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  • Kristan Higgins

That old Cape magic

Updated: May 4, 2022

cape house

When I was a little kid, my parents bought a house on Cape Cod. It’s a simple little place—absolutely nothing glamorous about it except that it’s on the Cape. The furnishings are battered, the windows rattle and the screens have holes in them. Knotty pine abounds. The kitchen table is in the living room, since it can’t fit anywhere else. My mother is overly fond of blue, so everything is a little like camouflage—the blue pitcher on the blue counter, the blue carpeting and the blue bathroom. There is no air conditioning, just a few moldy window fans. It's poorly insulated, so it gets both hot and cold. The cellar smells like dampness.

sunset on the bay

And yet, the house is the most wonderful place in the world. The sky never seems so blue as it does on Cape Cod, and the smell of crispy fallen pine needles is the smell of summer to me. The crows wake us at six a.m., and no matter how early you go, there’s always a line at the donut shop. At sunset, people flock to the bay side to watch the show, and when it's dark, the beam of Nauset Light sweeps over the tops of the pitch pines. You can always hear the ocean.


Right now, the climbing roses are blooming, those crazy plants that wind up telephone poles and cedar trees and eat fences (there’s a split rail fence in this picture somewhere, I promise). Rabbits wander lazily through our yard, unused to humans and dogs. When it rains, there’s no hope your towel or hair will dry without electricity. On sunny days, we all smell like the beach—salt and sunscreen, with a hint of coffee thrown in as well. When you ride your bike down the rail trail, you catch the wonderful scents of fried seafood and garlic, burgers on the grill, the bay at low tide.

There’s not a lot of space in the house, so by the end of our week here, with five humans and two dogs in residence, it will be cluttered with magazines and newspapers. The camera will sit on the counter because there’s no better place for it, really, and flyers about whale watches or real estate will litter the coffee table.

locust tree

I love cleaning the Cape house for the next residents here. I leave it tidy and sparkling, always with a lump in my throat and a heart full of gratitude that my father gave us this home away from home.

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like the Cape house.


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