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IMG_20170723_085212Most often, I feel shy or hesitant about attending a large event.  I considered whether to attend Big Nick’s Ride for Cape Cod’s Fallen, which takes place in my hometown of Yarmouth, MA. I have seen the one-thousand plus motorcycles go through. This year, I had a personal interest in knowing more about the group. My son is presently in training to become a Marine. I gravitated towards the chance of meeting others who have served or the families of those who served. Although designed to recognize Gold Star Families of Cape Cod, the event description states the occasion is also for past, present and future service persons and their families.

My first tendency is to avoid feeling trapped at a large public event. I considered going to watch from a somewhat secluded part of the route, avoiding the fanfare. My husband pointed out that it would be a unique opportunity and perhaps I should “actually attend.” He certainly was right and I did attend.

Pulling up to the high school, I noticed that their were plenty of parking spots right up front. Well, I may as well park here I thought to myself. It did seem odd to me that there were so many available spots. I set up my beach chair along the route, after consulting with a group of former Marines. Now the only thing to do was wait. I struck up conversations with the scattering of people who were there at a decent hour. I wondered out loud to several people asking where all the spectators were. “They’ll be here” I was told.

The Dennis fire truck came and unfurled its massive flag over the empty, but soon to be full of motorcycles, parking lot. Then we waited some more. I was told by a fellow spectator that the procession often gets a late start out of Bourne.  The Gold Star father of “Big Nick” greeted people as they trickled in. I had a good conversation with a gentleman I later learned, was Nick’s uncle.  While on the sidelines with my sign (see photo), a woman came by whose son is a Marine on his second deployment. We cried together like two old friends. A mother understands like no other.

I decided to engage through Facebook Live. There are military families I am connected with and wanted to share this event with them.  I felt like a reporter on the scene. I spoke with a Marine, who happened to be female, and thoroughly enjoyed hearing about her experience. This event came to life through the many moments that others were generous and willing to share with me. The spectator parking never did quite fill, but there were many quality persons in attendance.

Nick’s father, in Marine dress blues, saluted the riders from beginning to end. It takes time for over 1,200 bikes to roll through and he stood at attention the entire time. After the bikes finished, he found a moment to speak to me about my son, who is presently a Recruit at Parris Island. Nick was a graduate of Dennis-Yarmouth High School, as is my son. Nick’s uncle told him about me and he made a point to come by and speak to me. Just the thing you would expect from one with grace and dignity; having already given his precious son, here he was, on many levels, giving more.

History of the Ride


Day 1

“You have to look the part.” This was said from the twenty-something year-old pool manager to a forty-something year-old woman at the pool. She twitched. I overheard but did not process.

Day 2

I noticed the woman again; again she was with her two teenagers, a son and a daughter. On the surface I thought, isn’t that nice.  Unusual that these teenagers spend so much time with their mother at the pool!

Day 3

I notice the family of three. They are sinking lower into their cabana lounge chairs. They have been there a long time today without moving much. The mother looks tired, as though she could sleep but she doesn’t. The back of her chair is in the fully upright position. She is covered by a blue fuzzy blanket. She asks the staff person to close the door as a breeze has come up and she feels cold. Later, she and her daughter leave and bring back Styrofoam takeout containers with hot food and cold smoothies on the side.

Day 4

The mother and daughter are in their cabana again. Daughter has a dreamy, far away look in her eyes today.  As though gazing into a mirror, she holds up her cell phone. It has brought her away from this place. They have a collection of haphazard totes. An hour later, the son arrives and is greeted. He walks over and comforts his mother, patting her back. She is also far away and appears furlong, barely responding. The son carries most of the bags and the three leave together. It is 8pm.