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La Jollan Sally Buffington keeps her memories close in new book

La Jollan Sally Buffington has written her first book, a memoir of her family's summer cottage in Cape Cod, Mass.
(Courtesy of Sally Buffington)

Expanding on her longtime habit of writing as a method of processing her experiences, La Jollan Sally Buffington has written her first book, “A Place Like This: Finding Myself in a Cape Cod Cottage.”

The book, published July 27, is a memoir of her family’s summer home in Cape Cod, Mass., capturing decades of Buffington’s memories and cultivated lessons.

Buffington, who was raised on the East Coast but has lived in La Jolla since 1984, said writing is her second career, after teaching and performing music locally.

She pursued that second career after a lifetime of taking up a pen — preferring to handwrite instead of type — in journals and notepads and on scraps of paper as a way to preserve her memories of the Cape Cod cottage.

The cottage, called “Craigville” for the village it’s in, belonged to the family of Buffington’s husband, Andy. “When I became engaged,” she said, “I had to meet it. It was another member of the family.”

She and Andy, and later their two children, visited family at Craigville every summer until the house was sold in 2020 due to the next generation being unable to take on its care.

“Most of us have someplace, whether it’s a house or a place in nature or where we were born,” that leaves an impression, Buffington said. “It’s a funky old house, [but] it’s just a great place on Earth. … It inspired me; it began to be like a muse to go there.”

Sally Buffington says she writes to make sense of her experiences.
(Courtesy of Sally Buffington)

She said she wrote down her thoughts about Craigville often, compelled by “the sense of not wanting to lose it. This started with keeping a journal,” often in notepads kept on her nightstand so as not to miss a thought.

Buffington said she also “handwrote in big sketchbooks. If the house burned down, I would probably grab those 20 sketchbooks.”

Though she has lived in La Jolla a long time and loves it, “I came from the East Coast, and it’s forever a part of me,” she said.

“Growing up in New England, to me summer was always the season,” Buffington said, and the cottage was “the place for summer.”

“I think that it imprints on you, where you go as a child,” Buffington said. “Like so many experiences, good or bad, it’s indelible. And in the case of Cape Cod, I think the idea of what I think is beautiful, a lot of it is [from] back there.”

She said Craigville also is where she found herself “making a place within it,” navigating conflict between herself and her mother-in-law. “We were two strong women,” Buffington said. “Living far apart from people, you don’t get to know them very well and then, bingo, you’re going to spend 10 days together in a cottage.”

While struggling through the tension, “it took me awhile to make the path I wanted to make,” she said.

She also grappled with the challenge of wanting solitude. “I’ve always liked being alone. And this is very much a group house,” she said.

“A Place Like This” took a decade to finish, Buffington said. The COVID-19 pandemic was “something of a boon for this strong, deep thinking into finishing.”

“I had wanted to do this all my life,” she said. “I’ve always written to hold onto experience,” starting with recording memories of her first pregnancy. “She’s 45 now,” she said of her daughter, “and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Buffington said writing also is a way for her to make sense of experiences. “Life moves fast. It’s been so interesting, sometimes so confounding. Sometimes when I’m puzzled or I get through something, I think, ‘What was all that about?’

“Writing helps me sort it out. Sometimes that experience is not complete until I get home and muddle my way through it a bit.”

Buffington said she “had a lot to sort out” about Craigville. One of her biggest challenges was confining the material to one book.

She is still writing per her habit, keeping a blog (sallybuffington.com) of short essays and her thoughts on food and fashion, along with her photography, which also is featured in the book.

Buffington is scheduled to appear for a book signing at Warwick’s bookstore, 7812 Girard Ave. in La Jolla, at noon Sunday, Oct. 3.

“A Place Like This: Finding Myself in a Cape Cod Cottage” can be purchased at Warwick’s or online at bit.ly/APlaceLikeThisSB.