banner1gif.gif

Tails of Summer and Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Visiting my 94-year-old aunt on Cape Cod is always an adventure. For one thing, she swims daily in Buzzards Bay, and since she is on oxygen and can barely walk, it means I too swim daily in Buzzards Bay. The process includes carefully removing her oxygen tube, helping her get into the water, swimming laps, and exiting with just enough time to hook the oxygen tank back up after a 20-minute dip at high tide.

 

By Holly Kennedy

 

A22-TAILS OF SUMMERVisiting my 94-year-old aunt on Cape Cod is always an adventure. For one thing, she swims daily in Buzzards Bay, and since she is on oxygen and can barely walk, it means I too swim daily in Buzzards Bay. The process includes carefully removing her oxygen tube, helping her get into the water, swimming laps, and exiting with just enough time to hook the oxygen tank back up after a 20-minute dip at high tide.

 

But, during her naptime, my husband and I had the opportunity to venture out to sightsee.

 

It was too hot and crowded for the beach, so off we went to the Cape Cod Canal information center, where we learned that until very recently it was the widest canal without locks in the world. Looking for some ice cream after our fact-filled tour by the cheerfully employed Army Corps of Engineers canal guide, we headed to Sandwich, which was the place to live in the early 1700s. Curious about a historic house listed in the tourist booklet described as the oldest in Cape Cod, we stopped to see how it compared to Rye’s Square House.

 

Hoxie House, open to the public from mid-June through the end of September, is a charming saltbox located on the top of a shaded hillside overlooking a stream, with a gristmill at the bottom of the slope. It’s a combination of the Square House and Phillipsburg Manor, with lots of lore thrown in. Our guide was determined to teach us not only the history of the families who lived there, but how many English language sayings evolved over time, including: raining cats and dogs, minding your p’s and q’s, and my all-time favorites: burning the candle at both ends, and getting the short end of the stick.

 

If you are looking for an activity that your kids can write a “What I did on my summer vacation” essay on, this tour fits the bill.

 

We learned that steep sloping roofs were a favorite place for cats to sun themselves and for dogs to chase them. When it rained, the roof became slippery, the cats and dogs fell off, and hence a real downpour was ‘raining cats and dogs’. Back in the good ol’ days, men heading to their neighborhood tavern kept personal pewter tankards on the cupboard shelves; woe to anyone who used the wrong one. Since tankards were sized for pints and quarts, people were admonished to mind their own p’s and q’s.

 

The expression I get the biggest kick out of is ‘burning the candle at both ends’, which I use regularly in the hope of instilling a sense of proportion in my teenagers to get enough shuteye. Turns out there actually was a lamp (see picture) which used the reed of a cat o’ nine tail soaked in oil. When entertaining, the reed was balanced equally in the lamp and lit on both ends. ‘Burning the candle at both ends’ meant a visitor was welcome for a long visit with lots of light. If the reed was perched on the lamp with only a short piece lit, visitors immediately understood they were in for a short evening and getting the ‘short end of the stick’, because the light would go out much sooner.

 

I can already think of expressions from my childhood that need passing down. One day a tour group will stop and learn the origin of ‘you sound like a broken record’. It came from a time back in the 1900s, children, when we listened to music on turntables and the needle often got stuck, and the tune repeated over and over again.

 

When you’re on your next family vacation and the kids are asking for the umpteenth time, “Are we there yet?” tell them to “Stop sounding like a broken record.” They will think you are really old, but they’ll learn something.


Add comment


Security code
Refresh