Thursday, December 31, 2009

Town Pond

Yesterday morning we left Pennsylvania about 8:45 and I'm always sad saying goodbye to the people we leave behind. I miss them the minute I drive out of their driveway. It was frigid cold outside and it took a good ten minutes to warm the car up so we were shivering our way up route 1, barreling toward the turnpike. We made good time all the way up the Jersey Turnpike despite the considerable traffic, but once we hit the Belt Parkway things slowed down due to road repairs. I had ample time to complete a knitting project while we slowly made our way toward the Southern State Parkway.

Once we came off Sunrise into Southampton I truly felt as though I was "home", but it wasn't until we turned from Woods Lane onto Main Street that I knew I was back. Because there was Town Pond, with the Christmas tree on the middle, and skaters making their way around the ice which had formed in the past few days while we were away. It was a sight for my soul and I must admit a little cry of delight escaped my lips when I saw it. It was the perfect ending for the year 2009 - East Hampton at its best. I'm hoping the kids will get one more day to enjoy it but I'm afraid they're calling for rain in the morning so its not likely. But for one day at least, the picture was complete and winter was beautiful.

I love getting away and I love coming home.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Home

Today we head home and I'm looking forward to turning the corner at Town Pond and seeing the little blue tree in the center - maybe they'll be skating - wouldn't that be nice!

It's that turn by the pond that always tells me I'm home. The site of that old watering hole just calms my spirit and assures me I'm nearly in my own driveway, back where I belong in Bonac. Because its quickly followed by the churches and the shops, then Hook Mill and the old family homestead. It's a wonderful thing to feel so connected to a place that your heart skips a beat when you get near enough to see the familiar pieces of it. Every year at the holidays I fall in love with East Hampton all over again because she puts on her best face and lifts all our spirits. It's a town that "It's a Wonderful Life" could have been filmed in, with those familiar local characters dotting the landscape along with the wonderful Main Street that feels so "small town". In fact, when George Bailey, the character played so well by Jimmy Stewart, runs down the Main Street of Bedford Falls I smile thinking "This is what East Hampton looked like in the 1040s when this movie was made".

So back we go today, up Route 1, to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, up the Jersey Turnpike, across Staten Island and all the way out to the south fork, looking forward all along the way to turning the corner at the Town Pond. If only I could bring all these family members with me....

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Away

We're still in Pennsylvania today but its time to start packing the bags to get on the road tomorrow to head back to East Hampton.

My father used to say that East Hampton got "into your head" and you could never quite get it out. During the war years I know he dreamt of home and I think that's what he meant, but I also know he never considered living anywhere else. He loved his hometown and he passed that on to me in a big way. Although I can say I've been to other places that would be nice to live and I could certainly make a life for myself anywhere, I'm perfectly content in East Hampton and I hope I never have to leave. Because I'd miss the familiar streets and homes, the faces that smile and nod when I pass, and the places that I'm so comfortable visiting, like the churches, the shops, and the schools. I know that some people love moving south at some point, or think nothing of picking up and changing locales, but for me, there comes a point when so many memories live in one place its impossible to consider ever leaving it. So I know how my father felt. East Hampton is in my head.

So as much as I love visiting the family here in Pennsylvania and as much as I enjoy this beautiful place they live, I'll always feel like a stranger here. My heart escapes to Pennsylvania as often as possible. But East Hampton owns my soul.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Counting days

It's hard to believe that we're so close to the year 2010! It seems like a science fiction movie to be talking about life in 2010 - but here we are, on the threshold of a new era. As much as we try to foresee the future, the reality is never quite a stark as we project it will be. Life goes on, day in and day out, and if we're lucky enough to be healthy and able to enjoy the things it offers, it's a wonderful thing.

I'm very much looking forward to the year 2010. Because 2009 was not my favorite year and I'm mentally relieved to have a new one. Of course its only a date, but somehow it makes a difference. I've learned important lessons in the past year but I'm ready to make new memories and forget some of the hardest things I went through.

I think 2010 has a really nice ring to it. And I think its going to be a wonderful year.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas pageants

Every year I enjoy the children's Christmas pageant at church. When I was young I was a participant, and now I'm watching my grandchildren take on the roles of shepherds, angels and wise men. It's a story that never grows old for me.

This year I had the added enjoyment of watching my grand kids in the pageant that their mother - my daughter - had put together. It's funny but I don't ever remember thinking in terms of my parents still enjoying things like that when I was directing children's programs at church, or singing solos, or doing other performance type things. After all, I was an adult, and this is the kind of thing adults do! But now that my own children are adults I find that there is just as much enjoyment for me in watching my grown-up children be creative or perform as there was when they were in grade school. It's the same sense of pride and accomplishment (I raised those children!) as there was way back when. And I wonder if my own parents felt that too.

I wish I had known it then. Now they they're both gone I'll never get the chance to ask them.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Getaway

The wrapping paper and bows are stuffed into garbage bags, the boxes are flattened for re-use next year, and we're sluggish from overeating and indulging ourselves once again. It's the day after Christmas and we are content and happy in our crazy lives. No time to sit back and relax - we have to get on the road!

Today we're heading to Pennsylvania to see my daughter and her family. They alternate years here and at home for Christmas so as long as we're able to we'll be doing the same. This year they're home so we're heading south to see them. The car will be piled high with gifts and we'll get on the road early so we can enjoy the day with them there. I hate being in the car for long so I'm always anxious to get where we're going!

There is nothing like being around children at Christmas. If I didn't have so many grandchildren I think I'd have to adopt some. But no need - I'm leaving some behind to return to in East Hampton next week and driving west to visit with the others. It's going to be a fun day!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas day


This is a busy day in the life of my family and its also a day for rejoicing over the fact that so many years ago a tiny child was sent to earth to change everything, forever.

My prayer for everyone today is contentment in their lives, acceptance of whatever their circumstances, peace around the world, and a sure hope for the future. God is good. This Christmas, and every Christmas, may we remember God's love and look to God's will. And find the peace that only God can give us in our lives.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Excitement

Tonight we will be attending the late night service at church in candlelight. It is one of the highlights of the season for me. I'll never forget the year only a few years ago when we walked out into the dark night at midnight only to find a light snow falling. I was warm and contented from being in worship and hearing the message and music of the season, and there we were standing in the glorious blanket that covered the ground. It was like something out of a Hollywood movie.

No matter what the Christmas Eve tradition is - and it's changed over the years of my life - memories are made of nights like this. The people we love are hopefully near - those that aren't are near in our hearts and minds. And we are able to share the joy of the season with every stranger we meet, whether bustling around town or singing in church. This is what life's all about and I gladly embrace it this year, the end of a very long journey for me. I'm so grateful to be here to see yet another Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas morning


This year will be the first Christmas since 1974 where we'll wake up to an empty house. The last time was the year we were married and we'd barely gotten back from our honeymoon by a few weeks when we celebrated our first Christmas together. Of course, I was already (unknowingly) pregnant at the time so I'm not sure we can really count that as being "alone", but we thought we were in any case!

In the years between we've always had at least one child living here, or visiting with their families, or whatever - we've never been alone. Of course we won't be lonely for long because the little ones will be arriving by the end of the morning and activities will be non-stop after that! But we'll wake up to the best Christmas present in the whole world - each other. And we'll have a leisurely breakfast and open gifts from each other like we did our very first Christmas together.

I'm not sure what my husband actually bought me this year, but I'm thinking I may "unwrap" my favorite gift before I even get out of bed...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More village

On another night last week we happened to come in to the village from the west by Town Pond and it was the first time I'd driven in after dark since the Gardiner Mill was illuminated and many of the homes decorated for the season. How beautiful is this village at Christmas?

I was especially taken by the windmills - Gardiner and Hook - proudly standing sentinel at either end of Main Street. They are wonders of engineering and make an interesting juxtaposition with their totally handmade frames and interiors, arms outlined by modern electric lights. It's as though we're celebrating our present while pointing to our past and giving a nod to all those who made this place what it is. How many generations of my ancestors saw those windmills? Were they as impressed with them in their day as we are with them in ours? Probably not anymore than we're impressed with the latest model car, but who knows?

East Hampton is picture perfect during the holidays. Each home along the main roads is tastefully celebratory and the mood is obvious. From windmill to windmill we stand united in our love of the season - and this place.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Around the village

The other day I was coming home from a friend's house about 3:30 in the afternoon. I came from Highway Behind the Lots (now known as "Toilsome Lane", but to me it will forever have its historically correct name), rounded the corner from Race Lane, and turned onto Railroad Avenue. The streets were so quiet on this week-day afternoon and only a few cars were parked along the roadside. There was someone going into Bucket's Deli and another person entering the bank, but other than that Newtown Lane was nearly empty until I got past the school and into the commercial core. Even there it was pretty quiet - a few shoppers with bags and one or two cars driving in either direction but really, a very quiet day in the village.

I'm not sure if I should be alarmed at the quiet streets or not. No doubt the economy is not a good thing for the shopkeepers and the lack of foot traffic isn't a good sign. But it brought me back to my childhood and the East Hampton of the 1950s when it was such a small town. Our streets were nearly always that quiet then, except of course between Memorial Day and Labor Day. When my father bemoaned the fact that when he was young he could walk down Main Street and see only people he knew, but that never happened anymore, I reminded him that in those days there was no one walking down Main Street! The truth of the matter was when you needed to run to a local store, you jumped in the car, parked right in front of whatever place you were heading, ran in and bought your item and headed home. If you wanted to shop for a sweater at Lou-Ann Shop you parked right in front of it. There was no parking lot in those days!

So while the empty streets might not be the best news for us in terms of what the year is going to bring, for a few brief moments at least I enjoyed seeing a glimpse of my past and for all intents and purposes East Hampton was awash in nostalgia as I imagined doing my Christmas shopping with my mother - all right here in East Hampton. What a wonderful time that was.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Evening sky

This afternoon we went to an open house at a friend's house. The roads were passable, though not yet great. Our friends live in Amagansett so we had to use Montauk Highway most the way and that was the worst of all - the back roads were in much better shape. Since Montauk Highway is a state road that shouldn't be surprising - they're probably out of money. Nevertheless we persevered and had a nice visit with some hearty people who ventured out into the snow drifts for some warm holiday cheer.

When we left there it was about 4:20 and starting to get dark. As we turned our car west to head home we were greeted with the most spectacular sky I've seen in a very long time. Just on the horizon it was bright yellow, which melted into a beautiful gold, then orange, pink, lavender, purple and finally black. It illuminated the bare trees in a rainbow of color that was so vivid and amazing it would have looked fake in a painting. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I would never have believed it.

It was a short pleasure because in the ten minutes it took us to slowly make our way home it was nearly gone. There was a slice of orange left - and then purple, then black. A fleeting moment of awe, like the rainbow after the rainstorm.

To me it said "Don't be distracted by the inconvenience of the weather. It's a beautiful world and you need to savor it." And I did.

Wonderland

Friday night we attended a Christmas concert at Guild Hall presented by the local chapter of Sweet Adelines. By the time we left my heart was full of Christmas music and lots of good cheer. Then yesterday the snow came down and today, I'm reflecting on East Hampton as a winter wonderland. What a perfect holiday this has been.

The snow settled down slowly and beautifully for hours all afternoon and covered everything in sight with white. It was a wet heavy snow and clung to every branch and trunk, reflecting Christmas lights as they twinkled in the dark. From my window I see the large pine tree in the sheep fold as well as the one across on Methodist Lane, each with multicolored lights woven throughout their branches. And I can even see the arms of the windmill reaching up to the sky with their white sparkling lights. Last year my boys wrapped the trunk and branches of our red maple in the front yard and it lit up the living room with its glow. It was a beautiful night and seemed perfect in every way.

It's time for gratitude - for my warm house when others (even in East Hampton) are sleeping in the cold; for my husband who kept me company when the sun broke through this morning and we snuggled in bed; and for all my family members being safely home in their own abodes, waiting out the storm. And gratitude for being able to see yet another Christmas in East Hampton.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Knitting group

I love my Monday morning knitting group. We meet here every week to make prayer shawls for a ministry at our church and I've come to really look forward to those two hour sessions of friendship and chit chat. I imagine I could find the same thing in any small group setting - the knitting part is really secondary - but I happen to enjoy knitting so its a perfect combination for me.

I think its a very grounding thing for us to have regular opportunities to talk to the same people. There's something very human about the need to share thoughts and ideas, discuss options and solve problems with people we're comfortable with. We're not meant to be solitary figures and its clear why loneliness is a major problem, for the elderly in particular. Once you aren't able to get out and socialize any longer life becomes a bit more difficult I think.

On Mondays we laugh about our efforts to solve the problems of the world but there is some truth to that. We are sometimes able to give each other advice, and always able to support each other in whatever is the crisis or blessing in our lives. One week it may be cancer, the next the birth of a grandchild. But its always the feeling that someone out there cares about us and our lives that gets us through.

I've no idea how many shawls I've knitted since we started this group two years ago but I do know we've done our share of getting each other through some interesting times. I love the fact that we can come together for two hours every Monday morning and in that short time become important parts of each others' lives - friends forever. It's a wonderful thing!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas dinner

At our house Christmas dinner was always turkey. There were two times a year when we had turkey - and only two times if my memory serves me: Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was ironic that they came so close together.

My mother would get up at the crack of dawn to get the turkey in the oven because my father wanted to eat early in the day - usually about 1:00. I can still hear her down there in the kitchen shuffling around in her robe and slippers, getting the bird stuffed and into the oven. By the time we were up opening gifts you could already smell it cooking. Mom was a great cook and her holiday tables were always overflowing. We had both kinds of potatoes, creamed onions, green bean casserole, a special molded salad of some sort, rolls, gravy, stuffing - everything that you could possibly want for a special day. And her desserts were always to die for.

This year, for the first time ever, I've ordered a honey-baked ham for Christmas dinner. I just want ease and simplicity for my holiday this year and I think its time for a new tradition. My mother could never have afforded such a luxury and at some point I may not be able to either. But for this year at least, its ham for us. And the rest of the meal I can pretty much make ahead of time. There will be no "crack-of-dawn" rising for me!

I think about Mom on every holiday but none more so than Christmas. She's only been gone a few years now but the memories are forever part of me and she'll never be far from mind when I prepare a turkey or bake pies for Christmas dinner. In so many ways, our childhoods make us the people we are. Thanks Mom, for being such a great mother and for making all my memories of you so special.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Childhood memories

One of the most wonderful things about the house I grew up in was the huge, full-sized attic. It's a gracious old Victorian so the attic is a glorious thing, with high rafters allowing you to stand at full height and walk its distance, exploring all the wonderful things that have been left up there throughout the years its been in the family. It was built by my great-grandparents so it has relics dating to the 19th century - one of which ended up at the local Historical Society a couple years ago when we discovered it was a rare spinning wheel made by the Dominy family - craftsmen of local renown. So - its a real treasure trove of stuff and when we were growing up we loved rummaging around in the old trunks and boxes.

I remember very well the time right before Christmas when my sister and I ventured up into the attic to look around. I think we were surprised to find that my mother had hidden Christmas gifts up there, well covered with blankets but not wrapped and easily spotted by children who knew every shape and space by heart. I remember finding a big doll that was destined for my baby sister but I don't actually remember what was there for me. My distinct memory, though, is of the disappointment that came on Christmas morning when I already knew what was waiting for me under the tree.

We didn't get many gifts at Christmas. My mother believed in simple holidays, stressing the religious meaning of each one rather than the commercial one. (That and my father's desire not to spend money on anything made for simple days with only a few gifts.) But they were good gifts and I loved Christmas morning. Except for that one. We had ruined it for ourselves.

It was a lesson I've never forgotten, and since that December many years ago I've never tried to figure out what anyone's getting me for Christmas. I don't snoop and I don't peek because I know that Christmas morning will be so much more fun if I don't have any idea what it will bring. I love surprises and Christmas is one of my favorite opportunities for them...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cards

After my blog about Martha Stewart yesterday I have to talk about the handmade cards I get for Christmas. This year I have two - one from a friend in the south who made me many beautiful "get well" cards during my recovery; the other from a local friend who makes hers every year. I LOVE handmade things, especially at Christmas.

When my kids were little I made my own cards every year. I'd take a photo of the little ones, how ever many there were at the time, and create a card using the photo, which I cut into a shape for the front. I'd use plain white card stock and cut the photo into a circle, for instance, place it at the bottom of the front and then draw a line up from the center and a bow so it became an ornament. I let the photo dictate the shape and the message, from houses to doves to angels - every year something different. I had more fun doing those cards every year and I wish I still had kids to take photos of but alas, they won't sit all together for me any longer. Besides, my card list has gotten so large that making them by hand would be nearly impossible unless I started in September.

I think next year I'm going to get a photo of us with the grandchildren and make my own cards, just for old time's sake. Somehow it made the accompanying sentiment so much more personal when I wrote every word myself.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Martha

Martha Stewart is both loved and reviled, which is funny to me. Some people resent her, some think she's pretentious, and others just don't appreciate her for what she is. I think she's a genius. She's the person I wish I'd become. She's the one I look up to as the ideal.

From the time I was very young I loved all things domestic (with the exception of cleaning!). I love to sew, knit, crochet, do crafts of all kinds, raise children, decorate my house, cook and entertain. I watch her on her television show and think "Why didn't I do what she's done?" Because her genius is in taking the things that women have done for hundreds of years and made millions of dollars doing them. Like I said - genius!

The other day as I was working around my house I had Martha's show on to listen to as I baked Christmas cookies and wrapped gifts. She was making bowls out of wax, decorative bowls to hold water and float small candles on for the center of a table. They were beautiful, and not difficult, but gathering the ingredients alone would take me hours. I envied her the staff she has to stock her craft room, buy her supplies, and have everything there for her when she's in the mood to create. I wanted to make one of those bowls, but I realized I had neither the time nor the supplies to make one between now and Christmas, which is when I'd want one to decorate my table. I wanted so badly to be Martha.

Well, some day - maybe in my next life - I'll have a large, well-stocked craft room and anytime the spirit moves I'll be in there making wonderful things like felted ornaments and wax bowls, or Christmas garlands and handmade cards. It sounds a little bit like my version of heaven. Wouldn't it be nice if heaven were like that - just the ability to spend our time doing whatever it is that jazzes us?

I wonder if Martha Stewart has any idea that my idea of heaven is to live her life, only as myself, with all my friends and family but all her money and fun. Ah yes - now we're talking!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Crazy week

This is the craziest week of the holiday season. Because by next week, if its not done it probably won't get done so a certain resignation sets in. But this week anything left to do gets the big push and we optimistically think we have time to complete whatever it is that needs doing.

So this week its all about the final deliveries, the final wrappings, and the last minute gift buying. I always forget someone until the very last minute and run out this week for a special gift. My lists are checked off and packages are mailed, but someone has slipped my mind. It's just inevitable!

Crazy weeks are meant to be cherished. We run around and wear ourselves out but at the end of each day we collapse onto the couch and just revel in the glory of all the craziness. This is a crazy time of the year but its also glorious and being busy just makes it all the more enjoyable.

Here's the the week ahead and the fun that will follow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Entertaining

I like to entertain - especially during the holidays - and I would have made a great corporate wife. My problem is a small house and limited budget. If I had the means I'd be entertaining all the time, and doing it the easy way - with hired wait staff and bar tenders and decorators. And maybe even someone to write out the invitations. And of course people to clean my house. I was meant for a life of luxury but somehow when babies were handed out I was given to the wrong people. In my real life I was supposed to live in a huge house in the south somewhere - perhaps Charleston, SC or Atlanta, Ga. And I was supposed to end up married to a CEO of some major company, or the president of a corporation. Or maybe I was supposed to be the First Lady, coordinating state dinners at the White House, choosing colors for the tablescapes and music for the Marine Band to play. Yes, I think that's it - I was meant to be First Lady. I think that's the perfect role - all of the perks with none of the responsibilities.

Well in any case my fantasy life and my real life do sometimes cross. I'll have friends in over the holidays - just not as many as I'd like to at one time. And I will decorate with the same old things I've been using for years and years now. They don't look so bad! And I do get to chose all the decor and menus and everything else. I just do the work myself. At the end of the day the pleasure is all the same.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Another weekend gone

How can it possible be so late in December already? Wow - how the holidays are flying by this year.

Perhaps it's my great appreciation for all things this year that makes time move along so quickly. After the year I've had I'm so grateful to be upright and moving, not to mention feeling so good, that I take nothing for granted anymore. I'm taking the time to look at every decoration with new eyes, and listen to every Christmas carol with new ears, and buy every Christmas gift with a new heart - ones that appreciate what a gift it is to be here, loving life.

Somehow, the senses are sharper and the soul is softer when you've brushed against the forces of nature and tasted the bitterness of death. I'm not afraid of it, and I'm not worried about it, but at the same time I'm determined to enjoy every minute I have here and not spend it worrying about silly things or distracted by the woes of the world.

Whatever it is, I'm watching as time goes flying by and December is half over already. If only we could make it last a little longer than the other months.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Candy

My mother had a tradition of making candy every Christmas to package up and give as gifts to her friends. She made various types from butter crunch to peppermint hard candies, packed them in small tins, and handed them out to the people who meant the most to her, as well as people like the mailman and newspaper boy, whom I used to assure her would rather have the money it cost her to make the candy, but she thought her candy much more valuable.

When I began my own tradition I chose to make it Christmas cookies rather than candy, simply because I knew I couldn't compete with her and besides, I wanted to make my own name and not simply piggy-back on hers. But I do like to make one of her candy recipes every year just for the nostalgic joy of it. And this year, I'm making it in bulk to deliver to a few of the medical professionals who've been so good to me this year.

I've always had a weakness for all things sweet, which has been my downfall really. I can eat a perfectly healthy diet and not go over my calorie quotient for the day...and then I walk past an open container of m&ms and its all over. I can pass up things like chips and dips or big steak dinners, but the desserts? Oh my. So I understand the value my mother put on her home made goodies and I hope the people that get mine appreciate them.

All that said, I'm still leaving cash for the people who deliver my mail and newspapers...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wine cellars

This past Monday I enjoyed lunch in the basement at a local vineyard - this one in Sagaponack. It was a meeting of various officials so we were seated at a long table, with huge rooms full of huge wine casks stretching out behind us. The building was very European in feeling - as though it had been plucked from a wine region in Tuscany or the south of France and just moved to this little road on Long Island. Between the vaulted ceilings, the wrought iron chandeliers, and the stone walls, I was transported to another place and time for a few lovely hours. I could easily have been on vacation somewhere.

Isn't that one of the great things about the East End? One night you can be on a vacation in Italy (in a wine cellar in Sagaponack), the next on an island overlooking the Mediterranean (sitting on the outside deck of a restaurant on Dune Road) and you never have to be more than an hour from home. It's an eclectic and interesting place to live.

All that said, I'd really love to be in Tuscany right now. Or the south of France. Or the Greek Isles......

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow

We had our first look at some snow on Saturday night - fleeting as it was. We were having a doozy of a rain storm that decided at one point it was going to become snow, then after only a couple hours of snowy slushy stuff, changed back to rain. We were at a dinner party and watched from the windows as it blew like crazy outside, fat, white flakes flying in every direction.

I have to say I love a good snowstorm. Once its over I'm happy to have every trace of it completely disappear within about 48 hours, but the initial wonder of it is as real today as it was when I was a child. I love the way it transforms the world into a completely different place and makes us all step back for a few minutes and catch our breath. And I love the way it makes us curl up on our couches and just sit it out instead of running around doing our usual busy stuff out there in the world. (Unless of course if I happen to be on ambulance duty, but that's another topic for another time!)

There is something quite wonderful about snow during the holidays and since I am, for the most part, ready for Christmas, I say "Bring it on!". Just don't leave it here too long....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mothers-in-law

Today was my mother-in-law's birthday so I'm thinking about her and how lucky I was to have her in my life. I'm also thinking about relationships between mothers and the people who marry into their families.

My mother-in-law did a good job of welcoming me to her family but I found the whole mother-in-law/daughter-in-law dynamic to be pretty tricky waters. I was always afraid of doing the wrong thing (which I often did) and never felt comfortable enough to speak my mind (the way I would have with my own mother) - at least in the early years. It was my own lack of confidence that did me in, and she suffered for it I know. By the time I'd been married about five years we'd settled into a nice relationship based on our mutual love for her son and the fact that she was a great woman. I couldn't have asked for a better grandmother for my children, nor a better mother-in-law either. I know now how lucky I was.

But still - there were tricky times. As a young wife and mother I was so insecure and so worried about how I was "doing things" in her eyes, it really impeded our relationship for a long time. In retrospect I can see how young and foolish I was and I'm very grateful that we lived in the same town so we had the opportunity to develop our relationship the way it was supposed to be. Had things been different that may never have happened.

Now that I'm a mother-in-law myself I try to take the things I learned and put them to good use, but the fact of the matter is, every relationship is different and I'll have my own rough waters to navigate throughout the years. My daughters are pretty quick to tell me when I've crossed the line, or butted in, or whatever happens to be my transgression of the moment. But daughters-in-law, well, they're usually a bit more reticent to open their mouths. I remember - I was there. Hopefully, my mother-in-law taught me enough to keep the ship upright and not take on too much water. Happy Birthday Dorothy - and many thanks for the good example.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Weeks

I seem to divide my life into sections. If I am seeing more than one doctor, I try to schedule them in the same week so that it becomes "doctor week". If I have housework to do - big jobs - I try to get them all done the same week as well, so that becomes "house week". This week is Christmas week. I have decorating to do, cookies to make, and gifts to wrap. And I need to get it all done this week.

We are creatures of habit and each of us has our own little peculiarities. My husband is a pressure person - he needs to be under pressure to accomplish things (sorry but its true dear). I am a list and compartment person. I make lists for everything and I compartmentalize everything. So my weekly schedules combine those two things.

East Hampton is wonderful this time of year and its easy to get distracted by the festivities. I'm trying not to. I need to stay focused on my "Christmas" week and I need to check everything off my list (twice). I should work for Santa!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lessons & Carols

Today is the annual Lessons & Carols service at church and always look forward to it. It feels early this year which is good for getting me into the Christmas spirit but is also causing a little panic because I'm no where near ready for things. My house is not decorated, the gifts are not wrapped, and there are cookies to bake. At least I got my cards out this past week.

The "lessons" in the service today are the scripture readings which take us from creation to the Christmas story. They are carefully selected to tell the story from beginning to end in "Reader's Digest condensed" style. Between each lesson, and carefully illustrating it, are the "carols". Some of course are sung by the congregation but others are done by the church choirs or instrumentalists or whatever. Each year is a little different.

It's a lovely way to start the season and I'm glad its so early this year. But boy am I thinking about getting all those gifts wrapped this week....

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Social season

Tonight begins the serious social season that is Christmas. Our annual ambulance association dinner dance is at the Maidstone Club, which is always enjoyable, and since its always the first weekend in December it makes a great kick-off to the season.

The thing I love about the flurry of activities is the lengths people go to decorate their homes and make every event seem like a major celebration. It's like going to a wedding reception every weekend as we go from party to party, seeing how others make their homes over with tinsel and greens. I love it.

By the time January rolls around I'll be tired of all the activity and ready for a break. But for now, at the end of a long, tumultuous year for me, I am so ready to kick up my heels and party. Because life is a celebration. And it needs to be toasted regularly.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Angel

Am I the only one who remembers the Christmas angel that graced the green by Town Pond for a few short years back in the late 50s or early 60s? I keep asking but no one else seems to have any recollection at all of her and I think maybe I'm crazy!

Here's what I remember: I was young so it had to be around 1960 that she appeared. I have no idea where she came from or who was responsible for her and I wish my parents were still around to ask because I know they would remember. She was tall - maybe twelve feet or more - and she had a blue robe on. Why blue? I was puzzled by that then and still wonder why. Every angel I had ever seen depicted in paintings or Christmas pageants wore white. But she was in blue. She had blond hair, which bothered me because I was brunette and every year in the same Christmas pageants Mary was blond. Why were the stars of Christmas blond I wondered? Anyway, I seem to think she only lasted two years before she was blown over in a nor'easter and broken. But I remember seeing her for many years after she was retired - well her head anyway - on the ground in the back lot of Hackett's Garage on Pantigo Road. Someone must remember!

If you know about the Christmas angel please tell me! I would really love to know I'm not the only person in town who remembers!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas in East Hampton

Could there be a more beautiful place during the holidays than East Hampton? Of course, I know there are equally lovely spots in the world, especially when the decorations come out and the mood lightens on the streets, but surely there is no place any more stunning than East Hampton. The only thing missing is ice on Town Pond and the picture is complete.

This week we get ready for the Santa parade. I've never been a big fan of the Santa parade, to tell you the truth. Probably because I hated marching in it with the band when I was in high school. And it always seems very commercial to me, with more advertising for various businesses than children dressed as elves or singing Christmas songs. I hate to sound like a scrooge, but I rarely attend it.

What I do love is the way Main Street looks dressed for the season. Say what you will about Ralph Lauren taking over East Hampton but you can't deny his stores have the most gorgeous window displays throughout the year, and at this point they're stunning. They spare no expense, that's for sure. It's a long way from the simple little lighted Christmas trees that used to sit in each window all along the commercial district. So its well worth a walk along the streets to see what they've come up with this year.

With the exception of the blow-up decorations that seem to be popular now, I can honestly say I love it all. I love the lights, the trees, the tinsel and the greens. And I love the way I feel when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas.

Even if I had no family at all in this town I would still enjoy being here at this time of the year because it reminds me of all the years I've enjoyed here. I love Christmas in East Hampton.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Glass fusion

Two weekends ago I went to New Hampshire and took a class with some friends in "glass fusion". It was so much fun to play with the buckets of glass pieces in all colors and sizes, including tiny fragments that reminded me of cake sprinkles - and even a powder form for spreading or shaking over larger pieces to create interesting affects.

One of the things I loved about the whole experience was visiting the teacher's house. She lived in Vermont in the midst of acres and acres of sugar maple trees, all of them being tapped for their sap. We drove over 2 miles up a dirt road to reach her place and then we saw it - a simple little log cabin sitting below us at the bottom of a small incline. The smoke was pouring out of the chimney and the porch was filled with stacked wood for the wood stove, Behind the house the land dropped off and in the background was a fabulous view of the mountains of Vermont. It was beautiful. It occurred to me that I could have easily been looking at a scene right out of the 1700s, with the exception of the two cars parked in the driveway. It looked as though the land had been cleared by hand, there was no landscaping or fancy hedges, it was rustic and crude and yet there was an unmistakable charm to it all. It was a picture of the American spirit, a simple existence, living off the land and enjoying the pleasures of nature. The way my ancestors lived.

For one long day we lived like the early settlers, working with our hands, creating beauty from simple objects, and warming ourselves with the heat of a wood burning stove. It was a day I'll never forget and hope to repeat soon.

I have no desire to live quite that simply. I'm too old to chop wood and shiver when I walk away from the stove in the dead of winter, or to fight my way out of my house when the snow reaches two or three feet with no one around to plow the driveway. But for a day, for a week even, it's a great escape to feel the glory of nature and immerse oneself in a project devoted to recycling and making the most of what we have. Even at lunch the paper plates were put into the stove for fuel and leftovers became food for the animals. Nothing was wasted.

It was nice to come away with more than a few hand made items from my trip. A sense of wonder and contentment came home with me too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hair again...

I've finally started venturing out without a wig, which is huge. As much as I hated those hot, uncomfortable things, they provided a certain security blanket for me, allowing me to feel a little less like an advertisement for the fact that I was going through chemotherapy and more like a normal person. But I was always aware that I was wearing one and constantly dreamed about having hair of my own again. Now it's finally happening, but my own hair is not quite long enough to feel really comfortable with yet. I feel a bit androgynous actually, and as though there's a flashing light over my head saying "chemo", but at the same time, its nice to have the freedom of not dealing with wigs.

I was totally unprepared for the trauma of losing my hair. I knew it would be hard - I didn't know it would change the way I approached my days. I've told friends that I would endure surgery and recovery again in a minute if I could trade that for not losing my hair. It's been, by far, the most difficult part of this journey. And I think I know why.

From the time girls are very small, people fuss over their hair. We say things to little girls like "Oh - your hair looks beautiful" or "What pretty hair you have". We put it up in braids and pigtails and spend time making it look nice, and little girls learn pretty quickly that their hair is an important part of who they are. Combine that with the fact that my hair is one of only two things I've ever really received compliments about in terms of my physical appearance (my eyes are the other) and I think its clear that for me, hair was an important factor in my self-esteem. I know I'm not alone - many women have shared their own horrors at the prospect of chemotherapy when they went through their battles with cancer. So at least I know I'm normal.

And now, its coming back. And I'm learning to deal with the fact that I cannot brush it yet or put a curling iron to it - I just have to take it like it is: short, short, short. But its mine and it won't come off if someone tugs at it - so I'll take it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thirty-five

How is it possible that I've been married thirty-five years today? How amazingly fast the years fly by when life is busy and you have no time to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

When we got married we were young and crazy and, in retrospect, probably not all that well suited to each other. I get a kick out of young people today who seem to think they need to live together to decide if they're compatible. Compatibility is not really all that vital to a long marriage as far as I'm concerned. What is important is a desire to make things work, a basic love and appreciation for the other person, and a willingness to put all your own wants and desires on the back burner, caring more about the union than the individual. And it also helps to have the wisdom to know that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, no matter what your circumstances in life.

I can honestly say that I've had thirty-five wonderful years of marriage. Obviously there have been challenges and times were not always easy. Sometimes I wish I was with someone who would write me poems or read to me, for instance. But when those thoughts enter my mind I simply take a moment to reflect on the fact that he would probably love being married to woman who shared his love of sports, or could fit into a size 4 dress. And in the end of the day I think the real secret of successful marriage is accepting each others imperfections and short comings and appreciating their strengths and attributes. It's about reality and being aware of the fact that perfection only exists in romance novels - and, in fact, sometimes its the imperfections that make us the most interesting. And its about choosing to make it work. Because it's so worth it. After thirty-five years, being with your best friend every night is really a wonderful thing.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday aftermath

The last day of a holiday weekend is always a mixture of exhaustion and exhilaration. As much as we love the time with family and friends, and as often as we would like to duplicate the festivities, it's out of our routine and therefore tiring. At the same time, its all so great.

We spent our days with family in the house. Not only the ones from out of town but the ones who just came by to be with them. There was almost always a crowd here and it was fun to see them enjoying one another's company, much as I do with my own siblings when we get together. There's a wonderful shared history among siblings that nothing else can match. It can be tricky navigating at times, but so worth it in the end. I missed seeing my own brother and sisters during the past few days and wonder if this is the first of many times that will happen, now that each of us has growing families of our own to be with. It makes me sad because I've always spent some part of every holiday with them, and I hope its not a glimpse of things to come but rather an unusually busy year for everyone. Some were out of town, others - well we all had a few short days to fit in so many activities.

I will say I enjoy not having to leave home now during the holidays. Up until our two mothers died in the past couple years we always bundled up and went to see them in their own homes. Now, for the first time, this has become the gathering place for everyone and that's a nice thing. We can sit back now and let the frivolity unfold around us in the comfort of our own home.

Today is the last day of the Thanksgiving holiday but, as always, Christmas is being ushered in at this very moment. The parties are being planned, the gifts are being wrapped, and the wine will soon be overflowing. It's the holidays and we all love the holidays. Let the fun continue!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Houseful


When the out-of-town family is visiting its crazy here. There's always action, the kids are a bundle of energy, I'm exhausted when they leave, and I love every minute of it.

This week the three kids from Pennsylvania are here with us and today they leave. The only difficult thing about having them here is that they eventually have to leave and no matter how long they stay, its never long enough.

I have memories of my grandmother that I constantly remind myself of. No matter how often I'd been to see her, the next time I walked in the door she would say something along the lines of "Oh! I was wondering when you'd get around to coming again! I never see you!" I always felt like saying "If you fuss at me every time I come why would I want to?" But I refrained. I knew it wasn't easy to be stuck at home and wait patiently for someone to come for a visit. But it taught me a lesson. And I make sure I never complain about it if they have to leave early or can't come at all for a visit. And I make sure I always greet them with joy and hugs - never a rebuke! It was a lesson well learned. Guilt is not a good motivator!

So today they'll drive out of the driveway and I'll thank God through my tears that they were able to come for a few days and bring their special brand of joy to my life. And I'll anxiously wait for the next visit. And for the other ones to return from their trip to see their other grandparents!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Exercise

I have a love/hate relationship with exercise and I wonder sometimes - why is it that the things that are good for us are so unpleasant?

Why, for instance, can't spinach taste like m & ms? And why can't butter have the benefits of protein? Why is it the all the foods that are the most delicious, go down the easiest, and I crave all the time are foods that are bad for me? If peas tasted like chocolate chips I'd be a vegetable lover. If brussel sprouts were as yummy as cupcakes, I'd gladly gobble them up with every meal. Somehow it just seems like some cruel joke that we have to fore go the things that give us the most pleasure and force feed ourselves with things that aren't all that easy to get down at all.


And then there's exercise. The only reason I can bear it at all is that I combine it with something pleasurable, like watching TV or talking with my daughter or husband. I don't mind a walk along the street or beach where I can enjoy my surroundings but I really don't like to sweat. And working out in the gym, sweating like there's no tomorrow, is not my idea of fun. I've had people tell me that once I do it regularly I'll love it. Nonsense! I hate every minute of it. So why can't it be good for our bodies to just sit in a comfy chair and read a good book?

The only kind of exercise I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoy is sex, and so far I've had a hard time convincing my husband to join me in that endeavor for at least 30 minutes every day, five days a week...such a bummer....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving


Today is Thanksgiving and a day I am taking to heart. I have so much to be thankful for this year, which has been a tumultuous one. I feel especially blessed to be here, to feel good, and to be healthy again. I'm grateful for a family that I love dearly and friends that are the best in the world.

Every day I thank God for my many blessings. Today I do it publicly. Thank you God for my life, for my loves, and for the beautiful place I live. I love my life, I love my family, I love my friends, and I love East Hampton!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Development

Last week I was driving around the village checking on the kinds of things we officials are known to do, like leaf pick-up and signs and such, and I happened to be up in the estate section coming back from Main Beach. As I worked my way around the various streets, like Lee Avenue and Cottage Avenue, and admired the beautiful houses, I started thinking about what it was like when I was growing up. Then when my car finally got to Baiting Hollow a really specific memory jumped into my brain.

We were taking my sister to a friend's house. One of her best friends lived on Baiting Hollow, between the highway and where Georgica Road crosses it. Her friend's father was a doctor so I assumed they lived there because they were rich, although I have no idea if they had any more money than anyone else, really. It was probably the property that was available when he moved here. But as a kid, that was my impression. Anyway, they lived in a low-slung ranch house, also unusual when all the houses I was surrounded by were shingled, two-story jobs which had been around for at least two generations. This was a new (contemporary for its day) house - and very different to me. In my mind, rich people lived outside the village. We regular people lived in the village where the houses were closer together and the streets a little busier. If you wanted room to spread out you bought where no one else lived, on the outskirts, down in the Springs, or up in Northwest, where nobody lived!

My ancestors arrived in East Hampton Village in the mid-nineteenth century (before that they'd been in Wainscott). And when they arrived here everyone lived close together, where they could walk wherever they wanted to go and keep an eye on each other for safety and social reasons as much as any other. Hitching up a horse and wagon was not done quickly or easily and therefore it was rare. No one lived in the woods unless they were native America or on the lam.

I still live within a few hundred yards of where my ancestors landed so village life is, to me, wonderful and comfortable. And for a long time living on a road like Baiting Hollow was really about living alone - I remember thinking it took so long to get there! My ancestors would be shocked to see the houses that fill Northwest Woods and the Springs today. Even I'm amazed, and I've watched them all being built.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Family time

Since this week is all about family I've been thinking about how the concept of "family" changes as we get older. When I was little, my world was my family. And by that I mean my parents - even more specifically, my mother. Siblings were important but a love/hate relationship so it was really all about my mom.

When I was a newlywed the pull between families was not only palpable but problematic. In my heart, every holiday was a time I wanted to be with my family. However, I loved my husband and now he was part of that family so he was the person I wanted to be with as well. But leaving my family to be with his was never easy. Especially when I never felt really loved or accepted by his family. So every holiday became a tug-of-war in my heart and it was painful. That experience has made me determined to make sure that any new members of my family are made to feel loved and wanted in our home and I hope they do. I know they'll always want to be with their own families, but hopefully it won't be painful for them to be with us!

I still like to see my own family during the holidays, but now with my parents gone and my children all grown and bringing additional members into our group every year, the focus has shifted a bit to this house being the place I want to be. I love it when they all gather here and laugh together around the table. It's a joy to see the little ones playing and running around. As long as I get to see my brother and sisters and their families during the holidays I'm happy.

I miss being with my family around my mother's table, recalling memories of holidays long ago. But I also enjoy making new ones that I hope my grandchildren will be remembering for a very long time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Company coming

Today is preparation day for me. The turkey was bought last week and some of the groceries are put away, but today I'll take my long list of fresh fruit and perishables to the store and stock the fridge for the company arriving tomorrow. I can't wait to see them.

The kids will all be excited about their "new" rooms. Where they were once all cramped in the tiny little room upstairs, with our renovations they will have two rooms with real, regular sized beds now. The two girls will share one and the boy will have the other. Their parents are going to be in the largest of the rooms, which my son recently evacuated, which is what prompted all the painting and furniture buying around here to start with. The kids are young enough to be blown away by the changes and I can't wait to see their faces when they climb the stairs and see their new spaces. I can't actually get the rooms put together until tomorrow when new beds are delivered, but I have all the bedding at the ready and the rooms will look great in time for them to arrive tomorrow night.

From there on its all fun for the rest of the week. There will be lots of cooking and baking and game playing and reading - anything the kids want to do, I'm there with them. I love being able to say to anyone who needs something from me "Sorry - my family is visiting - I can't do anything this week!". Its like having a vacation at home. I'll miss the family members who are off to other places, but I'm glad that some will be with us here.

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday. Its all about family and gratitude and this year, more than many others, I'm all about that too.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Girlfriends

I'm off on a girlfriends weekend right now and enjoying it immensely. We left East Hampton Friday afternoon to drive to a friend's house in New Hampshire. Yesterday we took an art class - something that invigorates this frustrated artist more than just about anything - and today we're heading home.

There's nothing quite like a weekend with other women. I'm always amazed at how women are portrayed in the media as jealous and envious of each other to the point where you can see daggers shooting from their eyes. My own experience is nothing like that. When women are together they're supportive of each other both emotionally and spiritually and share their most intimate feelings in ways they never would if a man were within earshot. I love my husband, but I know he wouldn't "get" my feelings about certain things so I just keep them to myself. Until I'm with a girlfriend.

Women connect on a very basic level with each other and I love being with them. And good friends are worth their weight in gold and then some. I'm not sure how I'd have survived this past year without them.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Renovations

The renovations are just about complete upstairs and it feels so good to have new, clean, fresh looking bedrooms for people when they come to visit. One of the problems with old houses is that its sometimes impossible to make certain things look nice, like moulding that's so caked with old layers of paint that its rough and hard to clean, or the moulding in one bedroom that had an old telephone wire that had been nailed on and then painted over a few dozen times. I remember the old bathtub we had for many years that was so worn there was no shine left to the finish and it never looked clean. Nor did the tile wall that was embedded with mildew. With old houses, some things will just never look good until you strip them down and start over.

In these newly done bedrooms I'm delighted at the now smooth plaster walls which have been patched and re-painted. All those years of various things being hung by teenagers are suddenly wiped away and the walls look as good as new. And the old hardwood floors which had so many coats of varnish that they were nearly black have found new life with fresh coats of bright paint.

The only problem is this: now that the bedrooms look so fresh and new the hallway is looking pretty shabby. The bedroom doors, now nicely painted on the inside, are chipped and dingy facing out. The trim is looking pretty dull in the hall and I'm thinking maybe its time to pull op that carpet and paint the floor there too....

One project always seems to lead to another. Because once we work our way down that hallway, the staircase is surely going to start calling out for attention. Why is it again that owning a house is part of the American Dream? They just don't warn you about the domino affect! And the dominos are really falling now...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Conversation

More than one person who follows my blogs has told me that they enjoy reading them because they're written like a conversation. Someone said it was like sitting down for coffee with me and having a chat. Those are nice compliments and I have to say that's exactly how I feel about them too! I sit at the computer and talk to my friends. I share things that are on my mind and in my heart and I let the thoughts flow freely. It's a chat over coffee, if you will.

I think one of the things we're missing in this day and age is the opportunity to sit and talk with friends more often. When I was a child my mother got together with her friends, had coffee and talked, shared concerns and frustrations and were just there for each other emotionally. A "support group" before such things had a name! Men used to do more of the same at their private clubs and "business" lunches. We don't seem to do those things anymore do we? It's hard work to find time to sit with friends and just let the conversation flow.

I think that's why I love my knitting group so much. There's no agenda, no topic - anything goes. We can let the conversation move along easily and whatever's on anyone's mind becomes the topic of the day. It's a chance not to think about the bills or the housework or the schedule on our calendars. Just me and some friends, knitting and chatting.

Conversation is becoming a lost art.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Passing

As the month of November quickly moves on by I'm amazed at the passing of time. It seems as though one day we're saying "Wow - I can't believe it's November already" and the next we're nearly into December. Time really does fly by. I've always found it comforting, actually, when I've been in the worst places in my life to remind myself that time passes. I reminded myself in the final months of pregnancies, while waiting for surgery, while looking forward to chemo being done - many times in my life when I just wanted something to be over! And indeed, it did and does pass and those things that loomed so large in our future are suddenly memories fading into the past.

At my age, it seems especially poignant how quickly the calendar's pages turn. What seemed like so much time to look forward to when we got married suddenly looks preciously fragile. The fact that we wondered whether our toddlers would ever grow up and become independent is laughable now. Sometimes the biggest problem with youth is the constant need for things to happen faster when in reality the day will come when you just want to slow everything down.

The Bible says that life is a vapor - here one minute and gone the next. How true that is! A vapor so quickly passing and impossible to hang on to. You just so wish you could at least hit "pause" every so often to savor a special moment here and there. But I guess that's what our memories are for.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Memories

As we've been renovating our bedrooms these past weeks many memories have come to mind. They make me smile with the joy they bring, of children's laughter and little feet running across the floor.

Each room hold special thoughts. When we moved into this house there were only three small bedrooms and we had two children so we were fine. My eldest had the larger of the two children's rooms and the baby was only one so she had the little one. I bought some cute wallpaper that was juvenile but non-gender specific, since we had talked of having another baby. It had little elves sliding down the slender stripes that worked their way around the room. My husband built shutters for the windows so we could close out the light and I super-sized the elves and created them out of felt for each shutter. Then I trimmed around the edges with giant rick rack and the room was adorable. I loved it.

That room remained full of elves for quite a few years, until baby number four was old enough to think them too childish for him. By that time we had added on to the house so all three original bedrooms were filled with children: the girls sharing the largest, which had previously been ours, and each of the boys having a small one of their own.

Throughout the years as they grew we moved them around pretty regularly, sometimes the girls sharing and sometimes the boys. Each room has had various incarnations with color changes, wallpaper, and re-purposed furniture. And I can remember walking in to each of those bedrooms before I went to bed myself every night. I would pull the covers up to their necks, lean down to kiss their beautiful little faces goodnight, and thank God for the gift of that child.

My house is full of memories and no matter how many times we move the furniture or paint the walls, those memories will be safely held in my heart. I love my house and those memories.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mom's birthday

Today was my mother's birthday and I'm remembering some amusing times associated with that day. My father was horrendous at buying her gifts. I remember birthday and Christmas gifts when I was a child that included an ice crusher, a blender, and a milkshake machine. Her birthday was an especially bitter-sweet day because the third weekend in November happened to be the time he went off to Pennsylvania every year to attend an honorary club he was a member of, so many times he was not even home for her birthday. Once we were old enough we did our best to make her day special, but I know it always bothered her. I'm sure she got used to his non-romantic gifts and sadly lacking attention, but I never did.

When I was a young adult I started reminding him weeks ahead of time about her birthday and Christmas (which unfortunately fell awfully close together) and thus began the tradition in the two of us shopping together for her special occasions. It lasted a few good years before he finally got wise and took control back but I remember each trip like it was yesterday.

Most often we went to the jewelry store. He would start looking at things in the $100 range and I would work us up to the higher end pieces by saying things like "It's for Mom and she deserves it" or "This is something that she would LOVE and it would make up for the electric pencil sharpener you gave her last year". He was a proud man and any hint in front of a store clerk that he was not willing to buy a beautiful necklace or bracelet for his wife was not acceptable, so over the years I managed to procure some nice things for her. The first was a set of pearls. "I know they're expensive Dad, but every woman needs a nice set of pearls and she doesn't have any!" "You're right" agreed the saleswoman, "It's the perfect gift!". The pearls were followed by a beautiful bracelet with three types of semi-precious stones and then a sterling silver heart necklace. Each time we walked out of the store he would say with annoyance "I'm never bringing you with me again!" and eventually that became true. But for a few years at least I was able to see delight on my mother's face as she opened her gift on Christmas morning and that gave me a great deal of pleasure.

Happy Birthday Mom. I still miss you every single day!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Station wagons

Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned station wagon?

In all the years I was growing up I never remember not having a station wagon as a family car. Usually they were Buicks or Pontiacs, what with that car dealership being right across the street from our house and all, but always we had a big old car with bench seats and plenty of room in the back for beach equipment, bikes, or extra children. In those pre-seatbelt days it was not unusual for three small children to climb into the far back for a trip to Brownies or Sunday School, with my mother at the wheel and eight children as passengers. And we could put all our summer beach floats and coolers back there to be dragged out when we arrived at the ocean or the bay for the day. Those station wagons were amazing things!

The best thing about station wagons was their storage and mini-vans just don't measure up to them in that respect. But of course a long trip with six people crammer into those two bench seats was no treat compared to the roomy individual seats in today's family cars. But no one gets to sit in the front between Mom and Dad anymore either. Usually that was the youngest up there, no doubt because she took up the least amount of space and Mom and Dad preferred as much elbow room as possible.

The family station wagon was a wonderful invention and I miss seeing them on the road anymore. I certainly prefer them to the modern SUVs that take up more space visually than should be allowed, not to mention the way they make the road feel like a tunnel for the smaller cars trying to get around. And I wonder if at some point some wise car manufacturer may not come out with a new version of the station wagon that would appeal to the nostalgic soul in each of us. I've had both wagons and vans and I can honestly say I'll take a wagon any day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stormy seas


Yesterday we took a ride to check out the storm surf, which always impresses. As expected it was heaving and rolling like a pot of boiling stew and the beaches were littered with the debris of the night. There were logs and sticks and seaweed strewn about and huge chunks of beach just cut out of the shore. Nature at its meanest and yet most beautiful. As we drove from beach to beach it was interesting to see how the wind had also left branches and piles of leaves in its wake all along the streets, not to mention flooded roads and driveways from the heavy rain.

I took notice of something else when we drove down Lily Pond. Where once we could see all the way up the beautiful lawns to the houses perched on the dunes, now there were only hedges and fences visible from the road. Such a shame not to be able to enjoy those magnificent landscapes and beautiful vistas - it makes me sad that people want to be so cut off from the rest of the world. Occasionally there was a beautiful old home with a simple split rail fence along the street and the front yard was open to the house. It was like a wonderful breather in a sea of privet. I wanted to run up to their doors and leave notes on them, thanking them for their willingness to let us see how beautiful their homes were! But I resisted that urge, not wanting to give anyone a reason to plant hedges where there aren't any now. One beautiful home with a simple split rail fence had the most gorgeous weeping willow in the front yard - a huge specimen, all golden hues in its fall colors. It was breathtaking and lovely to see. I was go grateful I could.

I don't remember a single gated house in town when I was young. Hedges were an exception and rare - and fences not very common. Large gates with security codes were unheard of. What a sad change for East Hampton.