Friday, October 31, 2008

Hampton Bays


Yesterday I drove to Hampton Bays for a much needed morning at the beauty salon. (I probably would have been better served by a couple days there, but alas, a few hours was the best I could manage...)

People often ask me why I drive "all the way to Hampton Bays" when there are so many salons much closer than that. There are two reasons, really. One is that I've been seeing my stylist there for over twenty years now, since we met doing community theater at Guild Hall. We're friends now, and I enjoy my time with him every five weeks!

But aside from that I've learned to look forward to my trips to Hampton Bays because I like it there! The name means "good ground" and it is that - it's lovely. I like to drive up through the back roads, Hill Street and Montauk Highway, winding my way along behind the college campus and through the Shinnecock Hills. When I come around that corner, just on the fringe of Hampton Bays, and that spectacular view opens up before me - across the water on my left and all the way over to the Ponquogue Bridge - well, its one of my favorite vistas on the East End. Its breathtaking at any time of the year.

Plus, I find Hampton Bays to be a quaint little village, untouched by the ravages of traffic being that it's off the main drag as it is, and it feels sheltered and protected from the world. It reminds me of the East Hampton of my youth because there are still nice little shops I can afford to shop in, and there is still room for building things - like the new grocery store (with a bakery!) where I enjoy buying some goodies before I head home. There's just a different feeling in Hampton Bays. I think the word "homey" fits. I love it there.

So I come back to East Hampton from my trip to Hampton Bays and I find I am refreshed in both body and spirit. I know that I look better, thanks to my friend John. But I think I also feel better. Because Hampton Bays is that kind of place.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Familiar places


Coming around the corner by Town Pond yesterday on our way home was so nice. The swans were still there, along with an unusually large group of ducks that seem to have defected from the group that habitates the Nature Trail (A falling out? Advanced scouts? Who knows?!). A light rain was falling, and as is typical in the fall, work was being done everywhere: paving and sidewalks on Ocean Avenue, repairs to the fence at the South End Cemetery, and a new roof for Clinton Academy.

I love the fact that East Hampton takes such pride in its heritage. The cemetery fence and the new roof are wonderful examples of that. Our old buildings and our special historical places are lovingly cared for and defended against the ravages of time as well as what some would call "progress".

Recently the Presbyterian Church re-shingled the manse and the church. The Thomas Moran House is in the process of being restored. All these places mentioned are an important part of the character of our Main Street and their presence helps us to remember where we have come from - and who we are.

I hope that we are able to instill in our children - our future generations here - the importance of these touchstones, these places that teach us to honor the past. I trust that we already are.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Home again


Heading home after visiting family is bittersweet. I'm anxious to get home and sort a week's worth of mail, and to get all the laundry done, but I hate leaving people I love so much. I'll miss them as soon as we get on the road.

When our daughter graduated from college and got a job in Pennsylvania it was a big adjustment for me. We would spend a weekend with her in her little apartment and then I would cry for the first hour of the trip home. That was eight years ago now so I've adjusted a bit to the distance between us, and the tears do not last quite that long - but the car is still very quiet for the first hour as I slowly come to terms with the fact that it will be weeks before I see her and her family again. It's one of the heartbreaking aspects of being a parent - letting them go and allowing them to become fully independent - still needing them ourselves, but accepting the fact that they no longer need us. We bring these babies - these little miracles - into our lives, love them until it hurts, raise them to be strong and capable adults, and then... let them go. What a difficult thing that is!

But it's life and it is the reality of parenthood so it's something we all deal with in one way or another. I don't think our children fully understand that love until they have children of their own, and then they're already in the same cycle themselves. In a very short time they will be watching their own little ones grow up and leave them. And of course, that's just what we want for them, experiencing this miracle of parenthood themselves.

Life is a mystery in many ways - and sometimes its really hard! And yet I wouldn't trade any of it for all the wealth and possessions in the world. I may not have a lot of money, but those children have made me a very rich woman.

Time to hit the road now....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Old friends


While we've been in Pennsylvania we've taken the opportunity to connect with old friends who live nearby. One couple lives in Maryland and the other in a more western region of Pennsylvania. These couples were good friends when they lived on the East End and it was great to reconnect with them again.

The most intriguing thing to me is the way we can be apart from friends for years, and yet when we finally get together again it is as though time has barely passed at all. Conversation is easy, time spent together goes quickly, and we leave wishing the distance between us was not so great. What was once a comfortable and close relationship is still one of mutual affection. People that we care about are always part of our lives, no matter how far away they live.

Friendship takes effort. Especially long distance! We must invest in relationships if we want them to flourish.

But then, nothing in life that is really worth having comes easily, does it?

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Little Rascals


Visiting the grand kids is like a tonic. I'm incredibly grateful to have three of them living right in East Hampton where we can get our hugs and smiles anytime we want to, but that doesn't make us miss the little ones in Pennsylvania any less. And the times we enjoy the most are when the whole bunch of them are together. They remind me of The Little Rascals, which was on TV when we were kids.

Speaking of TV in the 1950s, my favorite Saturday morning line-up was the westerns: The Lone Ranger, Hoppalong Cassidy, Sky King, and my favorite of all, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I guess the fact that Dale was an equal partner in that duo, which was pretty unusual for a woman in those days, made it more intriguing to me as a little girl. She could not have been more removed from my idea of a woman's role in society since I was surrounded by the typical 50s moms at the time. But here was this strong, adventurous lady who rode horses like the best of the men and got into all kinds of adventures out "in the west", which was a place that seemed pretty exotic to me at the time. I loved Dale Evans. I still do.

I remember those Saturday mornings with affection. My brother and I would be sitting on the floor in front of the big black and white TV set and my mother would be standing behind us with the ironing board set up, working though her huge pile of clean laundry - all of which needed ironing. Those were they days before wrinkle-free and permanent press! What wonderful discoveries those were!

Well, The Little Rascals were not part of those Saturday mornings but now they are part of my life in the flesh. Their names are Daisy, Micah, Tucker, Silas, Lucy and Eli. Sounds like a TV show to me!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sundays away


Today is Sunday and being away from home on a Sunday is always a little odd for me. Since I was born I have always attended church on Sunday mornings, never missing a week with the exception of the times when I am out of town like today. And because of that change in my usual habit I never quite know what day it is when I'm away from home - it throws off my normal rhythm. All day today I will be thinking it's Saturday.

Habits are part of the comfortable side of life, whether its the cup of coffee and bowl of cereal in the morning or the ritual of kissing someone goodnight in the evening. Whatever the usual routine is, we are creatures of habit and being out of sync makes us feel a bit like a boat that's lost it's anchor.

On the other hand, its good to break those routines occasionally - that's what vacations are really about. So today we'll do something different - no church, no Sunday lunch with the family, no evening in front of the TV. But we'll look forward to that routine again when we get home.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

'Tis the season!



I did something really daring the other night. I was coming home from a class in Sag Harbor and made the potentially disastrous decision when I neared the end of Rt 114to keep driving across Toilsome and down Buell Lane to Main Street - instead of turning left at Toilsome to wind my way along to Newtown Lane. For the past few months a left turn onto Main Street from Buell Lane would have been impossible and an attempt would have eventually resulted in a right hand turn and then a loop across the little bridge to James Lane and back around the green to get home. But - it is late in October and I thought it was worth a try. I passed MHT Church, drove by The Barefoot Contessa's house, and to my amazement and utter delight arrived at the stop sign where I could quickly ascertain that there was not a car in sight - in either direction. Whoopee! I turned left, drove all alone down toward Hook Mill, and drove into my driveway without passing more than 3 cars going in the other direction.

Sometimes, life is just great, isn't it?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Out of town


I really hate leaving East Hampton at this time of year because it's just so beautiful. But we're in Pennsylvania right now visiting our daughter and her family, and I miss them enough to make the sacrifice
Before we left town I made a point of visiting my friend at her farm stand. I knew by the time we returned next week I might not get over there again and the stand is one of my favorite back-road vistas. When you head south from Montauk Highway and come upon Wainscott Main Street, there it is: a nice wooden structure covered by it's charming green awning, with smaller tables out front that are filled to overflowing with pumpkins and squash of all shapes and sizes. Best of all right now is the way the fields stretch out behind the stand, littered with fat orange pumpkins like a polka dotted tablecloth. With the high corn stalks now gone you can see nearly to the ocean. It's such a nice setting for a farm stand and being off the highway as it is I find it has a special charm in the quiet and calm of the surroundings. So I drove over to say hello and take one last look for the season.

When I get home it will be Halloween and I'll rush out to get some candy for the few children that come to our house. We are in an isolated spot here for trick-or-treaters and rarely get many. But I am always prepared just in case!

Halloween has always signaled the end of warm weather to me. Once November is here there's no turning back - no Indian Summer and no more hot days. Time for the heat to be turned on for the season.

It's beautiful here in Pennsylvania, but it's not East Hampton. I can't wait to get home...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rutting season


There is danger on the roads at this time of year! Two days ago I drove up to Buckskill Road and passed two deer carcasses along the way - one with a pretty impressive rack of antlers (I guess that's where Buckskill Road got its name!). Last night I had to drive to Sag Harbor for a class and the entire trip was tense as I constantly scanned the sides of Route 114 for any quick movement that might indicate a stray doe heading my way. Bambi may have learned to sense danger when man was in the forest - but we've learned to sense it when the deer are in their rutting season!

Fortunately it was an uneventful trip last night and the only deer I saw was heading into the woods instead of into the road. But I must have looked like Bambi as my head twitched from side to side, making sure I was not going to be ambushed by an unexpected visitor.

We have a small herd that lives in the undeveloped acres along the railroad tracks behind our house. I've lived in the village all my life and it used to be unheard of to see a deer on a village street. Now it's a pretty common sight. Poor things have lost what little habitat they had left in Northwest and Springs, and have found the few wooded areas we have in the village. They are beautiful, graceful animals, but encountering one of them can be deadly and I'm glad that so far I've avoided it!

Hopefully they are enjoying their rutting season...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New life


A new life entered our family last night - my niece had a beautiful, healthy baby boy. What a wonderful day! What a sad day! I miss my mom.

It's interesting how events bring to mind the different people that we have loved and lost. On Memorial Day its my father that I think of. On my husband's birthday it was his mother. On a day like yesterday, it's my mom. She would have been so thrilled to welcome this new little one into the family and it made me sad not to be able to call her with the news.

I shared my sadness with my sister when she called to tell me the baby was here. "I want to tell Mom" I said as I choked back tears. "It's OK" said my younger but wiser sister "she knew before I did because I had to wait outside the room." Of course she was right.

So welcome to the world Evan Patrick. And welcome to your big, boisterous family. I wish you could have known your great-grandmother, but you have wonderful parents loving grandparents, and lots of aunts and uncles and cousins to love you. And you will be loved.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ice


A morning ambulance call sent me out of the house pretty early today and I was shocked at what I found: ice on my windshield. For all my talk about loving the change of seasons, I must admit that I always forget the inconveniences that come with winter. Not that scraping ice off is the worst thing in the world, but it took me by surprise - a sign of things to come.

Cold weather is not terrible - I enjoy a new snowfall and the magical way it transforms everything within sight. When I was in high school there was an exchange student from Thailand and I will never forget the look of wonder on his face when we walked out of school one November and he saw his first snow. He was in awe of a phenomenon he had only read about back home and his face glowed with the wonder of it. I think about it every year! But....it's only October and I really don't want to have to scrape the windshield quite yet.

Unlike many places where the seasons come and go at a snail's pace, we seem to jump from one to another around here. One day it's 70 degrees, the next it's 30. And the reverse happens in the late spring. It's bizarre.

Well one thing is for sure - colder days are at hand. Time to get out my wool sweaters and get those storm doors put up...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fields


I am blessed to live across the street from a beautiful open field in the village. Not that it's the least bit a quiet place - on the contrary! This is one of the most highly trafficked areas in town, so we have our share of cars and noise here. But there is a wonderful vista from my front windows, and I especially enjoy it early in the morning when most people are still at home and the car and truck population sparse. When I raise my shades at 7am I can almost pretend I live on a quiet street across from a meadow, somewhere on the south side of the highway.

From this vantage point I can see the changes in the seasons perfectly, as well as the daily incremental changes in the weather. One day it may be fog slowly creeping along the ground, hugging it like a blanket yet floating gently on the surface. In another few months it will be the result of a light overnight snowfall. Very soon now it will be the first frost - a signal of things to come. Today it's the trees slowly changing out of their summer clothing and into their fall colors. It seems to me to be their moment in the spotlight as they slowly morph from "one of the gang" into one-of-a-kind spectaculars of buttery yellows and vibrant reds. Each of them suddenly gets a special look as they stunningly stand out from the background of green.

We are moving quickly to winter now, but there is still so much to enjoy about autumn.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Our mother's houses


My husband and I both lost our mothers within the last two years, which has made for a real roller-coaster ride of emotion around here. There are so many things to deal with when the last of our parents die, and when you are also dealing with such profound grief - well, it's like a mine field. We've been trying to treat each other with kid gloves - but it hasn't been easy.

I've found that one of the more poignant issues involved in saying our goodbyes involves dealing with their houses. Both mother's lived in their respective houses for over fifty years and those homes were such an integral part of our own lives, living right here in the same town as we do, that now they are objects of great sadness.

Both houses are, for all practical purposes, empty: one is used as a summer rental and the other is on the market to be sold. Which means we have ample opportunity to enter them. I don't think much is more unsettling than walking around the house where you grew up, where you celebrated every holiday, where you helped paint walls and move furniture, and see it so empty. What once was full of life - both of them warm, comfortable, and vibrant homes - are empty shells now, totally devoid of the personality that our parents had breathed into them. Walking through them sometimes overwhelms us with sadness - there's no life, no personality, no home anymore. At least in the case of my mother's house there is still furniture and carpeting, but my mother-in-law's has been stripped down to the bare floors and every step echoes when you walk through it. It's surreal.

There are many things we've had to deal with since our parents died. None have had a more profound impact than those empty houses have.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Saturday


It's a beautiful Saturday in East Hampton - I think. It's still too early to tell for sure, but I'm expecting that the air will be nice and crisp, the sun shining, the leaves changing color - im general a great day to be home to get things done around the house.

I noticed recently that the dogwood and cherry trees need pruning and I like having an outdoor chore to do while the weather is so nice. Other than that there are the usual bathrooms to clean, the kitchen of course, and dusting and vacuuming to do everywhere. I'm definitely going to head outside first though.

When the cleaning is done I need to make a dessert to take to a friend's house for dinner tonight. I'm thinking that this is the perfect weather for making a pie - probably apple. Nothing says autumn like a warm apple pie, right? Then again, lemon meringue is a special favorite of mine, so I may be swayed in that direction...

I think I'll get the hard work done as quickly as possibly and then see where the spirit moves me in the dessert area. I love to bake and I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday night in October than around the dinner table with friends.

I'll be looking forward to it all day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The fireplace


I have always been a purist when it comes to fireplaces: I love the smell of a roaring fire as well as the snapping and crackling sounds that nice dry wood makes. I spent years fighting my husband's attempts to insert a wood burning stove in our living room fireplace because I just felt it wouldn't be the same. He finally gave up.

I lay that foundation of information so you understand that what I am about to reveal is pretty amazing: we just had a gas insert installed in our fireplace(gasp!). Honestly I have a difficult time even writing that down - I feel as though I'm in a confessional or something and I am filled with guilt.

We've been toying with the idea of a gas insert for a couple years now but I, naturally, have resisted it all this time. But then I attended a forum at Town Hall in September regarding energy alternatives, and home heating efficiency, and in looking ahead to the upcoming winter (and current fuel prices) I finally gave in. The idea of all that (expensive) heated room air being sucked out of my house and up through the chimney finally brought me to my senses.

So, we bit the bullet and the gas insert is now installed. I'm pleased with the way it looks - (pretty darn realistic actually) - and the ease of turning it on with a nice little remote control (which also allows me to raise and lower the flame height - so cute!). And I'm looking forward to some nice cold nights this winter when we can sit enjoying the fireplace without the need to bring in wood from outside or clean up any mess afterward.

But I feel really, really old for thinking that way. Next thing you know I'll be buying a fake Christmas tree...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Technology


I know that this will make my age undeniable, but I was thinking the other day about when my oldest child went to school and the schools were just beginning to put computers into the classrooms. If I remember correctly, once or twice a week the computer was rolled into her kindergarten room and the children were given instructions on this wonderful new technology. It was at that point that I realized I needed to learn about computers myself or I would be hopelessly outdated in my children's eyes. I could never have anticipated then how computers would totally take over our lives and now I cannot imagine doing without one, but at the same time, some of the technology that's out there now seems pretty over-the-top to me.

I mean, I get the iPod, I get CDs and DVDs, and I get cell phones, but what's with the iPhone? Why in the world would I need all that technology on my phone? And why would I want to spend so much money for a phone when I can have one for so little that makes phone calls perfectly well? Do I really need to text people when I can simply call them? Do I want my email at my finger tips instead of at my home computer? It just seems like so much money to spend for what I consider a luxury item.

Of course, there are surely those that need to be that connected to the world, but I am not one of them. I remember the days when only doctors wore pagers - perfectly understandable! But does everyone in a theater or restaurant need a cell phone on or a pager attached to their bodies? Are they really that important?

I guess I just don't want to be that accessible to anyone. Of course, my children think I am hopelessly outdated, despite my earlier determination not to be.

Then again, I remember my grandmother talking about the new "touch tone" telephones years ago. She said something about not wanting to spend the extra money for something like that when the dial phone she had worked perfectly well. Hummmmmm...

Ladies who lunch


I had lunch with a friend the other day and it reminded me of the way women connect with each other. Many jokes have been made about men and the fact that their "bonding" usually consists of football games and a beer, with the most personal thing they might discuss something along the lines of how much they had to pay for gas the last time they filled their cars. My impression is that they don't delve into each other's "feelings" or share the details of their personal lives too often. But, in general, women seem to be much more "relationship" oriented.

I find that women become intimate with one another pretty quickly. This friend was someone I see only a few times a year - she doesn't live in this area. We met through business and haven't known each other long so I really am not what I would consider a close friend. And yet I know all about her house, her family, her hometown, her career goals....the list goes on and on. It's amazing to me that we women feel so comfortable sharing personal details of our lives with each other - and are actually pretty confident in the confidentiality of our conversations. If a woman should prove herself to be unworthy of that trust she quickly becomes labeled a "gossip" and despite how much time we might spend with her, there are certain things we would never share. It's as though there are these unwritten rules that we learn from an early age - probably in Middle School! I don't know how it works with men but they seem to be set in their ways pretty early on as well. I think there must be genetic traits at work here. Any anthropologists out there that want to weigh in on this?

There is no question that men and women are very different in the way they interact with members of the same sex - as well as those of the opposite. I don't mind the difference - in fact I think it's great. It's what makes the world go 'round, as they say. But it's also the reason we don't understand each other real well a good deal of the time.

And I find it all fascinating.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sleep deprivation


I was up at 2am last night answering an ambulance call and as much as I tried to sleep in a little longer than usual this morning, I was out of bed by 6:45. I am already thinking about how great that bed is going to feel when I climb back into it tonight.

People often tell me they could never do volunteer work for the ambulance association because they just could not get out of bed at all hours of the night. I tell them that of course it isn't always easy but the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices, and they do. None of us would do it if we didn't want to, after all - we are volunteers!

There is something incredibly gratifying about being able to respond to a fellow human being at what is always a traumatic time in their lives. Whether the victim of something like an automobile accident or maybe as simple as a stomach ache, when people need help, and you are the one that comes, they never forget it. And it feels good to be able to lend a hand in such a practical way. I wouldn't trade my work with the ambulance association for any other type of volunteer work. It is by far the most rewarding.

All that said, the older I get the harder it is for me to get out of bed at 2am and then recover from the sleep deprivation - I sometimes feel it for days. But it's a price I willingly pay.

And I will re-read this about 4:00 this afternoon to remind myself why I do it...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sunday afternoon


Sunday afternoon has got to be the laziest of times. There is no great rush to get anywhere, no deadline to meet, and no need to do anything other than sit around on the living room couch and read a good book - or the nice, fat New York Times. Guilty pleasures are meant for Sunday afternoons and yesterday was a perfect example. It was just the antidote for what had been a very busy week, and the effect was exactly what I had hoped. Today I feel ready to conquer the world!

I almost resent it when the weather is as picture perfect as yesterday's was because it made me feel guilty for not getting outside and going for a walk, or working in the garden. But it was a full enough day with church in the morning and Sunday lunch with the family, so even with the sun shining so nicely and the view from my windows so right, there was no need for guilt. Because it was Sunday. And Sundays are meant for rest and relaxation, right?

Even God rested on the seventh day. Who am I to argue with that?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More history


Recently I've been reading sections of Jeannette Edwards Rattray's history book of East Hampton which was printed back in the 1950s. It's a fun thing to pick up and flip through every so often, absorbing little bits and pieces of local history whenever I have a few minutes or more - I tend to get lost in it easily and next thing you know, it's been an hour... Well, today I happened across of passage I thought worth sharing. I found this in the genealogy section and it involves a member of the Hand family, one of the first families to settle here in the 1600's. A whaling captain by the name of David Hand is the hero of the story, which was put on paper by James Adams during the height of the whaling trade in the mid-1800s. Here it is:

"One time he was in some South American port with his ship and a Spanish war ship was also there. The crews of the two vessels met on shore and quarreled over some game or other, Capt Hand taking the part of his men and the Spanish officer of his, with the result that the office challenged the Captain to a duel. He accepted and appeared, with his mate as his second, at the spot selected, early the following morning. As the challenged party, he had his choice of weapons and had chosen whaling irons (harpoons with their lines attached) well sharpened. One was handed to the astonished officer, Capt Hand took the other, walked back a short distance, balanced his weapon carefully and prepared to "strike". The officer knew not what to do with his, and when he saw the Captain balancing the long harpoon and heard him call out to the mate "When I fasten, haul in slack," he turned and fled."

I mean, it really doesn't get any better than that! East Hampton has always had its share of characters and the local legends are full of such wonderful stories - but this was a new one for me.

I think I would have enjoyed knowing Capt. Hand.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Back roads


Yesterday morning I had a breakfast meeting at the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton and it gave me a chance to drive the back roads early in the day. I think the southern route between East Hampton and Bridgehampton is among the most beautiful on the East End, with its lush green farm fields stretching toward the ocean and the big old farmhouses that survive, sitting majestically along the roadside.

When I was young, the drive between East Hampton and Southampton along Montauk Highway was very much like the back roads are today. Once we left the outer edges of East Hampton Village we passed farm field after farm field, an occasional house tucked in amongst them - but for the most part all open space. I remember the old State Trooper barracks which meant we were close to Bridgehampton (and civilization) again. Then once past the drive-in theater we were back in farmland, with row upon row of white-blossomed potato plants as far as the eye could see. At certain times of the year the visibility was pretty poor as the tractors worked those fields, the dust creating clouds that spread across the road.

The back roads evoke many memories for me - among them is the frustration of being stuck behind potato trucks as they slowly made their way to the big potato barn that stood where the Bridgehampton Bank is now (near the K-Mart shopping center).

I miss the simplicity of life here in the decades that followed WWII but I know that every community was different then. It was a time of great optimism and growth in this country and spirits were high. No place is the same now as it was in the 1950s, especially the East End. But...when I need a little taste of the past, a memory of simpler times, I head for the back roads - through Wainscott, past the Osborn farm and the little schoolhouse, along the wonderful winding roads of Sagaponack, past the Sag store, and eventually into Bridgehampton where the past meets the present again.

It's a nice little break.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The North Fork


I had to go over to the North Fork yesterday and what a great day it was for the trip! It was still a bit cloudy when we drove onto the ferry in North Haven but the sky eventually cleared and by the time we headed south again a few hours later it was a spectacular day. Perfect for being on the water, with a nice breeze coming from the west and water that was calm and beautiful.

I love Shelter Island and I love the North Fork. People here - natives - often say how much Southold reminds them of East Hampton 40 years ago and they're right - it does make me long for the "good old days". Greenport is low key and relaxed and very much a tight community - you can feel it as soon as you arrive. Lunch at Claudio's confirmed that and I enjoyed the scenery from the second floor meeting room, looking out across the bustling docks at the boats and the bay. I was especially enamored with the decor in the restaurant and thought to myself "If this were the South Fork they would have renovated years ago." I have no doubt that the dark colored, paneled walls, dark wood trim, and kitchy, dark print curtains would long ago have given way to a more modern theme of black and white, with light colored trim everywhere and white tablecloths on all the tables. It is unapologetically outdated by today's "trendy" standards, but I love it just the way it is.

The business district is compact and tight and seems to emerge from the docks like a true seafaring community should. It smells of salt air and hard work and it's perfect in every way.

The trip back across the bay was lovely and I wistfully thought that a week in Greenport or Shelter Island would do wonders for my psyche. Even a long weekend would do very nicely. Shelter Island is quaint as only a small island can be - and the entire North Fork is full of places to explore.

I am going to make a day of it very soon. A long, leisurely drive with many stops along the way, all leading back home. And never really leaving.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Life


As much as I enjoy daylight savings time I have to admit to being rather tired of trying to get dressed in the morning in the pitch black. I have to turn on a light to read my paper...and to find my cereal bowl...and it is becoming rather tedious. I think I am ready to turn the clocks back.

Today is my daughter's birthday and I am flooded with memories this morning - of calling out the window to my husband that it was time to go to the hospital, of the drive there and the hours spent in the labor room, and of course the moments when our family suddenly became four instead of three. A beautiful bouncing baby girl, all 9lbs 10ozs of her! I remember the nurses joking that she was ready for meat and potatoes and then announcing to the floor nurses that they were bringing out a "preemie"! They liked having big healthy babies to take care of and she was a hit right away with her pretty pink cheeks and dark curly hair.

It seems as though it was only yesterday when I brought each of my babies home from the hospital and yet here they are now, all fully grown, making families for themselves and lives quite independent of ours. How exactly did that happen and where did the time go?
I am reminded of the Bible verse that describes life as a "vapor", here today and gone tomorrow. It does go quickly and we do need to savor it.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Around town


It was a beautiful day last Saturday and among the other projects we tackled was loading the truck with firewood and delivering it to our daughter's house in a wooded section of town. It was a perfect day to put the vacuum down and get out of the house because East Hampton looks so nice at this time of the year. There was a wedding party going in to St. Luke's Church, the swans were gliding along the calm surface of Town Pond, and everywhere I looked there was activity of some kind or another. The streets were busy, but not crowded, and the village was buzzing with life. This is the way I remember East Hampton when I was growing up - active and lively, but not frenzied and trendy. I think one of the reasons I love the fall so much is that it's a reminder of that wonderful commnunity of my youth. Of course summers were always more crowded around here, but certainly not the way they are today. And visitors then had a tendency to leave their harried life behind them - now they seem to bring it along with them.(I'm not sure some of them can survive without Starbucks! Heaven forbid they get coffee at a local deli - or even make it at home....)

Calm has returned to the East End. The weather is spectacular and the pace is just perfect. I love East Hampton in the fall. There is no place I would rather be.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sunday lunch


When we were newlyweds we had very little money and in fact I think our parents were worried that we were even eating properly. We were invited to each home at least once a week for dinner. It was a lifesaver for us - two complete and healthy meals a week! We lived for those meals.

My in-laws had only one family to entertain as their other two children had made their ways to other communities in other states before very long. But by the time all of my mother's children were married, I think she decided it was easier to have us all in at the same time. Thus began the "Sunday lunch" tradition.

Every Sunday we met at my parents home after church for a "Sunday dinner" type of meal. Mom prepared everything from soup to nuts and we all appreciated the opportunity to keep up to date with each other. (Although we all lived on the East End it was way too easy with our busy lives to let time go by without checking in.) As our families grew and the next generation eventually numbered thirteen, Sunday lunch became an important part of our weekly routines. We watched each other's children grow up, and we learned to appreciate each other in new ways as well, eventually dropping most of the sibling roles that we once held in favor of new adult friendships with the people we had become.

My mother has been gone for nearly two years now and Sunday lunch continues to be part of our lives. Some of the children have moved away, but those that are here appreciate this tradition that my mother started, and we have vowed not to let it die. It has made us truly a family and we all recognize it for the wonderful gift that it was.

Yesterday, Sunday lunch was at my house. Everyone contributed to the meal and we spent about three hours together - a big extended family (over 20 of us if I counted right). My mother's great-grandchildren are reaping the benefit of her gift as they spend time every week with their cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles. Can you imagine - in this day and age?

Thank you Mom. It truly was a gift that keeps on giving - and we are all grateful.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Weddings


Over the weekend I attended a wedding. It was great fun and as these things always do, it made me grateful for the place I live. The groom - and a number of the men in the wedding party - had been classmates of my daughter's so I remember them as little boys in first and second grade, when I was class mother accompanying the class on field trips and helping with craft projects. Many of the guests were people I went to school with myself years ago - some I see pretty regularly and some I see only on special occasions like this one. All are people I enjoy spending time with.

I talk a lot about shared history in this space because I think it is one of the things about my life that I treasure the most. It's the reason I would never willingly move away from East Hampton. Because I would hate cutting ties to the people and places that have been the touchstones of my life - memories of people and events.

I could live anywhere in the world and be content I suppose, because happiness and contentment are often choices that we make. I am reminded of the Apostle Paul who told the church to be "content in whatever the circumstances", and he understood the difficulties of life (I believe he wrote that letter from jail). But - if I were anywhere else I would greatly miss the people that are part of my life here.

Weddings and funerals seem to bring us together in a unique way. We are surrounded by our past and our future, multiple generations all in the same room - the circle of life in stark reality. Just another one of the things I love about East Hampton.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Birthdays


Today is my husband's birthday and it will be his first since his mother died. I remember how "alone" I felt two years ago when I experienced my first birthday after my mother died, and I feel that for him today. In his case its been quite a few years since his mother actually recognized the date, as Alzheimer's Disease slowly took her from us. Perhaps the sting is not quite so sharp for him as it was for me.

My mother was usually the first voice I heard on my birthday. The phone would ring pretty early in the day and she would be on the other end singing "Happy Birthday" in her strong alto voice, which became more thin and wobbly as the years passed. It was her way of acknowledging the fact that this was one day in the year that we alone shared. After I had children of my own I understood that connection much better because I think about each one of my children's births on the anniversary of their days as well. I remember each one vividly, as clear now as they were all those years ago. They are days I celebrate, always. When my mother had me it was a traumatic event, beginning with a hemorrhage during the night and ending with a cesarean section a few hours later. I can only imagine what those memories were like for her.

My mother-in-law raised an amazing son. I will always be grateful to her for the way she instilled in him a sense of right and wrong, of fairness, all tempered with a soft and tender heart. It is a rare combination in a man and I love him for those qualities, among others. I thanked her many times when she was alive. Now I will thank her in my heart - and hope she is still getting the message.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Chores


Saturdays are chore days at my house. When the children were small we had a chart and each of them had jobs they needed to do on Saturday mornings. I had read that in order to make our children responsible it was important to have them do chores. (I was pretty good at reading all the child psychology books and tried to do the things they suggested - I'm not sure most of them worked!)

Now that it's just the two of us in the house I could do chores any time during the week, but for some reason the habit has stuck and Saturday is the day for cleaning and the special projects that we never seem to run out of around here.

I have never made a secret of my distaste for housework. I find it to be boring and totally unfulfilling. Women who tell me how much they like it and how great it makes them feel when they have a sparkling clean house are like aliens to me. I like clean houses too, but I would feel just as good about it if someone else did the work.

That said, it's Saturday and I guess it's time to get busy. There are bathrooms calling...

Friday, October 3, 2008

High School Football


One of the most wonderful ways to experience a small community in the fall is by attending a high school football game. When I was a girl the team played at Herrick Park on Saturdays and it was truly a community event. It seemed to me that everyone in town was there, including the local doctor who roamed the sidelines "just in case" and the Main Street merchants who would leave their back doors open, wandering over to the field to watch for a few minutes - or a quarter, knowing that customers would know where to find them if necessary. From my home I could hear the cadence of the percussion section as the marching band warmed up before the kick-off, and I would quicken my pace if I were walking to the game, knowing I would be late if I lingered. To a child those football players were bigger than life, with their heavy padding and helmets making them more man than child, and the sound of them walking - and then breaking into a run - across Newtown Lane in their cleats is one I will never forget. I can hear it and see it still if I close my eyes, and it brings back the feelings of stability and contentment that growing up in a small town provide for a child.

Once I was in high school I became part of that marching band and Saturdays meant getting into uniform and walking up the hill to join my fellow musicians, providing the team with accompaniment onto the field of play, enthusiastic support throughout the game, and a half-time show for the spectators. We spent many hours working on our routines and were proud to present them on Saturdays in September and October.

There are many memories associated with football games on fall Saturdays and they are all warm and wonderful. The names of those athletes are still fresh in my mind - heros to a young girl! Although when I walk through Herrick Park now it looks much smaller than it did then, the echos of those autumn Saturdays still resound in my head on cool, crisp autumn weekends like this one. When the high school moved to Long Lane and the football games left Herrick Park some of the magic left as well - they became much more "high school" events at that point and far less "community" ones. But when we occasionally find our way to Long Lane on a beautiful fall Saturday and catch a period or two of a local football game, the magic of community is still very much there.

It's this kind of magic that a small town offers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

October


It's this "in-between" weather that I most dislike. (Well, maybe not most.) But...it's annnoying. I dress in the morning when it's cold and as the day wears on I peel the layers off, trying to stay comfortable as the temperature climbs.

At the same time I love this weather for sleeping! There is nothing like having the bedroom windows opened with the cold air tickling my nose, head peaking out from under my down comforter. I'm warm and toasty in my little cocoon - it's almost a return to the comfort of infancy, content in my mother's arms. It's not easy to climb out of bed on these mornings!

October is among my favorite months. It's colorful, temperate, and full of promise. The stress of the summer is over and the holidays are still far enough away not to cause undue alarm over shopping or organizing. Plenty of time for planning and plenty of beautiful places to explore. East Hampton is especially beautiful in October and I love that its so easy to get out and see it in all its splendor.

Busy days are ahead. I am enjoying the lull...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Construction zone


All around town right now there are municipal projects going on. Since we live in a resort community, most necessities - like road repairs and utility work - are put on hold until the fall or the spring, and the result is that the heavy duty equipment comes rolling into town right after Labor Day, as much a part of the autumn scenery as the spectacular foliage and pumpkin stands. Yesterday it was like a game trying to work my way around the village as one road after another was detouring traffic around whatever project it was they were doing - I made good use of the various lanes and streets that criss-cross the few miles around my house.

I always hope for good weather in the fall because I know the better the weather the sooner they'll all be done. As important as it is to have safe roads and good service on my telephone or computer, I dislike being inconvenienced after a whole summer of inconveniences. I guess I shouldn't complain. Unlike August, as least I can maneuver around almost any obstruction at this point. And it's a small price to pay for the services we enjoy.

Ah yes! Nothing says autumn like the sound of a payloader backing up! ...beep...beep...beep....