72 Ocean View Ave

8 Ocean View 72 Ocean View Ave

The following is an excerpt from Freedom Hall…….

Captain Leander Nickerson had built the Lotowski’s house in the 1830’s.

Justin found the fact that his house had once belonged to a sea captain of great interest, as it was certainly a much better story than the story of his family’s New Jersey house. The New Jersey house didn’t have much of a story at all.

Everything about the Cape house was better than the New Jersey house, Justin thought.

Justin felt this way even though the house was “On the wrong side of the right street” according to his father. Justin had heard his father say this more than once, when describing the Cotuit house to friends back in New Jersey.

Justin’s father was a very modest man and liked to downplay things that otherwise sounded pretentious, like when speaking about their second home up in Cape Cod. According to Justin’s father, doctors should never outwardly appear to be wealthier than their patients, which explained the Lotowski automobiles as well as their homes.

To Justin, it was a great house, regardless of what side of the street it was on and unlike his father, Justin conveniently and sometimes purposefully omitted what side of the street it was on when whenver speaking about his house. Justin was often pretentious, even though he didn’t really know what pretentiousness was but never did it to be mean.

And, even though Justin loved the houses that were on the water and the though of having a boat tied up in the back yard, as he knew his father really did too, Justin always thought of the waterfront homes as belonging to “newer” families and to ones that simply had too much money. In his experience the people that lived in the waterfront homes were rarely very nice, especially the ones that took offense to having people walk along the beach.

To Justin, his house was perfect and having a boat only a few hundred yards away was more than ok.

His house, an old grey saltbox, sat just close enough to the water to let him smell the sea air, but far enough away to still have a large grassy back yard and large silver poplar trees everywhere. The trees provided shade in the heat of August and had leave that would rustle violently when the wind would blow in from the bay.

“Those leaves!” Justin would curse whenever his mother had heard them and yell out from the kitchen and comment disdainfully about the weather on the bay. Hearing the leaves she knew that it would be blustery on the water. Blustery was a good thing to Justin, but not so to his mother.

Noticeably missing from the Lotowski’s yard and the general vicinity of the house was the endless amount of sand that seemed to be everywhere else on the cape and throughout many parts of Cotuit other than theirs.

Justin appreciated this fact for one reason more than others, as his mother was obsessed with keeping sand out of the house.

From June until September there was an everpresent tray of water for everyone to use when returning from the beach, as if the sand was a contaminant of some sort.

Justin would routinely ignore the washing ritual as he could hardly be bothered to slow down and use it, unless of course he saw his mother standing in the kitchen watching his every move.

Back in the days that Cotuit had revolved around the sea, few people would ever consider building their homes right on the water. With winter storms and hurricanes, being at least a little inland and up on higher ground was only prudent. Besides, Justin thought, after spending weeks if not months on the water, who really wanted to keep looking at the sea anyway.

“If it was good enough for them, then its good enough for me!” Justin had convinced himself and would say to his grandfather whenever they sat having lunch down at the Kettle Ho and the topic of the house would come up.

“Living right on the water was a foolish idea if one was truly a man of the sea” his grandfather would add, making Justin feel close to his grandfather for his grandfather really was “a man of the sea”.

Some of the homes along Ocean View and the lower parts of Main Street had unusual perches atop their roofs knows as “Widows’ Walks”. These unusual features were where long ago a sea captain’s wife could sit and wait to see if her husband’s ship was approaching.

Justin’s house was just a bit too far inland to have a widow’s walk, thanks to how large Bluff Point stuck out directly in front of their house. Ironically, his house was closer to the water in either direction up or down Ocean View, than it was straight ahead.

Justin often thought about how the woman that lived in his house must have been much more confident about her husband’s safe return, or perhaps it was her husband that was the overly confident one to build his house without any view of the water whatsoever. Either way, Justin felt that his house was forever buffeted from the storms blowing in off of Nantucket Sound better than any other in the area and yet they were actually very close.

It was like a fortification to Justin and Justin though that fortifications were a good thing. The “best of both worlds” as his father would say right after his clarification of what side of the street the house laid. Justin also once heard his father telling someone that the insurance rates were better being where they were but he didn’t really know what that meant either.

The house was as traditional a saltbox as they came, plus a small addition off of the back that was built much later yet looked very much like it belonged.

The house sat literally only a few feet from the street which was perhaps the one thing about the house that Justin did not like that much and he always imagined that someday his father would have the whole house moved back just a bit.

However, being so close to the street allowed Justin to hear the kids that would walk by at night on their way to Loop Beach.

From his room in the back of the house Justin could hear the boys making jokes and the girls laughing and even though his mother told him that he was too young to hang out with “those kids”, he felt otherwise. Often Justin thought about sneaking outside and joining in on the fun if only he could be certain that it was people he knew and liked.

The house had cedar shingles that were stained gray by his grandfather “battleship gray” as he would say, conjuring up images for Justin of the USS Galveston upon which his grandfather was stationed.

The process of staining the house “battleship gray” was a never-ending one that his grandfather tended to lovingly and with great pride.

Once in a while, Justin would help out with this chore but this would only happen for as long as it remained fun, which was usually only a few hours.

Since there was always a section that needed touching up, his grandfather simply rotated his way around the house and did a little bit at a time. When Justin would help out he always did much less painting and a lot more fetching and cleaning up than he would have liked, but since his grandfather always had lots of funny stories to tell, the time went by quickly and Justin spent more time helping his grandfather paint than most chores. The only thing Justin liked more was splitting wood with his grandfather.

Justin knew that their house was relatively modest compared to many of the newer homes in town but it was still very large compared to New Jersey standards. It had 6 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, even though the two bedrooms off of the back of the house where barely larger than a single bed; the room furthest back being Justin’s and the one next to it being his little sister Krystina’s.

Justin adored his little room for two reasons. First, it was off the back of the house far away from his parent’s room and being on the first floor he could come and go as he pleased through his bedroom window which he could open and close in complete silence. Second, his room had its own mirror and sink in it which was a leftover from its boarding house heritage and even though he had to share a bathroom with his sister, the bathroom was right across the hall in front of his door so it was almost like it was his.

At the far end of the hallway that connected the two rooms to the kitchen was a screened in porch, which Justin considered his private living room and often would extract homage from his little sister if she dared try to enter it while he was around.

Although his room was tiny, to him it was the best place in the world. It was rarely neat but it did have a certain organization to it. There was his tennis corner, his sailing corner and the corner in which he kept his Mad Magazine collection and his cassette tapes.

Dr. and Mrs. Lotowski’s bedroom was in the front of the house on the other side of the living room and as cars full of young kids would zoom down Ocean View on hot summer nights making their way to The Loop Beach, Mrs. Lotowski would often awaken from the noise. However, she didn’t mind that much as she would always go quickly back to sleep once she began re-reading the pages of her book that she had re-read only a dozen times before as she repeated the process of falling asleep.

Nancy and Sarah each had their own room upstairs and each had their own bathroom. This was ironic to Justin because in the summer they didn’t need bathrooms nearly as much as they did in the winter back home in New Jersey. In New Jersey, where all four kids shared one bathroom, getting ready for school was a veritable powder keg of tempers and Justin was low man on the totem pole when it came to bathroom time.

This summer, even though Nancy had stayed in New Jersey, Justin did not want to move upstairs and loose his easy access to the outside world though his ground floor escape hatch. Besides, with Nancy coming up quite a few weekends, Justin knew that she would insist upon having her room and Justin would end up sleeping downstairs again anyway.

Outside and to the right of the Lotowski house was a long driveway made from crushed seashells that went down to the once old and dilapidated boathouse that had been converted into a guest house shortly after the Lotowski’s had purchased the property.

Justin’s grandmother and grandfather had taken up residency in it shortly after the renovation and it too had been painted “battleship gray”.

The “guesthouse” as it was called even when his grandparents had moved in permanently, had two bedrooms and a bath upstairs along with a living room, kitchen and another bathroom downstairs. It was a cozy little house having been built into the side of the hill that descended from Ocean View to Main Street so that the second floor was at the same level as the back yard of the main house. The first floor, being below grade, was fully protected from the harsh winter breeze that blew in off of Cotuit bay.

Across the street from the main house was a mansion which was majestic in appearance by any standard contrasting the Lotowski house which was “Cape Cod” through and through. Justin’s house heralded back to the humble origins of the town and not its heyday as a retreat for the rich and famous. This was one of the reasons why Justin’s mother loved it so much, Justin thought, figuring that she identified with the house in the same way.

Justin loved that his great grandmother, his mother’s mother’s mother, had a cottage that was only a quarter mile away around the corner on Shell Lane even further away from the water. It was likewise a very traditional structure. Justin’s mother had once told Justin that when she was a child that she had always admired the house at 8 Ocean View and had hoped to live there one day. Although the house was now 72 Ocean View it was originally 8 and was changed for some unknown reason all of a sudden.

“72 Ocean View, When you come please wear blue” Justin could hear his grandfather singing from time to time.

Justin loved to think of his mother as a child in Cotuit. He could easily picture his mother in pigtails and a sundress walking one way or another in front of the house looking up as she passed and hoping that one day the house would be hers. Justin figured that his mother must have always been an ambitious woman and was proud to have a mother that made her dreams come true.

He hoped that all of his dreams came true just the same.

Justin often thought about how the house stood still for all those years as time passed while so many people came and went during the interim. He knew that lots of things must have changed over the years since his mother walked down Ocean View but at times he felt as though nothing had changed and that everything had stayed exactly the same.

This notion of timelessness made him feel very close to his mother yet at odds with her at the same time. In so many ways their childhoods were so much alike yet she seemed incapable of understanding her son or if she did understand him, making a connection that he understood.

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