Sunday, May 31, 2009

Irises

I love my irises. When we moved into this house thirty years ago my great uncle (who'd built it) had left behind some beautiful lavender irises that were planted along a white fence by the patio. In the years after we took ownership we moved them a number of times, (when we worked on the patio, put an addition on the house, and then when we created a garden area to one side of the yard). They've been dug up, replanted, and carelessly neglected - and yet they continue to flourish in the garden, coming up like clockwork every year at this time and multiplying before my eyes.
There's something very tenacious about those irises. They don't seem to care how much or how little water they get, they seem content in sun or shade, and they obviously don't attract the deer that wander through my yard. They come up over and over again, long stems reaching above everything around them and beautiful lavender heads standing tall for all to see. They remind me of the evolution of this house and my family and they provide me with a constant reminder of the people that planted them many years ago.

The saddest thing about irises is that they're truly here today and gone tomorrow. I have to make sure I take time to look at them every day when they're in bloom because they won't last long at all. Like so many things in life, we have them only too briefly to enjoy and if we are too busy to notice we'll miss them altogether.

I hope I'm never too busy to notice.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Communication

In this age of instantaneous communication with cell phones and twitter, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic for my childhood when using the old heavy, black dial phone was a really big deal. I can't remember only having one phone in the house like some people can, but I do remember that it was a big deal to use the phone at all, and when it rang, it was an event. I also remember friends who were on "party lines" and what an annoyance that was. Every few years I enjoy watching the old Doris Day/Rock Hudson classic "Pillow Talk" when it surfaces. It's about a shared party line and seems like such a quaint idea now! I'm sure my own children have no idea what a "party line" even was.

But back to the old telephone. In the 1950s every home had a phone in the central hallway, on a table with the phone book and a pad and pencil for taking notes. Usually there was a chair there too, so the person using the phone could sit a spell. I remember having to ask permission to use the phone when I was young, and usually only an adult answered it. When I was in 6th grade, which would have been the early 1960s, every morning before school I'd check with my friend on the phone to see what she was wearing, or where I should meet her, or whatever else 6th grade girls talk about. It was easy to make a call because we simply picked up the handset and waited for a voice to say "operator" or "number please". At that point I'd rattle off a four digit number, sometimes with the prefix of a neighboring town (as in "Southampton 0643 please") and the phone on the other end would ring, resulting in a quick hook-up. Sometimes the operator would offer a bit of advice to me, such as "You girls make sure you bundle up this morning - it's chilly out there!" before making the connection.

When my brother was serving in the Navy in Hawaii in 1969 we called him once a week - on Sunday afternoons when the rates were lowest. We siblings were rarely allowed to speak to him because, as my father kept reminding us, "That call costs me about $1 a minute!". It truly was a different world then. Now there are ten-year-olds walking around with cell phones and if their parents happened to be off on vacation in China I don't think there'd be any hesitation at all to ring them up. How things have changed!

(Some day I'll tell you about when I was sixteen and I managed to talk to a boy on the phone nearly every night after my family was in bed. Talk about devious! But that's a memory for another day...)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ambulance calls

From the way things sounded over the Memorial Day weekend, we'll not have to worry about the national economy hurting local tourism too much this summer. Because I was feeling a bit under the weather, I spent most of the weekend on my couch at home and the scanner never stopped! From Montauk to Bridgehampton the ambulances were running, 3, 4, 5 trips back and forth to Southampton every day. The police were equally busy with all manner of things, from drunk drivers to noisy parties, and the traffic was abominable. East Hampton Village Ambulance alone ran 28 calls over the weekend.

I think it would be safe to say that there were at least ten ambulance calls as a result of people falling off bikes. Which makes me wonder if the tourists have any idea how to ride a bike before they get on one? And honestly, you could not pay me to ride a bike along the major roadways around here - especially on a holiday weekend - which seems to be where most the accidents occur. I mean, do they all have death wishes or are they just crazy?

The other thing that seemed very prevalent over the weekend was calls for people suffering abdominal pain. Is this the result of too many hot dogs or is there perhaps something not agreeing with people in our local water? So puzzling!

Surely this is going to be a long, long summer for those of us in emergency services on the East End. It's a time when our volunteers are run ragged and our paid professionals are equally strung out. I sometimes wonder if people realize they're getting volunteers out of bed in the middle of the night or if they just think their tax dollars or insurance money pays the bill so why not make it easy on themselves? Plenty of them are perfectly capable of getting themselves to the hospital but for some reason they call 9-1-1. Like the woman a few years back who came in from a late night and found a tick in her hairbrush. Or the man who had been constipated three days and suddenly decided at 3am he needed to see a doctor. We get that kind of thing all the time.

Fortunately most of us have a sense of humor and the times we are legitimately called on keep us doing what we do. But like I said, from the looks of things so far, it's going to be a very long summer...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A perfect East Hampton

My son-in-law recently commented that I was going to be very disappointed when I got to heaven if it wasn't just like East Hampton. I enjoyed the joke and got a good chuckle out of the fact that there is a certain level of truth in that statement. But when I heard his comment relayed to me I quickly called him up and told him he should be grateful I love it so much here - otherwise I might be moving to Pennsylvania and he'd have his mother-in-law living next door. Being the quick wit that he is, he quickly shot back "That would be heaven to me!" (Yeah, right!)

I actually would be more than happy if heaven were much like East Hampton. But with the following differences:

1. The year-round population would be the same - no tourists or "summer people" would descend in May. We would have the beaches and parks, the streets and the sidewalks all to ourselves!

2. The price of real estate would be lower so we'd live in the same manner here as we could afford to in any other place in the world.

3. The snow would never last on the ground for more than 24 hours. But there would be at least one good storm every winter.

4. The hospital would be a mere 5 minutes away.

5. I could afford to shop in all the shops on Main Street (which would still be the Mom & Pop stores I remember from my childhood! Marley's, the 5 & 10, the Lou-Ann Shop, Fifth Avenue Fashion, The Marmador, Mrs. Epstein's, Diamond's, etc...)

6. The local restaurants would always have a table available and I'd never have to stand in line for a movie or at a deli.

Well - you get the picture. I still love East Hampton for all the good things about it - the beautiful setting, the wonderful local people, the history, the heritage, the summer breezes - but some things I could certainly do without. East Hampton could well be heaven on earth with just a little adjustment here and there....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Past and future

It's no secret that I love the history of East Hampton - as well as that of the United States. (If there's any other place I could happily live, it would probably be Williamsburg, Virginia. Walking through the historic area there is akin to heaven for me.) I'm not sure why I'm so enchanted by the past, but it probably has something to do with the fact that I grew up surrounded by it right here in my neighborhood.

The house I grew up in was one of four which sit together in the spot my ancestors settled when they found their way to East Hampton in the 1800s. Actually they were in East Hampton even earlier, but they came first to Wainscott so this particular spot was not built on until my great-great grandfather returned from the Civil War and built a home for himself and his wife where they'd raise their five children. I still live in the same neighborhood so I guess that sense of history has stayed with me more so than perhaps it would have if I'd moved away. As I grew, I heard stories about the things my grandfather and his cousins did right here on this spot, and some legendary happenings were relayed, perhaps blurring the lines between fact and fiction at times. My connection to the past begins in East Hampton but it extends to the entire country as I think about the amazingly driven people who made the trip from England to start over in an unsettled land. The earliest of my people arrived in 1640 and their story is a typical one: the search for religious freedom and a lust for adventure. I wish I could have known them.

I love walking through the local historic buildings, including the churches and schoolhouses where the early settlers learned about the world and worshiped God. I sometimes feel their presence as I sit in the same places they did - past and present touching in such a real way.

And now, as my three grandsons walk the hallways of the school I attended and sit in the pews where their great-great-great-grandparents prayed nearly 200 years ago, it makes me smile to know they're walking in the footsteps of strong women and smart men who helped create a community that's such a wonderful place.

For me, the past, present, and future is all right here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Decoder rings

One thing I'd love to see make a return appearance as a result of the present economy is the wonderful give-aways that were so prevalent in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Boy were they fun!

It was an adventure every week when my mother brought the groceries home and we'd scramble for the cereal boxes to see what the latest freebie was. The best was finding a box with a "prize" inside, as opposed to ones that required our saving box tops for weeks to send in for redemption. When we were very young we'd have to wait for the little prize, enclosed in a clear plastic wrapper, to find its way into some one's cereal bowl during breakfast. But as we got older we were smart enough to sift our way through the cereal (with, no doubt, dirty hands) until we could grab the little surprise and claim it as our own.

But cereal boxes were only the beginning in terms of giveaway goodies because every manufacturer in the world wanted our business and was willing to do what they could to entice buyers. A trip to the gas station usually produced a mug or a glass with every fill-up, and spending a certain amount at the grocery store meant another piece of china or a new book or record from whatever collection they were offering that month. For an additional dollar every week my mother collected an entire set of dishes that we used for years. She also provided me with a complete set of record albums - original cast recordings of Broadway shows. (I'm still touched that she bought those records for me because I know that extra dollar a week could have been used elsewhere with her tight budget, but she knew my passion and wanted to develop it.) For some reason, the albums had a large photo of Ed Sullivan on the front cover. I learned every one by heart, listening to them over and over again on the little portable record player in my room. "Guys & Dolls", "South Pacific", "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot" were among the treasures I memorized and they served to nurture my lifelong love of musical theater.

No one seems to want our business that badly these days but maybe that will change. I think a world without green stamps, plaid stamps, and their redemption centers is surely a poorer place.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Parades


The Memorial Day parade always reminds me of how wonderful it was to grow up here in East Hampton. I've so many memories of Memorial Day parades and cook-outs in the 1950s and 1960s - especially the years before I was a teen-ager (and forced to march in the parade with the high school band). The early years here were wonderful for a kid - especially on Memorial Day.

In retrospect I realize that the late 1950s, when I was finally old enough to be aware of the life around me, were still close enough to the WWII years that Memorial Day must have had special meaning for the adults around town. That was totally lost on us post-war baby boomers, who were completely oblivious to the real meaning of the day and more interested in the picnic and the warm summer weather than we were about anything else.

I remember waking to the excitement that hung in the air as a day of celebration was shaping up around town. My brother and I would jump on our bikes and head to Marley's Stationary store to buy red, white and blue crepe paper streamers for our bikes and then head home to decorate them appropriately. We wound those streamers in and around the spokes of the bikes, added a few bubble gum trading cards for sound effects, and if we were really lucky we added plastic streamers coming out of the handles. Then we'd gather at the flag pole - dozens of us who were too old to be marching with the scouts and too young to be in the band - and when the line of march took off we were welcomed along. Some of us rode alongside the marching units like escorts, with the larger contingent bringing up the rear. We thought we were an important part of the parade and took our job seriously, riding down to the Memorial Green where we would stand quietly through the service there.

The Memorial Day parade has lost a bit of its small town flavor - I haven't seen any kids on bikes riding along the route in a very long time. But it's still a charming community commemoration that I cherish every year. For those that remember loved ones, the names are still fresh in their minds. For others, we remember fathers or uncles, grandfathers or brothers, who served their country honorably and then thankfully came home to us. I'm glad that East Hampton remembers its own. And I'm glad that the Memorial Day parade is still a simple, somber event that does what it's meant to do: make us stop and remember.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

WWII

Last week I was privileged to do a presentation for the Historical Society about the events in East Hampton during the years of WWII. We had a winter series which focused on East Hampton as the "home front" during various conflicts in history.

I say it was a privilege because it gave me the opportunity to spend an entire day at the East Hampton library, laboriously reading through five years worth of microfilm of the East Hampton Star. It was a trip into a time I didn't experience firsthand - and a wonderful look into the world of the East End during a difficult time in our nation's, and our town's, history. The front pages of the papers were especially poignant as headlines about native sons lost in action in the South Pacific were placed alongside stories of a child's birthday celebration here at home. It was a slice of life which illustrated how life went one, in spite of the horrendous events that were happening on the world stage. Little East Hampton was torn apart by loss - and yet the people continued to live lives that were full and productive. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I thought of that famous line many times as I glanced through the pages of our hometown paper.

I was also struck by how the more things change the more they remain the same. For here we are, over 60 years later, sending our young men and women off to fight wars on foreign soil, suddenly thrown into cultures that are strange to them - where they don't know the language or the customs - learning that the world is a diverse and complicated place - some of them giving their lives in the effort.

Why does it have to be? They should be home getting ready for summer jobs at the beach...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Big weekend


Here we are into Memorial Day weekend and the streets are humming. I actually enjoy the energy that the tourists bring - its their attitude that tends to wear on me.

I'm not sure if it's just a difference in our nature or the fact that we understand how annoying tourists can be, but whenever we travel we go out of our way to be polite, and kind, and smile - a lot! We always try to patronize "local" places rather than head to chain stores (although that's not always easy in some places where the roads are lined with "Applebees" and "Target" type box stores. Sometimes you really have to get off the beaten path to find a nice restaurant or a small boutique.)

I like connecting with the people who live in the places we visit. I enjoy talking to them and finding out about their community. But many of our visitors here are more interested in knocking you over to get to the shelf in the grocery store, or getting one space in front of you as they drive down the road, than they are about getting to know us! There is a very egocentric personality that seems to be attracted to this area and I'm not sure why, but it's annoying.

Even among those that decide to live here at some point they come in two categories: they either want to learn all about their new community and get involved in various local organizations, or they aren't interested in anything other than how much their taxes are and whether or not the road in front of their property is plowed when it snows. The former are my people - the latter are oddities to me. It's not a mindset I understand.

Well anyway, they're here. Some are wonderful - many not so much. It's clear during and after the Memorial Day parade which is which. Some are gathered on the Memorial Green with the rest of us. Other's are beeping their horns and showing their annoyance at the inconvenience of having to detour around the village center....

Friday, May 22, 2009

Azaleas

The azaleas are stunning right now. Of all the flowering bushes they are surely the most colorful and varied and I love the annual show. From the palest pink to the deepest red and glorious fuchsia, they are wonderful.

When a single azalea punctuates a landscape it catches the eye and turns the head. There's a huge, deep purple one not far from my house like that. It absoultely dominates the small yard of a house sitting on a steep incline that I barely notice most of the year. But when that azalea suddenly blooms it nearly jumps out at me when I drive by. Its impossible to miss it and I wish it was in my own front yard.

But the largest impact made by azaleas is when they're massed together like hedges, spreading their beautiful bright color across a lawn or public space like a crayon drawing across a sheet of construction paper. I visited a home once that had a back yard completely enclosed by a deep pink hedge of mature azaleas and it took my breath away. I've never forgotten it.

The problem with azaleas is that they last even less time than lilacs do - here today, gone tomorrow, and wait until next year. They're also not for the impatient among us, for they grow at a snail's pace and take years to nurture into nice big bushes. Unless of course you can afford the huge expensive ones at the local nurseries. I've had mine for a long time now and they're still no higher than my knees.

For a few more days at least, they're here. Beautiful, colorful, bushy azaleas. You just have to love them!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Number 300

Today I'm posting my 300th blog. I've been thinking about this all week and wondering if I should continue - or if I've already said all there is to say.

I wonder if I can come up with enough to write about for an entire year. Some days I think I'm running out of thoughts that are worth committing to writing, and others I think of way too much I want to get off my chest. Sometimes I think a blog like this borders on narcissism, but then if I were getting paid to write this stuff I'd be respected as a journalist. Oh, the dichotomies of life!

I hope my readers enjoy my ramblings enough to keep me going - its the feedback I get both online and in person that encourages me to continue. And I also hope I don't run out of things to say...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The train station


Sunday afternoon we happened to be driving home from Sag Harbor and wound our way around Toilsome Lane from Route 114. When we turned onto Railroad Avenue I was surprised to see the dozens of people lining the train platform, waiting for their transportation back to the city. "Wow" said my husband "that really makes it official, doesn't it?"

Yes-the season has arrived here in East Hampton. Although we know the really busy times will not happen until July and August, there's no doubt that the weekends are bustling and the Saturday streets are crowded. It may be early yet but life has changed already in our little town.

There's no denying that we're going to have a busy summer here this year. The economy may be bad and people may be cutting expenses, but they're not giving up their summer. Already I find myself planning trips to the store around the weekends and trying to avoid Main Street on Saturdays. The shift has taken place and the mindset is firm. We're now in "summer mode".

My wish for this season is that our guests will be kinder and more patient, that we'll be more gracious and welcoming, and that we'll all manage to annoy each other as little as possible. Because summer is a glorious time out here on the East End and its way too short to waste by being annoyed. Let's enjoy every minute of it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Buzzzzz

Our carpenter bees are back. For some unknown reason these "bumble bees on steroids" love our deck and it doesn't seem to matter what we do to get rid of them, they just won't go away. Year after year we've sprayed and we've poked and we've done what we can to encourage them to take up residence elsewhere, but here it is only May and they're already buzzing around the back door driving me crazy.

Their only redeeming quality is that they're not the least bit interested in human beings and they won't sting us so they're certainly not as annoying as yellow jackets. But they do hover incessantly and sometimes I have to walk through a swarm of them just to get into my house.

I shouldn't complain I guess. I'd have a much harder time dealing with geckos or other lizard-like creatures - or the scorpions that my friend in Arizona has to watch for. I'm not sure I want to worry about snakes, either. I guess I should be thankful that carpenter bees are the worst problem we have.

So the bees are back. But so is the sun. I think we need to take the good with the bad and enjoy it all as it is. I'll stop complaining now...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Magazines


I told someone the other day that I'd probably read every issue of "People" magazine from the last year because I've spent so much time in doctor's waiting rooms in the past few months. Why is it that every doctor's office is stocked with "People" magazine? I actually found myself re-reading one this past week because it was the only one sitting in the rack and I had to have something to read.

I sometimes bring a book - but the problem is if I start reading a book I'm inevitably called in to the "inner sanctum" just when I'm at a place where I don't want to put it down. Plus I have to carry it with me and find places to stow it. So I stopped bringing books.

The thing I can't seem to learn to do is to bring a magazine into the examination room. I always regret that mistake because there's nothing as boring as sitting in an exam room for twenty minutes or more with nothing to do but think. One of the recommendations I'll make when I start my consultation business would be to have magazines inside the examination rooms, and also to have someone stick their head in that room every 5 minutes or so to let you know how long the wait will be. Sometimes a wait of ten minutes can seem like an hour when you don't see a friendly face or know what's happening outside the room.

Even having a "People" magazine to read for the fourth time is preferable to nothing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fog



Yesterday morning when I came downstairs opened the window shades I was met with gray everywhere. A heavy fog had settled in all over the village and it was surreal in the morning light. Being as close to the ocean as we are here we see quite a bit of fog in the morning hours, and this was particularly interesting. It was an all-encompassing cover (as opposed to the kind which sometimes just runs along the ground and looks like a lake as it floats on the lowland) and everything I saw was filtered by a heavy veil of gray. I could make out the trees across the street but they were faint, hulking forms in the mist. If I didn't know my surroundings so well I would've thought I was looking out over unending farm fields with no buildings in sight at all. The old cemetery was completely obliterated.

I'm sure if I'd gotten in my car and turned right from my driveway I'd have been in clear air as soon as I crossed under the railroad tracks because this is a phenomenon that only some of us are privy to. I drove west after breakfast and passed through patches of the fog between here and Bridgehampton. It had no doubt made its way across to the highway in places where there's little resistance to its flow. Years ago that would have meant the entire trip would be socked in and slow, but there aren't many farms left to beckon a rolling fog across open land masses.

My children used to be mesmerized by the fog which they could watch from our front windows. They'd stand together staring out at it, asking me questions. It does make the world look strangely foreign. I love living here close to the sea where I can watch it come ashore on a regular basis. When its in motion it seems to have a life of its own.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Yes!


When I walked out of the doctor's office this week after hearing that all my test results were negative and my chemo regimen would be reduced, I felt a weight lifted from my body. It was as though I could stand up taller and quicken my step because I had a smaller mountain to climb now. I know I can do this - and I know that as I cross each session off my calendar I'll be grateful to have one less to do.

Life is such a funny thing. We can roll along without giving death or illness much thought at all and then suddenly, boom! You're caught in the middle of such a life and death struggle it can seem overwhelming. This isn't the first time I've been in the middle of the maelstrom - as with most people, I've experienced it before with family members. Now, I've dealt with it first hand. But I have to say I find it a blessing as well as a trial. Because when we face death head on we come away from the confrontation feeling stronger and smarter than we were before. We appreciate life with renewed clarity.

I'm not afraid of death - my faith assures that. But at the same time I'm not running toward it! There are still things I'd love to see and do in this life and God willing I'll have a few more years to fulfill some of those dreams. Whatever happens, I'm in God's hands - and I'm OK with that. But when I came home from the doctor's office after receiving my good prognosis I'll surely admit this: the grass looked greener, the lilacs smelled sweeter, and the world seemed a little bit kinder.

Tomorrow everything could change again. But for today at least, things are really looking up.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The swans

At long last, the cygnets are here!

I - along with everyone else in town I imagine - have been anxiously waiting for the hatching of the eggs that mother swan has been faithfully incubating these past weeks. I drove by on Sunday because last year they were born on Mother's Day. I mean, what are the chances it could happen twice, right? I continued to monitor every day this week thinking surely it would happen soon. Finally yesterday the word came down: the nest was alive with new life.

When last I'd checked, the male swan was busy on the west side of the pond intimidating someone who wanted to get out of their car to take some photos. He had them cowering behind the open door, waiting for him to move on so they could escape. But he didn't appear to be going anywhere. In the meantime his mate was sitting contentedly on her eggs, reaching into the water around her and pulling fresh gunk from the pond which she busily shoved into the outer edges of her nest for some purpose known only to her. She was ready and waiting, doing busy work to fill her time, and he was making himself feel important by being the protector.

Now, at last, the waiting is over and our newest village residents are here. They look to be a lovely family and will soon be entertaining us all by gliding across the pond in a long line, babies happily following mother as she teaches them the ins and outs of village life. (Their father will probably start hanging out at the Nature Trail like he did last year, looking for a little action on the side. When I'd spot him there I'd stop to give him a piece of my mind. But, like most men, he knows how to turn a deaf ear. Sigh...)

Honestly - is there anything more beautiful on a sunny spring day than our very own Town Pond, surrounded by green grass and patches of irises, with the swan family happily swimming around as though they owned the place? At the moment I can't think of any.

I wonder how the piping plovers are doing...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lilacs


The lilacs are out. What more need I say?

Of all the beautiful flowering bushes that are popular in this area I have to say the lilacs are my favorite. I wait all spring for them to blossom and they never disappoint me - in fact, this morning when I walked out the back door I immediately thought "They're even more heavenly than I remember".

It's the scent that I adore. It's heady and intoxicating and I just live to breathe it in. The blossoms are also beautiful, along with the soft lavender color and the oddly distinctive, triangular shape, with such heavy heads that they bend the branches toward the ground when they're in full bloom. But the smell is incredible. It fills the air around my house, and when I bring in a bunch to put into water on my kitchen table the entire house smells of them. I can walk around upstairs and get a whiff from the bouquet downstairs - the aroma simply delights me.

When I was a little girl my grandmother used to have a dresser full of perfume bottles and naturally I wanted to try them all. But the only ones she'd allow me to touch were the ones that were labeled "toilet water". I haven't heard anyone mention "toilet water" (at least that kind!) in a very long time so I'm assuming they call it something else now, as well they should. In the nineteenth century the word "toilet" had a totally different meaning, so surely the manufacturers have adjusted. But "toilet water" as it was known then was still very popular in the middle part of this century and it was a lovely, lightly scented perfume, suitable for little girls to dab behind their ears when they wanted to feel grown-up. My grandmother had a couple small bottles - lily of the valley and lilac. I loved the lilac best of all.

My house will be filled with lilacs for the next two weeks and I'll be giving them away to every one I know. Because they're here for such a short time and then gone in a flash. And I'll need to wait for May to roll around again to find my bliss in the lilac bushes just outside my back door.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Child #4

If you'd told me forty years ago that I'd have four children I'd have laughed. I really didn't even like kids all that much until I had my own, so I could never have imagined having a big family. But here I am, mother of four and grandmother of six and where did the time go?

Today is my fourth child's birthday. How did my baby get to be a grown man?

When he was born he was smaller than the others had been. At 8 lbs 11 ozs he was a whole pound lighter than his older brother - but he soon proved to have a temperament that was bigger than life and got every one's attention in a hurry. He was by far my most challenging child, with a stubborn streak a mile wide - one that would confound most child psychologists - nothing I did really worked with him. By the time he was four he was so opinionated that he wouldn't wear a shirt with stripes, buttons, a collar, or pockets. That pretty much left plain tee shirts so that's what I bought - by the dozen.

But all the interesting "attributes" that proved to be so challenging came into play in a big way when he was five and diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. He was so strong and so tough during those early days of shots and blood tests, and then so stoic when it came to following his regimen that I was in awe of him. I still find it amazing that he takes it all in stride as well as he does. He's not a person who talks about feelings and emotions so its hard to know what he's thinking, but all in all I think he's an amazing kid.

Did I say "kid"? He's a grown man now, married and making a great life for himself. And I admire him very much. My baby. My hero. My son.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sleeping weather

We've officially entered the season of perfect sleeping weather here in East Hampton and I'm loving it. I wake up early because the sun is shining brightly by 5:45, but I'm not even slightly tempted to jump right out of bed because the windows are wide open, the air is crisply cool, and the comforter is pulled up tightly around my shoulders. It's simply the best.

It will only be a matter of weeks before the air warms up - and the sultry nights of July and August are right around the corner when the humidity makes even the thinnest sheet seem claustrophobic around my body. With no air conditioning in our house those are nights of fleeting slumber and I'm not looking forward to them at all.

But this is May, and these are the "glory nights". From the moment I climb into bed 'til I drag myself out in the morning, I'm enjoying the blessed comfort of my own comfortable king-sized mattress. Once these perfect nights are done for the season I'll have to wait until October before I can luxuriate in them once again. So for now, for the month of May and probably most of June, I'm going to lay in my bed every morning and listen to the birds, enjoy the perfect temperature of the air, and just appreciate being alive.

As Martha would say, "It's a good thing"!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Farm fields

Driving back and forth between East Hampton and Southampton so frequently these days brings back memories of growing up when this was largely farm country. One day recently as I came through Sagaponack, where there are still a few beautiful fields on both sides of Montauk Highway, I was charmed by the sight of a very low fog that had settled in over the dark brown dirt and totally covered all the fields at Ken Shwenck's farm. It seemed to be only about a foot of cloud cover and wasn't so thick I couldn't see the ground beneath it, but it hung a few inches above the earth like it was suspended in the air. It was a beautiful layer of white fluff, with wisps and tendrils reaching out of the top and as even and neat as the bottom was as it hugged the ground, the upper portion was ragged and wild and seemed to be in constant motion.

It doesn't seem all that long ago when the entire trip between East Hampton and Southampton was simply one long line of farm fields, with neat rows of potato plants pushing their way up to the light. There was a break in Bridgehampton as we'd pass through a bit of civilization and then more beautiful fields until another, shorter break in Water Mill.

I remember being with my grandfather once when he had the misfortune to run out of gas along Montauk Highway back in the early 60s. He left my grandmother and me in the car while he walked to find the nearest phone to summon help. He was gone at least an hour and I imagine he must have walked miles before coming to the first house.

It was a wonderful time to grow up in East Hampton, surrounded by farms and having clear views of the ocean along nearly every road. I'm sorry my children never saw those vistas and sorrier still that none of us will ever see them again.

Progress is not always such a wonderful thing.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day


Now that both my mother and mother-in-law are gone, Mother's Day has lost some of its charm for me. It's become a melancholy day of remembrance rather than the day of celebration it once was. I'd like to have both of them back to tell them how much I love them one more time - I'm not sure I did that often enough when I had the opportunity. Do we ever do that often enough? Do we ever really tell people how much they mean to us? I've always tried to live without regrets but I sometimes regret not saying "I love you" more often.

I'll try to concentrate on celebrating my own motherhood because I have four amazing children and being their mother is my proudest accomplishment. Not that I think they wouldn't have been wonderful without my help, but the fact that I bore them and raised them gives me some level of satisfaction. Hopefully I can focus on them today and celebrate the joy I find in their being part of my life. Plus I gained a daughter this year when my son got married - so this Mother's Day I'm mother (or mother-in-law) to seven and grandmother to six. My heart is truly full.

I can also use today to celebrate the mothers of my grandchildren - my two beautiful daughters. They're as different as night and day, those girls, and yet they're both loving, warm, nurturing mothers who've given me the most wonderful grandchildren. It's such a joy to watch them interact with those kids and I love them very much. So today I salute them as mothers for sure.

There are still a couple empty spaces in my heart and I guess they'll always be there. But I had those amazing women in my life until I was in my fifties so I know I'm one of the lucky ones.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rain

The rain has been unrelenting for two weeks now, but Wednesday the sun actually made a brief appearance and it was glorious. As I drove home from Southampton I noticed every beautiful flowering tree - the cherry trees are stunning and the dogwoods are graceful and lacy, reaching for the sky with their shapely branches. There are flowering plums and many fruit trees bursting with blossoms - it's a lovely time of the year here in East Hampton. My lilacs are in early bud and should be in full bloom next week. It's May and the world is humming with life.

I'm hoping for a beautiful Sunday for Mother's Day. I want to stop at the cemetery and leave a flower at my mother's grave - and I hate going there in the rain. I prefer to think about her when the sun is shining. I'm not the type of person who spends much time at the cemetery, but I like to honor her memory by stopping there on special occasions. And I still get teary when I leave because I miss her so much.

This morning it seems as though the rain has stopped. I hope it has - at least for a couple days because we certainly deserve a little sun around here and it will help all of us feel better, whether our Moms are still with us or not. The world looks so much better when the sun shines...

Friday, May 8, 2009

CT scans and other nonsense

This past week I was the victim of a number of modern "medical miracle" tests, including a PET scan, a bone scan, and some CT scans. It's always interesting to experience new things like this and I've made some observations that I want to share. For instance, among the universal truths I've discovered are:

1. Anytime there's a television provided for entertainment, the channel it's set to is the worst possible choice. I understand why, in a crowded waiting room, it might be difficult to find consensus among the crowd. But, when you're placed in a tiny room all by yourself, with a single lounge chair where you must wait for 45 minutes while an IV delivers some radioactive liquid to all the organs in your body, and there's a television on for you to watch, why is there no remote to allow you to change the channel? Some programs can have the same effect as Chinese water torture...

2. No matter how long you're in the machine, it's long enough for your body to turn to ice. The temperature seems to be kept at a steady 55 degrees in the procedure rooms and you're in a flimsy little cotton hospital gown. Five minutes would probably be too long - and the norm for these tests seems to be twenty-five. Long enough in the freezing cold to also be classified as torture.

3. No matter what time you arrive for your test, you'll sit and wait. If you're early you'll just wait longer. No point in getting there ahead of time!

4. As soon as the test starts, you'll need to go to the bathroom....badly.

5. When the technician asks if you're comfortable and you answer in the affirmative, they'll tell you not to move because the test is starting...and immediately every muscle in your body will start to twitch. Your arms will hurt, your legs will ache, and you'll want to move everything.

6. Once inside the machine you will definitely have an itchy nose, or a stray hair will be tickling your cheek.

Those are just a few observations of late, but each day brings new revelations so there will, no doubt, be more to report in the future....

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mars vs. Venus

Every time I go on a road trip with my husband I spend a good deal of the drive time deep in thought. And very often, my thoughts wander into the area of our different driving styles. Because I'm still, after all these years, trying to figure out if our different styles are indicative of the basic differences between men and women, or if they are more a reflection of our vastly different personalities. Or perhaps, it's really a combination of both those things. I just don't know.

For instance, he seems to approach the road with some sort of competitive spirit. While I'm perfectly content to settle comfortably into the middle lane of a three lane highway, he prefers to hang in the far left lane. Where I might adjust my speed to whatever car I happen to come upon, he will immediately pull around anyone going even a little more slowly that he is in order to get out in front. Neither is "right" or "wrong", "better"or "worse", just very different.

Coming home on the Jersey Turnpike last Sunday I was fascinated by one particular incident. We had just passed a sign which said we were 1 mile from the rest area and we were planning to pull off and stop. He had already merged into the far right lane (which in and of itself was odd for him - usually he waits until the last possible moment to scoot over into the lane he needs to merge into whereas I get over into the proper place as soon as I see the first sign signaling my upcoming exit - sometimes 10 miles away!) But he came upon a car driving just a bit more slowly than he was. Rather than slow down (a nearly imperceptible amount) for the less-than-one-mile distance we had to travel in that lane, he quickly moved left, sped up and passed the offending slow-poke, and just as quickly merged right again, just in time to take the ramp leading to the rest area. I was flabbergasted - but kept my opinion to myself (until now). Because such is the stuff of a successful marriage, right?

So my question is this: Which is it - a "mars vs. venus" thing or a basic personality difference? Do all men have the need to "conquer" the road as mine does or are we just two very different people who happen to love each other anyway? Oh, the questions that human nature and relationships produce.

It's never dull, is it?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Friends


Two good friends are celebrating birthdays this month. One has been a dear friend since we were in high school together and the other since we spent time in the church nursery with our babies, who are in their late twenties now. They're both pretty special people to me.

There's nothing quite like a crisis in life to make you aware of who your friends are. It's the people who're there for us when times are tough that are worth their weight in gold. They're the people you can call in the middle of the night and the ones who'll be at your side when you're sitting in a hospital bed, asking what they can get for you. Both these women fit into that category and I don't know what I'd do without them.

However, what I've learned about friends in my life is this: they come in all forms and all levels and we need all of them. None of us has the energy to nurture dozens of close, intimate friends. We can barely handle a few, especially if we already have large families! But those friends are only the inner circle. And those circles - the ripples of our lives - can continue to move outward from our center point, and encompass all the friends we have that make our lives so rich and wonderful: our work friends, our church friends, our club friends, our school friends...it can go on and on.

These past few months I've treasured all my friends. From the near and dear to the far and wide - they've all been there for me and it's meant so much. From giving me hugs to sending me cards, to simply stopping me in the store to offer encouragement and well wishes - it's been the glue that's held me together.

I love my friends.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The internet


The internet is a wonderful thing. And sometimes, as with all the luxuries that make life easier, we become dependent on it so when it doesn't work right - or we can't manage to make it work right - it can be frustrating.

Last week I was trying to take a course via the internet. In order to keep my EMT certification up-to-date, I'm required to do over seventy hours of classes every three years, most of which I manage to get locally. But one required course has evaded me all this time and now that I'm down-to-the-wire and need to get my completed application in I decided to try taking it through an internet university, which is a wonderful thing. However, working my way through this particular website proved to be challenging to say the least. I moved from one page to another, trying to get myself registered and then start the class, but I kept running into one roadblock after another. The problem with the internet is that there's no one to talk to. I couldn't ask someone what I was doing wrong and it was aggravating to the say least.

By the end of the day I'd spent more than 4 hours trying to get my 3 hour class completed. I actually did the class in less than the allotted time because its a class I've taken before and I was able to challenge portions with "test outs" at various levels. Most of my time was spent trying to find the website, work my way through the maze of pages, and make it all work for me. When I was done I felt stupid, despite the fact that I had aced the test on the subject matter needed.

Again, the problems - and the glory - of technology....

Monday, May 4, 2009

Medicine


When I was in high school I wanted a medical career. Then I ran up against a chemistry teacher that I just couldn't handle and, as we're apt to do when we're young and foolish, I immediately changed course. In retrospect I wish I'd been a little more committed to my original dream because up until that point I loved the sciences and would have enjoyed a career in medicine. I'm fascinated with the human body and I love my work with EMS. I find myself stopping to study x-rays whenever they're up on the board in the ER - and reading everything that ever comes along about the latest medical procedure or discovery. So I guess in a way I missed my calling. I can't regret my choices too much because I have a wonderful husband and four amazing children. But - I do wish I'd pursued some sort of medical career at some point.

All that comes into play now as I find myself on the receiving end of all this medical "stuff" and I probably drive all the nurses and technicians crazy with my questions. If I'm having an MRI I want to know exactly how the machine works. If I'm having a sonogram, I'm straining to watch the monitor to see what the professionals are looking at. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall observing my eleven-hour surgery in March - I would love to know how they accomplished the total dissection and re-arranging of my body in order to rebuild a breast! Fascinating! Not everyone shares my enthusiasm, I know.

For instance, if I weren't married to the man I am, I'd probably spend all my time watching TV shows like "Untold Stories of the ER" on TLC or the Discovery Channel, but alas, he has a bit of a weak stomach when it comes to watching the kind of things I thrive on. As soon as the blood appears, or the body is cut open, he turns his eyes away. So for his benefit, I try to only watch such shows when he's not in the room. He even closes his eyes when they're trying to find my vein to put in an IV!

There are many ironies in life. My spending so much time (all these years after I gave up my dream of a medical career), in doctor's offices and hospitals is only one of them...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

On the road again...


Today we're heading back to East Hampton from our quick trip to Pennsylvania. The area where my daughter lives is very similar to the East End in many ways - very historic and quite pretty. It's called the "Brandywine Valley" region and has been beautifully set onto canvas by the famous Wyeth family - three generations of talented American artists. It's also the area where the DuPonts settled during the 1800s and their mark is everywhere - in the beautiful acres of Longwood Gardens, the wonderful collection of American decorative arts at the Winterthur Museum, and numerous richly endowed institutions like the Dupont Children's Hospital.

I'm grateful that I get to visit this lovely area on a regular basis but I hate that I have to drive so far to see my grandchildren. At least I can touch base with my daughter every day by phone, but with children it's all about being with them - playing with them, reading to them, and laughing with them. It's impossible to have much of a relationship with them long distance. We do our best, as most grandparents do, but its not the same as being near enough to babysit when needed or just stop in to say hi and see what they've been up to.

More than anything else I realize that when they're older, our contact will become more sporadic. They'll be involved in activities that tie them to their schedules and we'll become more apt to want to stay closer to home as we age. It's the natural progression of things and I know it's inevitable. So it makes me treasure these days right now while we can still see them pretty often, they're still excited when we walk in their door, and we get lots of hugs and kisses while we're with them.

It's some of the best that life has to offer.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pennsylvania


Today we're in Pennsylvania visiting my daughter's family. It's been a few months since we were able to make this trip and I was itching to get back here. Children grow and change so quickly that if we don't see them for weeks at a time we see the difference and it breaks my heart that we're not close enough to check in weekly.

It's always interesting to travel during seasonal changes because it points out how different the weather is here. Because of the ocean our temperature is always a little cooler, and therefore the seasons are slower to move along on the East End. Down in PA the bulbs we are enjoying here are long gone and the flowering trees and bushes are nearly done. They're very near summer at this point while we know well enough that we can't count on regular warm weather until after Memorial Day.

Of course, the trip never lasts long enough and I'll be sad to leave tomorrow. But today it's nice to be here - on a Saturday - so I don't feel the pressure to be working around my own house cleaning. And next Saturday is right around the corner.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sons-in-law

Interestingly (and conveniently) enough, both my sons-in-law have the same birthday - today. This makes it quite easy for me to remember, which will become more and more significant as my mind ages along with the rest of my body - two for one and all that.

Anyway, since today is the day they're celebrating it seems an appropriate time to think about how lucky I've been as a mother to see three of my children marry such wonderful people. (I have a wonderful daughter-in-law too, whom I'll talk about in another blog some day) I love all of them and look forward to the day my single son marries and brings yet another new member into our family.

I think that, in many ways, both my girls married their dad. Although my sons-in-law are very different in many ways, at the core they are cut from the same cloth as is my husband. They're all of strong moral fiber, kind and considerate, great fathers to their children, and wonderful husbands. My girls had a wonderful role model and they chose well. As is always the case, when someone marries they marry an entire family, and we are blessed that both these guys married into ours.

It's a wonderful thing to watch your grandchildren grow up in loving and warm homes. Thanks girls, for choosing so well. Ya did good!