and how rarely I experience it — and how rarely we are all together! — my family would have joined me for a few hours of fireworks-y fun. But behind the beautiful photos and peppy blog posts, that’s real life, and mine is as rife with petty drama as anyone’s.
But damn — weren’t those fireworks beautiful?
We woke up feeling a little tender after a silly night of fun on Circuit Avenue, which included the handing out of red, white and blue jello shots to fellow revelers waiting in line to get into packed bars. But we had the perfect hangover plan: brunch.
First, we had to say a sad goodbye to my aunts Linda and Karen. I hate saying goodbyes without knowing when and where I’ll see someone again, and this was one of those situations. After walking them over to the ferry, we found ourselves up against a long wait for a table, even with a slightly more reasonably sized party. We put our names down and considered our options for killing time. Looking up, I laid eyes on one of Oak Bluffs most infamous landmarks, and marched our group inside.
The Flying Horse Carousel is America’s oldest operating platform carousel, and was a staple of my childhood visits to the island. At $2.50 per ride, it’s a bargain — and a great photo op.
That said, perhaps a rotating carousel was not the number one smartest move for three people suffering from post-revelry nausea.
Brunch was worth waiting for. At this point, I was a devoted fan of 20byNine as a bar and as a dinner spot. But they were about to win me over on a whole new level. A small outside patio, breakfast cocktails, a menu with no misses and friendly service from the staff? My favorite Oak Bluffs eatery can do no wrong. (Stay tuned for one last post from the island later this week — a roundup of my favorite restaurants!)
It was the perfect send off to a beautiful week. See you next summer, Martha’s Vineyard!
Goodbye MV! Next stop, Boston…
If you’d like to see Martha’s Vineyard through my eyes, my family’s historic Oak Bluffs gingerbread cottage is available for weekly rentals. We renovated each room by hand and I’d love to share its magic with you!
loved this post. it’s super hard not to compare yourself and your family to others when everyone puts the best of the best on social media.
It is indeed. I do like to keep it real around here, even when it’s not super flattering to me — ie. I was being a brat.
Is it considered a blogging faux pas to not be all sunshine and farts all the time? In the more social/family sense that is.
You mean how does my family feel about it? They are pretty supportive of all aspects of my blogging! I think I’m pretty careful never to throw anyone under the bus, so to speak, and I always share with them the emails/messages I get from readers who tell me that my honesty helped them feel better about the less than picture perfect aspects of their life. They get it 🙂
That’s lovely that your family get it.
I also meant in a general way of
“Travel Blogging 101 – Don’t go into personal drama”.
I really appreciate that you’re so real in your blog, I find people want to be able to relate and creating the picture perfect life isn’t doing anyone any favours.
I’m planning on starting my own blog for my trip next year and you’re constantly give me inspiration. So thank you 🙂
Meh, I never really follow the blogging rules. It’s worked out pretty well for me 🙂
Nice outfits! I love that your family will do such a thing 🙂 And also — whats a real family without a few fights and tensions here and there — people who are close have to disagree, and sometimes get annoyed, otherwise that’s just creepy, no? Happy Thanksgiving!
I agree! I have in the past thought when reading blogs, wow, how can that family be so perfect?! Why can’t mine be like that? And then I remember I’m probably not seeing the full picture. I do like to at least try to give a fuller picture when possible.
I LOVE ALPACAS! They’re just the sweetest creatures ever. Don’t sweat the family drama either. EVERY family goes through drama no matter what type or how perfect they come across to others. The only thing to do is let it go and remind yourself of how much you love your family 🙂
It’s amazing too how months later it’s hard to even remember what some fights were about! I need to try to think about that in the moment, next time.
Again, another great review. I have the alpacas as the screen saver on my cell phone. Also, bought alpaca mittens that I probably don’t need in Florida, but I felt compelled to get something alpaca.
Love that they are your screen saver 🙂 They were funny little guys and it was fun for us to do something that was new for all of us, together!
Ian’s face in that carousel picture CRACKS ME UP! Just the thought of jell-o shots kind of makes me cringe. Speaking of family drama, my first Thanksgiving at home in four years is sure to be interesting…
Bring on the mulled wine, I say 🙂 My last Christmas at home was a pretty tension fraught one, and I do remember thinking at the time that one benefit was that it would make being away this year a little easier knowing it would be drama-free (if a little lonely.) Curious to see how that works itself out…
Love all the pics in this post, Alex! Amazing job capturing the holiday, and as others have commented, it’s refreshing to see someone be honest about family drama – we all have it, so it’s one more thing to relate to.
Loved the pic on the paddle board. My balance during yoga is suspect even on dry land, so trying this over water wouldn’t be my best choice. 🙂
It is a fun challenge! I love that poses that long ago became second-nature are challenging all over again.
Alex your style of writing is so down to earth and refreshing. I love that you talked about the bad parts of the day as well, it can’t be all sunshine and rainbows all the time!
Thanks Erin. That means a lot! I do try to be authentic to my experiences, even if it’s hard to write sometimes.
What a lovely post! I love how honest and open you’re being about the situation even though it’s always difficult to look at the sad and bad things rather than the fun things!
Thanks Dominique. Do you ever read blogs and think, “ugh, why is my life not that perfect?” I definitely don’t want anyone to ever associate that adjective with my blog 🙂
It’s fun to read about 4th of July when I’m looking at the remnants from last week’s snowstorm!
Ah….good ol’ family drama! It’s what inspires me to travel more often – in fact, tomorrow, instead of sitting down for turkey and tension, I’m heading to Panama! It’s funny, when you posted about all those people staying in your Polly Pocket house, I thought “that would never work in my family!”
Ha, yeah, I think at this point I’ll be blogging about Burning Man in the middle of February, which should be entertaining for my North America readers 🙂 And yeah, it does take a unique chemistry to make nine people in one house work! I have to give us credit for more or less holding it together for all but one day!
I always love your honesty, Alex. Can you start a series called “Real Talk with Alex Baackes?” Please?
Also I absolutely hate to hear a lost work story 🙁 Sadly I think we all have them. The worst I ever heard was told by my screenwriting prof in film school as a cautionary tale. His friend toiled for 10 years on a screenplay, had all kinds of struggles but finally finished. This was pre-digital typewriter days so she drove it to a copy place but first stopped at a 7-11 for a drink, leaving the manuscript in her car. I’m sure you can guess the rest…she emerged from the 7-11, only to find her car had been stolen! It was her only copy & she never wrote again. AAAAAAHHHHH
Ha, I think I see a vlog series in my future with that title….
And OMG that story pains me to read. I’ve heard a million as well, though that one might take the cake. My mom has a tragic one too when it comes to travel — returning home from a multi-week trip to Europe to find she’s used pre-exposed rolls of film the entire way. Not a single photo from the entire trip! It makes my heart hurt just to think about it. And actually, come to think of it, I have a memory of a young pastor at my church having a similar story to the one you told — his car was stolen with his laptop inside, which had all copies and backups of his doctoral thesis on it. WHY WHY WHY. I remember him plastering the neighborhood with posters just asking for the files, keep the laptop and car.
I really love this post !!! It looks that you have a great time with all your love ones
I did indeed, Izy! Thank you!
YES real talk! Always appreciated 🙂 I have read many a blog and felt like..damnit, why can’t my life be all pretty and perfect like theirs? Your blog feels very relatable which I love! And I definitely relate to feeling miffed when family members don’t want to go along with my festive holiday plans..I can be a total baby in that way, too! Not proud of it, but there it is!
It’s amazing how reassuring it can be to hear I’m not the only one! I always want the holidays to be “just so” and I can definitely revert back to some toddler foot stomping when things don’t go my way. Like you said, not proud of it, but can’t seem to stop it!
I think it’s easy for any group of people who spend periods of time apart to place a lot of excitement and expectations on that future time of togetherness. Emotions run high and you’re all of a sudden thrown together sharing a space and it’s just a prime opportunity for people who love eachother dearly to clash. Who other than those you love most can get under your skin the most??!! I think it’s cool you share the realness. And honestly when you share sunshiny days and happy pictures I don’t see it as being “not authentic.” You’re a smart business woman who’s running an online business and blog and I believe you choose very wisely when to share you’re “dirty laundry” (that we all have!) and when to keep it uplifting and inspirational. I say kudos to you for how you write! This is my fave blog to read because of how down to earth you are and how reading your posts are like talking to a friend! I appreciate the judgement you always have shown in what you share, when you share it and how you share it. You never bash anyone, you can laugh at yourself too, and you are very delicate in how you handle the content by not isolating anyone involved. Just had to say “carry on!” You’re doing a great job!
Thank you so much Sara, this comment means a lot to me! You are too kind. I agree that authenticity isn’t about being gloomy and doomy all the time. Sometimes we are riding a natural high for a day, a week, or a month, and being true to that means rainbows and sunshine and big loopy hearts drawn over everything. Sometimes shit gets real and suddenly, whoa, being true to that means bringing up some slightly less-pleasant-to-write-about topics. I just go where the story takes me!
Awwwww Tucker looked so adorable!
Pity about your photos, I’ve made a similar mistake before and it sucked.
July 4 looks like a fun holiday. A bit like Australia Day for us!
It was so painful, especially as they’d been sitting safely on my memory card for months and I care-freely deleted them just days before realizing they weren’t on my computer. Ouch!
I consider myself lucky when I don’t cry during a family visit (which miracle of miracles actually happened this past week) so I appreciate your aside about things not always being as perfect as they seem. That said, I’m glad the majority of your time was fun and you enjoyed your stateside 4th of July!
Ha, that is a good measure of success for any family gathering 🙂