Saturday, January 31, 2009

My bedroom


I love to go on house tours. As an ambulance volunteer I'm able to go into many houses here, from the most humble 2-room shacks to the most grand ocean-view mansions, but on those occasions I'm not able to really look around. House tours, however, give me the ability to walk around and see the luxurious way that some people live on the East End, and it is something to see. I have to say that of all the things I covet in those beautiful big houses, what I most wish I had myself is a wonderful, "escape" bedroom.

Here's my problem: since we've been married we've never had enough storage space, beginning with the tiny house we rented as newlyweds to our home now where we've been for nearly thirty years. I love this house, but it was built in the 1920s when wardrobes were spartan and possessions few. Tiny little bedroom closets and no additional storage anywhere makes it a nightmare for the excesses of today. We get water in our basement, so that's no place to store anything, and the attic is accessed through a pull-down staircase. Finding places to put things is always an issue and the result is that our bedroom, which is the one room I trust the public will never have access to, is lined with storage boxes piled one upon the other, filled with wrapping paper, pre-bought gifts, extra blankets and pillows, and other things there there is no place else for. It's far removed from what I would term a "retreat" because anytime I look around I feel a bit claustrophobic and I'm reminded of what a mess it is.

But the bedrooms on those house tours! Oh they are marvels of space and luxury. They have wonderful little sitting areas for watching TV and sitting in front of the mandatory fireplace. They drip with luxurious fabrics which cover the windows and all the furniture. Beautiful fur throws drape across the always present benches that sit at the end of the bed, where wealthy people get to sit to put their shoes on - instead of messing up the bedspread by sitting in the edge like we do. It's absolutely heaven.

And of course there's the adjoining bathroom, which also screams relaxation and comfort. They're large enough to have upholstered chairs siting beside soaking tubs, so one never has to stand to dry one's hair. And there are huge showers with shower heads that mimic an Amazon rain forest. Ah, the glory of it all!

But I think the thing I most envy when I walk through those bedrooms and bathrooms is the knowledge that whomever inhabits them never has to pick up a toilet brush or scour a dirty sink. How much easier would it be to adore our spouses if we didn't have to see the results of their annoying habits - or clean up after them!

So there you go. My previously undisclosed secret dream is in print. I'd give anything for a luxurious, comfortable, beautiful bedroom retreat. But ultimately I'm perfectly content with what I have.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Working out


I've been working on my New Year's resolution to get back to the routine work-outs I was commited to but had let go by the wayside in the past year. I began by changing my strategy and now I climb out of bed early in the morning to get it out of the way before I start the rest of my day. I used to go to the gym in the afternoon but I find I like the idea of getting it over with early and then not having to think about it all day long.

I never grew to like my work-outs, despite being advised by so may people that I would. I did it regularly for over 5 years and never enjoyed a single minute of it - until it was over, so I'm not sure what those people were talking about. I think you're either a work-out person or you're not, and I am most definitely not. No matter though, I know its important to my health so I'll do it, just like the other things I do for the sake of my health, like medical tests and proper eating. Not fun, but I do them.

But...the most difficult part of my work out is getting out of bed on these cold mornings. It's so dark at 6am and so cold in my bedroom that I often lie there thinking about getting up for a good 15 minutes before I actually manage to throw back the covers and do it. I've never been a morning person, but being married to one for over thirty years has made me wake up early anyway, so that's not the problem. It's the mental part of getting out of that warm bed that I struggle with. I do it for ambulance calls because I have no choice - procrastination is a luxury that patients can't afford so when my pager goes off I'm up and out before I can even think about it. But working out....well....I don't really have to do that, right?

So far my will is winning the battle over my body and I'm doing what I have to do. But I so love the weekends when I skip the workouts! And I'll be so grateful for the early morning sun when we get closer to the summer...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My view


I have the greatest view from my front windows. I look out onto a beautiful village green and straight across to the North End Cemetery, with its rows and rows of ancient headstones neatly enclosed by a naturally aged picket fence. Because the ground slopes from the Hook Mill to the green, I can see most of the cemetery as it undulates from one end to the other. A huge evergreen borders the north end and the mill stands solidly at the south. It's a great place to wander around on a nice spring or fall day, reading the wonderful sentiments on those stones and noting the dates and names that are carved there. Since its winter now I'm able to see the entire mill, unobstructed by the leaves that fill out the huge trees around it in the summer. I love watching cars pass by on North Main, Methodist, and Accabonac - it's constant motion - except when a big snowstorm has passed, and then its eerily still. Also when it snows the headstones stand out in stark relief against the white ground like sentinels at attention, reminding me that for over 360 years people have lived right here, walking where I walk and watching the same sky as it clues us in to the days promise. It's so gray today in it's dark winter hue.

I think being surrounded as I am by such an historic area makes me especially appreciative of our past. I can't help but think about the people who came here, worked this land and now are buried in that cemetery. What were they like? Did they love East Hampton as much as I do? I know my ancestors did because we're still here. I'm the fifth generation to be living on this corner. It's that knowledge that keeps me grounded and helps me appreciate where I've come from.

I'm grateful for the ancestors who built my house because they left me with the most beautiful big windows to look out of. It really gives me a chance to keep my fingers on the pulse of the community. I know people who would hate living this close to the road - and right here in the busy village, but for me its the only place to be. I love the hustle and bustle of village life and I love watching my fellow community members as they drive to and from work and make their daily trips to the post office. I even love the fact that people often comment on whatever we're doing at our house, as in "I see you're putting a new roof on" or "Love the tree you decorated for Christmas!". It makes me feel connected - part of the whole.

I have the greatest view from my front windows.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Family


I have a big, crazy, diverse, funny, quirky extended family. The fact that we've been getting together for lunch every Sunday for over 20 years has been the glue that's held us together, and I'm so glad that we're still willing to take that couple hours out of our lives because I find incredible strength in the bonds that we have. I'd imagine that someone looking in from the outside wouldn't realize how close we are because we're not overly demonstrative with our affections. I've been around plenty of families who kiss and hug every time they see one another - and that's definitely not us. I imagine some of my loved ones would die if I tried to give them a hug. But that's not an indication of the way we feel. There's no denying the love and I know we all feel pretty connected in a primal sort of way. At least, I think that's true for my generation - I'm not sure if the next one feels those bonds quite the same way yet. It may be bonds that are forged through the years, experiencing life together, sharing joys and sorrows, and joining in both celebrations and griefs. Life does have a way of teaching us what the really important things are.

Even in the next generation I can see affection and I know how truly happy they are to welcome one of their peers home when they get to join us once again for a Sunday lunch. It's a celebration for all of us - for my generation that enjoyed watching all those nieces and nephews grow, and for the next who now have children of their own. Three generations celebrating life and love and special bonds.

So we watch now as our children's children join the Sunday lunch crowd. Seeing them play together and forge their own bonds - and bring their own craziness to the group - brings back wonderful memories and gives us hope for the future - hope that this family will continue to celebrate their lives together for many years to come.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tapestry


A long time ago I had to say a few words at a farewell luncheon honoring a good friend who was moving away. I remember comparing our lives to tapestries, woven together to form a beautiful piece of art. Now, all these years later, that analogy seems even more fitting for a town like East Hampton - the community I love.

When I toured Europe years ago I was fascinated with the huge tapestries that hung along the hallways of the beautiful castles dotting the landscape in England. They are marvels of handwork and represent hours and hours of labor. I see East Hampton, like so many communities around the world, as one huge tapestry begun over 360 years ago and still in the process of being being completed by the people who love and live in it as I do. I see each of us as a thread, woven in and out, forming individual images that are part of the whole - intertwined in such a way that it can't possibly have the same effect standing alone. Yet if any one were missing the whole would be less beautiful for it. Among the many forms and colors are exceptional threads of gold and silver, and others of such vibrant color that that stand out in stark relief. It's an amazing piece of art, made possible only through the work of so many loving hands. We weave our threads around each other and the work becomes strong and durable - strength in numbers and unity.

When I stand back and look at the tapestry that forms this community I see the times we've held each other together when a weakness in one thread needed re-enforcement by the others, weaving a strong safety net around it. I also see the places where one wonderful thread, in conjunction with others, stands out by forming a particularly beautiful image. Or perhaps it highlights another image by it's outline or special highlighting. We truly are each a piece of the whole, one of many and yet so vital to the finished product.

What a wonderful way to see East Hampton, by stepping back and seeing not just the spot where our own threads are constantly weaving in and out, back and forth, but rather taking in the entire piece - in all its wonder and beauty. Truly a piece of art.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My little boys


I was lucky enough to be babysitting for my grandsons the other day. I'm so grateful to have three of the grandkids live right here in East Hampton, and these three are all boys. I joke about having to go to Pennsylvania to get my "girl" fix, but I also admit to the fact that I know if I'm lucky enough to be an old lady some day, having three grandsons around will be really nice.

My mother lived right next door to us and she often called over to ask one of my boys for a hand with some simple task that was difficult for her to do alone, like changing the lightbulbs over her kitchen counter, or getting the Christmas tree into the stand and in place. She could no longer reach things in her upper cabinet and was smart enough not to attempt climbing on ladders for hanging bird feeders or getting something down from the top shelf of the pantry. So she called on "her" boys. And now I'll have mine.

Interestingly enough, as much as I might plead for assistance with something around my house, help is rarely forthcoming without a considerable effort on my part. Yet when their grandmothers called, they were always there for them. I'm looking forward to being the one that gets that kind of attention! (I only wish the grandchildren from PA were to be as close at hand. My grandson there is such a sweet natured boy I know he'd be quick to respond whenever I needed him. And having a couple girls around would be nice for reasons I may go into another day!)

Let's see, in ten years they'll be 16, 14, and 11....perfect ages for helping around the house. I think perhaps it won't be so hard getting those Christmas decorations out of the attic then...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Connections


One of the things I love about East Hampton is the way we're so interconnected. This week when I was on ambulance duty we took the father of a dear old friend that I went school with. As soon as I heard the name I knew who it was and exactly where the house was, because I'd been there many times during high school. It felt good to be able to help someone I knew in need.

East Hampton is still a small town in so many ways. I often take people I know to the hospital - or the parents or spouses of people I know. I've even stayed back while the rest of the crew took the patient to the hospital so I could be with the ones left behind. Once I stayed with a friend when they took her mother off with lights a siren. I sat with her and held her while she cried. She was a nurse so she knew her mother wasn't coming home again. I felt privileged to be there with her during that personal and traumatic time. These are things we never forget.

My children are still discovering the wonders of a small town as they delve into the world of adulthood. Occasionally one will come in and say something along the lines of "You know so-and-so? I worked with him today and he said to say hello!" Often they shake their heads at the realization that we know so many people. They can't do much without us finding out about it. "It's a small town" I tell them "and that is both the blessing and the curse of a small town. Everyone knows your business, which isn't always such a terrible thing!"

Yes, East Hampton is a small town. A town where we care about each other and know our neighbors. A town where one person's difficulties effect us all and where we jump in to help whenever we can. Like taking an old friend's father to the hospital.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The inauguration


Last Tuesday's inauguration was an amazing day. I had an appointment in Southampton at noon - right when the oath of office would be taken - but with the wonderful availability of video recorders there's no need to miss a thing, and I didn't.

When the children were younger and I was home all day I often put the television on when they left for school and had it on most of the day, just in the background as I worked around the house. It was that habit that allowed me to see the assasination attempt on Ronald Regan first hand as I walked through my living room seconds after it had happened. I was glued to the television for hours and my children arrived home from school to find me in tears on the couch. It was the same with the Challenger disaster, and other defining moments in our history.

It was frustrating for me to be at an office working when 9/11 was unfolding because I wanted to be home in front of my television, watching the horrer first hand. Instead I had to keep up with things through phone calls and with the little radio we had in the office.

So on Tuesday I wanted to have it all to sift through when I got home from Southampton and I did. I was able to zip through the ads, skip the filler, and stop to watch with excitement as our new president was sworn in. It was an exciting moment - one that is now filed in my brain with all the other things I've been able to witness as they happened.

What an amazing world! Instant access to anyplace at any time. What would my great-grandparents have thought about that?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ice and snow


This has been an icy week in East Hampton. We weren't sure what to expect when we drove home from Pennsylvania Monday - when we left there was snow on the ground, and the temperature had been pretty chilly all weekend so we thought there might be skating on the pond - but there is always a huge difference between what happens west of NYC and out here in the island.

As we drove up from southern PA we saw some beautiful scenery. There had been a light snow overnight so there was a fresh coat of it on everything. We passed one open field that was surrounded by large trees, all with the same shape, like lollipops with long trunks and huge heads. Because it had been just a dusting of snow, they took on the appearance of a row of dandelions all gone to seed, with fluffy white heads ready to burst. Into Jersey there was still fresh snow everywhere, and even on to the island. But about halfway out, the new snow disappeared and it became clear that the east end didn't have anything but the old snow leftover from the week before.

I was disappointed that there were only a few people on the pond. According to the car thermometer it was about 34 degrees and it showed. There were puddles out on the ice and large cracks were appearing. The skating was over for at least the time being.

All week I've waited for the thaw so I could once again traverse my walks without having to watch every step. I don't mind the cold - but I hate the ice. It's treacherous - and the ambulance is busy taking care of those that fall victim to it.

Finally, the thaw is here. I think. At least, I'm happy to see some of the grass again...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Leaving


It was so hard to leave my daughter's house Monday. I usually do a pretty good job of preparing myself for the emotional toll of saying goodbye, but this time my 6-year-old granddaughter came to me at the door sobbing because she didn't want us to leave. I spent the first 20 minutes in the car trying to swallow the lump in my throat so my husband wouldn't see my cry and laugh at me for being such a wimp. It was like tearing my heart out to leave them all and knowing that my precious granddaughter felt similarly heartbroken was more than I could handle. What a cost there is to loving!

The last morning we were there she appeared by the bed at about 6am and I lifted the covers to let her climb in where she snuggled in tight and pulled my arm around her. I kissed her head as she lay there and she immediately turned her head up and kissed my chin. It was a moment I will never forget. The pure, undemanding love of a child is something that comes our way once if we are very lucky. If we have grandchildren, we are more than lucky and I feel especially blessed because I have six of those little miracles.

I adore my grand kids. They are as unique and amazing as their mothers and uncles were - and are. And nothing compares to the joy on a child's face when you walk in the door. The love they have for you is so evident as they race toward you with squeals of delight. Hopefully we all appreciate that joy when we are living it with our own children during those stressful early years of parenthood. I know I did. But it's a fleeting time.

It seems the joy we have in life from the relationships we nurture is always tempered by the pain of leaving them at some point. And at this vantage point I can see that life is really one long series of those leavings: from the beloved friends who move on to other places to the children who grow up and move and and the parents and other loved ones who leave us forever, we are constantly mourning the loss of those we love. Saying goodbye is so hard.

I wish I never had to say goodbye to the people I love. But its a price I'm willing to pay to have them in my life. It's a heavy price, but worth every penny.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My sons


I'm beginning to feel a wonderful sense of freedom to talk about my sons on this blog because I've come to the realization that neither one of them reads it, ever. My girls are pretty savvy so they're regular readers - I'm guessing they want to make sure I don't say anything embarrassing. I'm well aware of what I say about them - but the boys - well it's open season on them now!

Having kids is certainly one of the most interesting things we can do in our lives. As much as we may assume in the begining that we'll mold our children into perfect little beings, we realize pretty early on that they're their own persons and we really have very little to say about how they turn out. We do our best to instill the ethics and morals we think are important, and we try hard to make them the kind of people we want them to be, but at the end of the day, they are who they were meant to be all along.

I'm lucky - I have four of those miracles in my life. I'm not sure what things would have been like if I'd never had children. I'm sure I would have accomplished more in terms of a career, and I know I'd have lots more money now. But I certainly wouldn't be any happier or any more fulfilled. Having those four has made me a very rich woman and I wouldn't trade any of them for all the vacations in the world. At least most of the time.

But now, about those two boys....do I have some stories to tell...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Handcrafts


I've always been a person who loves to work with my hands. If I'd been born male someone would probably have put a set of tools in my hands fairly early on and I would be doing custom carpentry or some other type of woodcraft as an adult, but since I'm female my grandmother introduced me to knitting needles. I learned to knit before I was in high school. And I always worked at other "crafty" things so poster board and markers were a staple in my room - I loved creating things from banners for school events to collages for my bedroom walls (made up of photos of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Twiggy among others.)

As the years went by and I had babies, I began to delve into other crafty things. I crocheted baby blankets for my friends, smocked little dresses for my nieces, made crewel and needlepoint wall hangings for Christmas gifts, and even made many of my kids clothes. It's good to be crafty when you're on a tight budget and I had my Singer sewing machine handy! I spent many, many hours - instead of dollars - on the gifts I gave in those days. Anytime my children were sleeping, I was sewing, knitting, needlepointing, and gluing.

I still have a closet full of craft supplies. Some are for things I dabbled in for a short time, like stamping and stenciling. Others are for my grand kids to use when they're visiting because I love to color and paint with them. But the most enduring thing for me is the knitting. I love it because it's portable and easy to take with me, and it's also second-nature to me now. I can do it while the TV is on at night and rarely drop a stitch. It's more than a little satisfying to see one of my grandchildren appear in a sweater I made just for them.

I'm bemoaning the lack of a yarn shop in East Hampton. There's something so intoxicating about walking into a good yarn shop and looking at that wall of color, texture, and unlimited possibility. From the palest pinks to the darkest mauves, I love them all. And to be able to touch those skeins, to feel the heft and see the saturated color - well it's heavenly. I've started many projects just on the strength of the visual appeal, and more than once I've been seduced into buying yarn that I never actually used.

I've been to the shop in Montauk, and it's lovely, but I just don't have the time or energy for the trip all that often so I find myself using the internet more and more for ordering supplies. It's just not the same. No touching, no rainbow wall of color - I wish I could open my own shop just for the joy of being surrounded with the yarn.

Another pleasure that I find in knitting comes from the camaraderie. We have knitting groups at my church that make shawls for people in the community who need a little lift in their lives for various reasons. It's a wonderful communal activity: a little mentoring, a little sharing, and lots of just being with friends and getting to know one another better.

I guess that's why I like knitting more than some of the other crafts I've mastered. It can be done in a group which amplifies the pleasure. But all in all, I love every type craft I've ever tried, with the exception of counted cross stitch. Even when I was young those tiny woven pieces of cloth made me cross-eyed. Now, at my age, I wouldn't even try...

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Jr


I was in the 6th grade when JFK was assasinated and I remember it very well. Although the memory is intact, I don't remember having any real emotional attachment to all of it because I was too young to care much about political figures and what they meant to us as a nation. What a difference a few years makes though! I was in high school when both RFK and MLK Jr. were assasinated - and that was a different story.

Once I hit the 7th or 8th grade I was suddenly interested in what was going on in the world. I began every day by turning on the radio in my bedroom while I got dressed for school, listening to the world and local news segment before I left to go downstairs for breakfast. I started my lifelong habit of reading a newspaper. And each and every night I listened to Walter Cronkite tell me about Viet Nam, always giving the body count for the day, the Civil Rights Movement and what was happening in Selma or Atlanta, and the craziness of the late 1960s, which was in full swing, with nightly reports about what was happening on the corner of Haight/Ashbury in San Francisco or on the college campuses across the nation. It was a world gone wild in those days - unlike anything that I've seen since those turbulent years - and something no one who didn't live them can really understand.

Anyway-I remember well when the news flashed across the screen that Martin Luther King Jr had been shot and killed on the balcony of his hotel room. A feeling came over me that's hard to describe all these years later, but I can safely say that resignation and dread was part of it. What was the world coming to? Where were we going to be in 5 years? 10 years? Was there hope for us as a country? As a young girl I was more than worried - I was fearful.

It seems like a lifetime ago now - and I guess it was. I was so young and so naive. And now I'm so grateful to be able to look back and see that as a country we've come far enough to have elected a black president.

In the 1960s I don't think I'd have believed that would ever be possible. And I'm quite sure that MLK Jr is taking it all in right now and smiling....

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Away from home


My family rarely traveled when I was growing up. My father hated road trips and that was all we could afford so the result is that I have no fond memories of traveling with my family (with the exception of one trip to Buffalo to visit my aunt and uncle for Thanksgiving - the year Kennedy was shot and we got extra time off from school!) Since my father didn't enjoy the prospect of being in the car with his four adorable children I'm just as glad we didn't travel because he would have been miserable to be with, but at the same time it would've been nice to have had the experiences that most families did on their yearly vacations. The end result for me is that I hate traveling. I mean, I love being other places, seeing new things, experiencing other cultures, and expanding my world view - but I hate the process of getting there.

The car trip is among my least favorite options. After two hours my legs begin to twitch and I have to supress the desire to jump out and run home. I don't mind driving an hour, but since it takes at least two just to get off Long Island I dread it every time. I'm sure my children have no idea how much I hate it - or what a sacrifice it is for me to do it.

Then there's flying. Flying's OK to a point. I don't mind the part between the take-off and landing as long as the skies are clear and there won't be any heart rending turbulance. But the process of flying has become a nightmare in this age of terrorism. From the minute I get out of my car at the airport I feel as though I have to spend all my energy defending myself against the possibilty that someone may think I "look funny" or "act weird" or I'm trying to smuggle some horrible substance like shampoo onto the plane. And heaven forbid I take along a pair of knitting needles to while away the time in flight. I'd probably be arrested on the spot. So flying is not the fun that it was nearly 40 years ago when I made my first flight as a teen-ager. The thrill - and the glamour - are long gone.

My favorite option for a vacation is cruising. I find those big hulking ships rather comforting and since it doesn't feel as though your feet ever leave the ground there's a certain measure of comforting delusion in the experience. Away from my phone and my television yet with all the comforts of home and then some. Like a maid and waiter to take care of me every day! Heaven on earth.

Most of our traveling these days is between home and Pennsylvania to visit the kids. We know the route by heart - over the Verrazano, through Staten Island, the Jersey Turnpike to the Pennsylvanuia Turnpike, then south to Brandywine Valley country. It's not a bad trip as these things go. But my least favorite thing about living on Long Island is the effort it takes to get off of it. Every trip has to be planned around NYC and the traffic because there's no getting around it.

But - once we arrive at our destination there's a wonderful period of relaxation and joy as we welcome grandchildren into our bed in the morning and tuck them into theirs at night. Unfortunately, once there, we have to eventually go home again. Back in the car and on the road.

What I wouldn't do to own a plane.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Indoors


The cold has descended for sure now and there's no denying it's winter! We're in Pennsylvania today and I'm looking forward to being in the house most of the time anyway, just enjoying the family and playing games with the kids. I have my knitting with me - and the laptop for blogging - so its the perfect time to be kept indoors. I imagine there will be a lot of "Eloise" and "Winnie-the-Pooh" in my day today!

I've never been much of an outdoor person. When I was young my mother was always shooing me out of the house and I can remember at school during recess, while the other children ran around playing jumprope and tag, I was usually standing with the teacher having a conversation or huddled up with a couple other girls making plans for a school project or sleepover party. I'm not an active person by nature and that has always been a problem for me. Going to the gym to work out or taking a nice long walk is something I force myself to do. I wish that were not the case.

I've often wondered whether being raised in a family where ski trips and nature walks were part of the regular routine would have made a difference for me, but I'll never know. My parents were more sedentary, like I am, and I assume there might be some genetic factor - but who knows? I wish it weren't such a struggle to get moving, I know that much.

And I wish I had been smart enough to make the effort years ago so it wouldn't be such a challenge now. I'd still rather be inside reading a book or knitting a sweater than outside doing some kind of physical activity. And I know that the older I get, the more challenging it's going to be...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Snow again...


Yesterday's snow reminded me of my mother as I was sitting in my living room looking out the front windows in the early evening. The lights were turned low and it was dark outside,so when a car passed by in any direction the headlights illuminated the snow falling in front of it and bounced the light off the beautiful sheets of white that lay on the ground. It was mesmerizing, really. The plows were out, of course, and they made their own scene with multicolored flashing lights as they moved by in every direction.

My mother was born and raised in upstate New York and she loved the snow. She never hesitated to drive in it, or get outside and build a snowman with us, or shovel the walk out to her car. (That part became a bit annoying when she was elderly because she would get out there and have her walk shoveled and the car cleaned off before my husband could clear a path to her house to do it for her. And we are early rises here!) But I admired her spunk and the fact that a little snow didn't faze her in the least.

When we were kids she loved to take us skating at Town Pond, where she was one of the "cool" moms who skated rings around us as we tried to improve our skills. I wish I had been that kind of "cool" mom, but I wasn't. My lack of skill kept me off the ice and safely at home making cookies and hot chocolate while my husband did the honors of teaching the kids. My mother - well she was a product of her upbringing and she welcomed the cold weather. I remember her driving us to church more than once in what I would term a blizzard. She never let a little snow keep her from getting to church!

I'm glad that I've moved on since Mom died. I know enough about grief to know that I've reached the "acceptance" stage. I certainly don't miss her any less - but I can think back on those memories now and smile instead of cry. I'm enjoying the memories now. They're not so painful anymore.

She was quite a lady, my mother. More than I deserved, for sure.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Research


I spent about three hours at the East Hampton Library last Tuesday doing research for an upcoming lecture at Clinton Academy. I had to retreive some information about the WWII years so I began by loading up the microfilm machine with the reel that contained all the East Hampton Star newspapers from 1941 through 1944. I expected to be there about an hour but became so engrossed in what I was doing I stayed for a good part of the day. It was great fun.

I began with the paper which was published right after the attack on Pearl Harbor and it was fasinating to follow the community as it came to grips with war and to see how it affected life around here, with notices for air raid drills and instructions for black-out regulations posted regularly. One week they were announcing a scrap drive, the next the need for bandages to be made. The community was wholly involved in the war effort, yet at the same time there were reports of such things as birthday parties being celebrated and town meetings being held. Life went on.

The best thing about rolling through page after page of the local paper was spotting familiar names and faces, or events that I'd heard of growing up. When that happened my mission was momentarily forgotten and I'd read with interest about the wedding of a couple that I'd known only as elderly people. I studied photos of beautiful young brides to catch sight of the people I'd thought of only in the context of being mothers of friends, or ladies who belonged to the LVIS.

Sometimes it was the advertising that grabbed my attention. Ads for businesses long gone but still remembered. Or ones that touted things like cigarettes that would never be seen now. It was an escape from the world of today and a trip back in time to an amazing part of our history. I really loved it.

By the end of the three hours I'd picked up all the information I needed, along with a stiff neck from looking through my bifocols at the screen and a sore back from holding my arms out so long to work the machine. If I could have those reels and that machine at my house I'd be as addicted as my son is to his video games. Because I felt the history of this place in my soul. Within those newspapers I scanned I'd caught site of announcements for my father's graduation from high school (with a photo!) and my great-grandfather's sudden and unexpected death. I felt somehow connected to every report of a dead soldier - and my heart ached at the reports of families who were waiting for word of their sons who were missing. I may not have been alive then, but this was my community and my people I was reading about. It was the parents and grandparents of my friends and neighbors - people I go to church with and see at the grocery store.

I came home exhausted and exhilirated. What a great way to spend a day!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Taking to the road


My grandson's birthday is coming up so we're planning a trip to Pennsylvania this weekend for the festivities. It's only been a few weeks since they were here for the holidays but I miss them when they're gone! And then of course when I go to see them I miss the ones that I left behind! What's a grandmother to do?

It's fun traveling during different months of the year because it gives us a chance to see other places during the seasonal changes that I enjoy so much here in East Hampton. Now that we've gotten to know the area in Pennsylvania where my daughter lives, we're pretty comfortable there - and we like the scenery. It's the Brandywine Valley region, which is very historic and quite beautiful. She has a farm right behind her property and she looks out onto the fields where the horses graze, with barns and a farmhouse in view. It reminds me of the back roads in East Hampton when I was growing up, with beautiful farm fields stretching from highway to sea. Those were the days - we can all agree on that!

I long for the East Hampton of my youth sometimes. It was an idyllic place to grow up and more beautiful then than it is now just because it was so undeveloped and life was so simple. I still love it and there's still no other place in the world I would rather be...but it's not the same. So I'll enjoy my weekend in Pennsylvania, driving through acres of farmland so reminiscent of Long Island in the 1950s. It will be a little bit like going home again...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ambulance duty


Sunday night was the kind of duty night that we dread in the ambulance service. It was cold - really cold - and there was ice on the ground, and I had to go out twice which resulted in a total of about 4 hours sleep for the entire night. Someone remind again me why I signed on for this insanity?

As I get older I find myself dreading ambulance duty during the winter months. Not that I ever enjoyed going out in freezing temperatures, but somehow my older body likes it less than my younger one did. There's something so insane about getting out of a warm bed on a cold night and walking out into that blast of air - which has the one positive effect of waking you completely before you have to drive your car.

At two o'clock in the morning there's barely a sound to be heard outside with the exception of the crunching beneath my feet as I navigate across the lawn to my car. I hold my breath on these nights because more often than not my door is frozen shut and I have to run around trying to find a way to get it opened because time is of the essence. If I was smarter, I would always remember to unlock the other doors before I went to bed but more often than not they are locked up tight and the keys are in the car so I resort to running back into the house for a bowl of hot water to throw on the handle, which usually does the trick. It would be heavenly to have a garage. Especially one attached to the house.

I will say that it's beautiful in the middle of the night. The moon reflects off the snow giving everything an ethereal glow and the stillness in the air is startling. But...that nice warm bed would be so much better.

All that adds up to my counting the number of times I'll be on duty until the warmer months are here. Let's see, duty falls every eighth night, and there are about 9 weeks left of really cold weather, which equals 63 days, divided by 8....

Monday, January 12, 2009

Politics


As the world of politics gets stranger and stranger I sit back and wonder at it all. As much as we gripe about local politics and the odd goings on right here in East Hampton, our local issues don't compare to the things being dragged across the national stage at the moment. In one state we have the interesting case of a governor under suspicion of unethical practices, about ready to lose his position due to his underhanded and illegal shenanigans. In another state we have a governor ready to appoint a new senator, choosing between two huge names in the Democratic party who happened to be formerly related by marriage, one who has the experience and savvy to do the job and one who may also be capable but is untried and unproven and would seem the less desirable candidate. And yet that's the one that will probably be appointed.

In nearly every state of the union there are strange things going on in the capitol buildings and the senate chambers, because politics makes strange bedfellows and watching what goes on in the halls of power is rather like watching a slow motion train wreck sometimes. It's compelling and horrifying all at the same time and we cannot take our eyes off it.

Occasionally someone refers to me as a politician and I recoil at the thought. I tend to think of politicians as people who jockey for position, make back-room deals to get their agenda forwarded, and generally seem rather untrustworthy and insincere. I see myself more as someone who was asked to help and stepped in willingly to do so because I care about my community. I know I don't have the stomach for hard ball politics and could never move up on that ladder. I'm not one who likes to make compromises and that's an inevitable part of getting anything accomplishe in that world.

Of course, I may be kidding myself. But somehow I just can't imagine anyone ever putting me into higher office because I'd be way too likely to speak my mind whether it was the politically correct thing to do or not. That said, I wish more politicians would do the same.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Resolutions


My New Year's resolution was actually made weeks before Christmas - months even. I'm determined to get my lifestyle more health oriented and stop letting the daily work-outs go by the wayside. Seven years ago I lost a significant amount of weight, but even more important than that, I was working out and taking care of myself. I want to feel that sense of control and good health again. Thus my resolution this year.

Of course, I've made the same resolution every year for the past three years - since I started letting my daily routine slip so badly into sloth and lack of discipline - and every year for the past three years I've started out well but soon fell back into the patterns which have dogged my life since I was very young. I'm not going to let that happen this year.

I can look back at the last 3 years and point to reasons why things went from bad to worse - this past year has been an especially difficult one - but at the end of the day, they are all excuses. Enough with the excuses!

At my age I'm running out of time when it comes to getting healthy and feeling good. So I think its now or never.

In any case, I'm on the right track. And I intend to use this blog as a form of accountability. I'll make a progress report periodically. And I know that I have company on this trip. As the doctor said to me last year "Believe me, you're not alone in this struggle!" It's always nice to have company.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wrapping up


I bought rolls and rolls of Christmas paper the other day. I also bought some nice ornaments and other decorations. I just can't help myself - I love a bargain. My problem is that every year I buy things "ahead" and then forget about them. If I'm not careful, by next Christmas I'll totally forget I have this paper and I'll buy new rolls at full price and then uncover these rolls when all the gifts are wrapped. It's the story of my life!

Last year I went in to a shop in town that was selling everything half-price before they closed for the winter. I bought sweatshirts and tee shirts for every member of my family - children and their spouses, husband, and grandchildren. Three big shopping bags holding thirteen bulky items. Those bags lay in the corner of my bedroom for months. My plan was to give them as birthday gifts - a whole year of shopping done in one hour! What a genius I am! The problem was I never remembered they were there and as each birthday rolled around I went out and bought some other gift. I finally remembered at Christmas and wrapped them all up then so everyone received an extra gift this year. It was their birthday gift wrapped in Christmas paper. Not such a genius after all.

I always think I'm very organized. But then life happens and my best intentions go by the wayside. And at the end of the day I should have just waited and paid full price. Although they did get nice sweatshirts for Christmas...

Friday, January 9, 2009

Tough times


The economy is taking its toll on local families and businesses and it's so hard to see. Some seem to be immune to the effects of the present situation but many more are hurting in many ways. Although we are still relatively comfortable in our world here in this country, any stress in a family is difficult and sudden worries about paying the gas bill or keeping up with the mortgage payments are certainly difficult.

As business owners my husband and I are not immune to the problems of a slow economy and we spend a great deal of time talking about bills and income like so many others. On the one hand, I realize that ours are problems of privilege: keeping the house in good repair, paying the monthly bills, buying the kind of food we want to eat. In so many places in the world the issues are about survival, not comfort. But nevertheless - stress is stress and we all understand how it effects us all.

East Hampton has always been less effected by the downturns in the economy than other areas of the country and for that we are grateful. At the same time, we are all effected in one way or another and what hurts one hurts all. In a small community like East Hampton, we worry about each other. One cannot help but notice that the real estate and want ads in the local papers have dwindled to nothing. I worry about people who depend on selling houses and newspapers, and I wonder how we will come through this.

I also know that a community like East Hampton is good at taking care of its own. I trust that will continue to be true. Seeing the crime rate rise on Long Island in tandem with the unemployment rate is alarming. I trust the people of East Hampton will rise above the norm and be watching out for each other.

Cleaning closets


What is it about cleaning out my closets that I hate so much? About twice a year I go through my closet and the drawers in my bedroom and weed out things I never wear and re-organize the things that I do. I find it so difficult to throw things away - especially when they're perfectly good pieces of clothing that either aren't my favorite things or don't fit me well enough at the moment. I think it's the guilt of living well enough to have more things than I need - perhaps my mother's voice in the back of my head saying "It's perfectly good - you can't throw that away!" or the knowlege that with a few pounds lost I could once again wear that really nice blazer...

Anyway-its a horrible job and I've put it off until I have no choice and now I have to do it. So now all the clothes that people have bought me as gifts that I was too embarrassed to admit didnt fit, and all the clothes that I haven't worn for the last few years because I gained too much weight to look decent in them, and all the things which I dearly love but are just beyond their prime and need to go - they're all getting put into bags to go to the clothing drop this weekend. I feel as though I'm throwing cash out the window and there's something really horrible and guilt-producing about it. But it must be done.

I know I'll feel so good when it's over and my drawers are no longer difficult to close and my blazers can easily be hung in the closet without shoving things as hard as I can to make room for them. And yet...

It's the very guilt that will keep me from shopping for months to come.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Changes


My husband is sporting a beard for the first time since I've known him. Apparently facial hair is not something most women are terribly fond of because the usual reaction of female acquaintances when they see him for the first time is "How does your wife like it?" - said with enough of a dry vocal tone that clearly the expected answer is that I don't. They're more than a little surprised to hear the truth of the matter, which is that I asked him to grow it.

It's strange to me that he never had a beard long enough for me to see him that way before, because I've known him since I was very young and we were, after all, of the "hippie" generation in the late 1960s. Everyone had facial hair in 1969! He claims to have had a beard once but it couldn't have been for long - I think maybe when he was away (supposedly) at college. In any case, I've never known him to be anything but clean-shaven so this is a new and fascinating experience for me.

The truth of the matter is this: in November we celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary. As I thought back through the years I came to the conclusion that it was time for a change. I explained to him that in those 34 years I've been up and down through 4 clothing sizes (more times than I care to remember...), had 4 pregnancies, been through at least 3 hair colors and about a dozen hair styles, and had numerous careers. I'm not the same person he married in any way, shape, or form - and I certainly don't look much like the long-dark haired brunette he met at the end of the church aisle. However, in all these many years he has not changed one iota. He's the same clothing size, wears his hair the same way - although a bit shorter than I like now - when we got married. And in fact has not even had the good grace to have any gray hair at all!

I decided it was time for a change. After all, variety is the spice of life so why not give it a try? So he did.

And for all you ladies out there who question my preference - I like it!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The "slow" days?


It used to amuse me when "summer people" would say things like "What do you do out here in the winter?", as though life began and ended with their arrival and departure. I suppose when you live in the city it does seem quiet out here in the "off-season" but of course when you live here, your life is very busy all the time - and especially, I find, in the winter. Because that's when we're doing all the things that we can't manage to get done in the summer with all those people in the way!

When the kids were young winters were packed full of school activities. There were sporting events, musical concerts, and teacher conferences to attend. There were PTA meetings and class fundraisers and college applications to take care of. Having children guarantees a busy winter around here.

But as the children grew and moved away I found myself becoming more involved in other community organizations and between the Historical Society and Healthcare Foundation boards, church activities and responsibilities, and running calls and attending classes for the ambulance association, I don't have much free time in the winter. Fitting in regular work around all that volunteer stuff makes the days pretty busy as well. East Hampton is a bustling, busy year-round town and to me the winter is the best time for enjoying our friends, visiting restaurants, and checking out museums, art galleries, and other cultural institutions that are all around us. I love attending lectures, and entertaining at home - and I find that summers are too crowded and overly scheduled for doing many things.

So - to all you "summer people" out there (who I'm sure don't read this blog anyway!) I have a message for you! Don't bother us right now - we are WAY too busy!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New friends


I enjoy making new friends and because people moved into the house next door this fall I have a new opportunity to do so, which is fun. I've discovered that every new person brings something different to your life, enriching it in ways you could never have imagined before you knew them. Whether it's their life experiences, their talents and abilities, or their warm and kind hearted natures, there's always something interesting they bring to the table.

There seem to be things that draw me to certain people, too. Sometimes it's their keen intellect that I want to be around, but very often its their sense of humor that I really love. I find myself being drawn to this new couple who have become part of our everyday lives simply by being right here. I can't wuite put my finger on what it is I like so much quite yet, but they're friendly and genuine and that's a good start.

I really seek out integrity in the people I spend time with. I want to know they're people of their word and can be trusted as friends. And I like people with a good sense of humor who can take, as well as give, a little teasing now and then. They need to know the difference between a snide comment and something said with a "twinkle in the eye". I find I'm drawn to people who know when to laugh but are also capable of being serious when the occasion calls for it. I like sincerity in a person - and I appreciate tender hearts and kindred spirits.

My friends reflect all those things and yet they are an eclectic bunch. In general, I like people and I consider most the people I know to be friends (with a few exceptions). The sad thing is that lack of time makes it impossible to include every acquaintance in our lives as often as we'd like. Sometimes I feel myself really "clicking" with someone at a party or a meeting and walk away thinking "Now that's someone I would like to get to know better". I know there's a connection, but realize there're only so many people I have the capacity to get involved with.

I guess that's why its the people we rub elbows with most often that become our closest friends. We share the same ethics and enjoy each others company, AND we see each other often enough, at work or at church of wherever we spend most of our time, to say on the spur of the moment "Want to come have dinner with us this weekend?" Or maybe "I need to run to K Mart-want to ride along?" That's how close friendships develop. I wish I had time for more of them!

In any case, I'm looking forward to getting to know our new neighbors throughout this coming year. Summer is an especially good time for neighbors to be neighborly. And believe it or not, summer is just around the corner...

The wind

While we were visiting my daughter's family in Pennsylvania we were treated to a wild night of wind where she lives, which is former farm land now morphed into a housing development. Since she's surrounded by wide-open spaces with no mature trees, when the wind comes it comes with a vengeance. All night it howled outside our corner bedroom and the sound of branches beating the aluminum siding of the house was accompanied by the rattling of the windows against their frames. It was really something.

We get some pretty heavy winds along the coastline so East Hampton is no stranger to it. But with our houses being closer together and our lots heavily wooded and landscaped, the sound is not usually quite so profound. It takes a pretty strong gale or a full-blown hurricane to make quite as much racket as we listened to that night and as I found myself laying in bed listening to the sounds I was in awe of natures power. It's something I notice when I see the storm surf or the aftermath of the latest nor'easter. It never ceases to amaze me.

The wind is like the voice of God. It speaks to us if we are willing to listen.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Around town


A drive around town these days evokes a very different feel than it did only a few short weeks ago. Back then, the Christmas decorations had just gone up, there was an air of excitement everywhere, and despite the economic outlook people felt good about things. It was the holidays. There was much to be thankful for and much to look forward to. That was a few short weeks ago.

Today a walk down Main Street brings a different feeling. While there are still decorations up, people are not bustling around anymore, picking up gifts or buying wine to take to a party. There are fewer smiles around every corner and down every alley - and there is a kind of winter ennui that has settled in around us. You can feel it, but it's hard to describe.

Winter is the most intriguing season to me for just that reason. It feels so different than the other seasons, each bringing its own excitement and anticipation with it. But winter - well - it's just there. The most we can hope for is mild weather and an early spring.

As much as I enjoy the seasons, I like winter the least of all. If I could, I would stretch out the fall and the spring a little longer and maybe only January would be cold enough for snow. Now that would be the perfect climate! but this is East Hampton and we still have weeks to go before the mercury will again climb into the 50s and 60s for good. Oh well. I have more warm scarves than I know what to do with. Maybe this year I'll set out a different one every night to be used the next day. A little something to look forward to in the morning...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The end of madness


Today marks the end of the madness that is the holidays. At last we'll resume our normal schedules tomorrow morning, with everyone returning to work having no holidays ahead until the Monday of Martin Luther King's birthday a few weeks down the road. Back to the drudgery of our every day, week in and week out lives. Whew! What a relief!

Sometimes the normal routine can be such a Godsend. After a busy period, like this has been from Thanksgiving through New Years Day, well - the word "routine" sounds wonderful to me. At last I can feel as though I'm in some kind of control again and actually accomplish things that need to be done around the house and in other areas of my life. I have a long list to work on, from projects for the Historical Society to arrangements for a trip we are planning in April. And everything in between from cleaning closets to painting rooms.

I like working with lists and legal pads. I have a separate legal pad for every project I'm working on and I keep all my notes there so when I need to know a phone number or a date, I simply grab that pad and there it is in front of me. Of course, that assumes that I can actually put my hands on the pad I'm needing at the moment and that's a whole other story. SOmetimes I run around from room to room trying to find the one I need and feeling that slight panic that this may be the time when I've really lost one. As my memory deteriorates with the progression of my age I know the day is coming when that will be a reality but so far so good - I always manage to find the missing notes somewhere. I'm dreading the inevitable day when I can't, because of the larger implications.

Anyway, I have no idea how things progressed from my first paragraph to this prior one - talk about a stream of conscioiusness! But thus goes January. Time to regroup all around. I'm just now coming back to earth...thankful for a wonderful holiday and glad to get back into the swing of things. It's a good time.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Another snowfall


We had another beautiful snowfall the other day. I love the big, fat flakes that float softly to the ground and quickly lay a transparent cover over everything. The traffic was still moving freely and the grass was still visible through the white blanket, but everything had the ethereal feeling of a fantasy world. Like stepping out of the wardrobe and into the land of Narnia.

Snow can be such a pain and I'm not a huge fan. I love to see it fall and I love the early effects, but once the initial charm wears off I'm more than ready to see it melt away. I don't like to have my plans interrupted and I hate slippery roads and sidewalks - and nothing looks worse than dirty snow sitting along the roadways for a few days. But all that said, I'm glad to live where I get to see it at least a few times every year. Because that lovely, pure layer of white makes the world sparkle and shine. And it gives the most ordinary things a special glow-like wrapping a brick or a rock in some beautiful wrapping paper. Every building, bush and vehicle looks intrigueing.

It was a perfect snow. I would like to say that it barely lasted a few hours and then the change in temperature washed it away. My kind of snow. My kind of winter. The usual story here! But unfortunately it's still with us. Not too much, but enough to be annoying. At least I'm not needing to wear boots...

Friday, January 2, 2009

January


January is an odd month. On the one hand, we're sad that the high spirits and frivolity of the holidays are over. And we know that the coldest part of the year is here and there's not much to look forward to for awhile. So we don't quite know how we feel. It's an ambivilant month. It's a month of re-assessing, of re-organizing, and of prioritizing. January. The very name elicits thoughts of sitting by the fireplace knitting or reading. As opposed to a month like June where we think weddings, graduations, gardening, swimming, etc. No-January is one of the least busy months of the year.

On the other hand, I happen to like January. For me it's all about getting centered again after the crazy schedule of December and before busier months to come, we have this wonderful little period of respite - time to contemplate what the new year will bring for us and how we should expend our energy moving forward. What do we want to concentrate on this year? What do we want to accomplish? And how can we manage to reach those goals?

It's January and I'm happy to be here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Here we go again...


I'm very much looking forward to 2009. These past few years have been tumultuous ones in our house as we've had to deal with the deaths of both our mothers - each a loving and strong presence in our lives all these years. This year alone we we had a son marry (a happy but stressful time!), lost a parent (again), and spent more than a normal amount of time in hospitals and doctor's offices for various reasons. (It really is all about patching I guess!).

I'm a pretty optimistic person by nature and I choose to look for the best in both people and situations. But I find that at this point in my life there'r more surprises around every turn of the calendar page than I like - and it can be disconcerting. It's an odd time of life, this middle-age period, with parents dying, children leaving home, friends moving away, long-time ties severed or changed. It's a time of great change in so many ways and I must say I was unprepared for it. I had been expecting a simpler time, when we would kick back our heels and relax, enjoying the fruits of our labor. But that has not been the case so far. Perhaps we'll be able to do more of that in this new year.

So I gladly say goodbye to 2008 - although it had its high points it will not be missed! And I welcome 2009 - hopefully a better year.