The Beach Girl Chronicles

Onset Beach in September

My name is Michele Marcellino Somerville. I would not normally introduce myself in that way, but my maiden name is an important part of my stories.  I grew up in Onset, Massachusetts, but left home in 1969 for a brief sojourn to Washington State. I returned home in November of 1969 and left for good in August of 1970.  Now, I am a retired clergy person, an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, living in north central Pennsylvania. In my retirement, I can finally take what is more than a “sentimental journey.”

 Onset is a village that is part of the town of Wareham. Our chief industries in the 1960’s were cranberries and tourism. My parents were local business owners.  During the years I lived at home our house was just “up the road” from the beach and the Point Independence Yacht Club.  In March of 1962 my parents sealed the deal on the Union Villa Hotel, Bar, and Restaurant, and we moved to an apartment on the first floor of the hotel; the barroom and restaurant were downstairs. Home was a lot like “Cheers” and when I say I grew up in a barroom, I am not exaggerating.  The hotel was across the street from the beach and pier that hosted tourist boats and fishing boats, and in my opinion, the best tourist and local beach in our area. What it lacked in surf, it made up for in charm and history.

Although I left home in 1970, home never left me. I carried with me memories and traditions and a few souvenirs that have come to mean a lot more to me in recent years, than they did at first. Cranberry scoops are a story all their own and I hope you will stick with me to learn about scoops and bogs and other traditions. Who knows, there may even be recipe or two.

Seashells are another treasure. Whenever I know someone is going to the beach, any beach, that is the gift I ask for. I carry a scallop shell in my car to remind me of my baptism, but truth be told, also of my roots. I currently have two mason jars filled with seashells on the top of one of the bookcases in my office.  I love seashells, their delicate construction and simple beauty haunt me.  Although I am not sure if it is legal to have it, I have a small pill bottle with beach sand from Onset beach.

I have recently cleaned out many mementos from my life to radically reduce clutter, but still hold onto the light blue Portuguese pottery, just a few pieces that I cannot bring myself to sell or give away.  Another important thing that I have kept from my hometown is the stories themselves that I invite you to read. I didn’t realize how much I had carried home with me until my college English professor at Mansfield University asked some key questions that caused “home” to spill out of my pen and onto paper in both “free write” assignments and the more serious kind. When I was clearing out old papers from college and seminary, I knew that I wasn’t ready to let go of them either.  And in one recent trip, as I walked and drove around my hometown, taking pictures and drinking in the atmosphere one pressing word spoke to my heart, “write.” So here I am. At this juncture, I am unable to hold back the tide.  Many of the stories I hope to share will be about Onset and growing up a “beach girl” and growing up in a barroom; but they won’t be limited to that. I hope to share thoughts on friendships, family, insights from books I am reading or have read, leaning into retirement and some shaggy dog stories to boot. We have adopted 4 rescue dogs in the last 30 years of our marriage and each one has a story. I am a pastor still, so there will be some reflections about faith and spirituality.  I am excited to be taking this adventure and hope you will join me on this journey.  

Not holding back the tide,


Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

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