Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Daisy

I can hardly believe that my eldest grandchild turns seven today. Where does the time go? And how many times have I made that statement in this blog" A sure sign of age... But wasn't it only yesterday that I brought her mother home from the hospital, to our cozy little apartment, to join her three-year-old sister? And how quickly I learned every sound and gesture she made, as though she'd been a member of the family forever. Now that little baby is the mother of three herself, just as her older sister is. How the years do go by.

Grandchildren are fascinating - they're so like their parents that we sometimes call them by the wrong name and they work their way into our hearts exactly like their moms or dads did years ago. They quickly become so important to us that we can't imagine our lives without them.

Daisy, along with Micah who's only two weeks younger, changed our lives seven years ago. They've taught us that the joys of parenthood are only the beginning and that there's so much more to look forward to after the shock of an empty nest settles into our lives. We're amazed at how they've enriched our lives and made us better people just by being who they are.

Happy Birthday Daisy! I hope I get to celebrate many, many more with you!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sidewalks

Walking down the sidewalks in the village at this time of year is an experience. I don't do it often because there are few stores I can afford to shop in anymore, but I love seeing the way these high-end businesses decorate their shop windows. I remember the years I worked summer jobs at various clothing stores on Main Street and we always did our own windows, dressing mannequins in the nicest clothes we had on the racks and changing them often enough that the sun wouldn't damage them. The shops upstreet now have teams arriving from Manhattan every few months to completely redo their windows, usually with more elaborate props than actual merchandise.

I was walking along Main Street the other day with my granddaughter, heading from one of our favorite stores (Bookhampton) to another (Steph's Stuff), and watching people pass us as we walked. They seemed to fall into a couple pretty obvious categories: tourists slowly wandering along, window shopping with no real intention of buying; and well-heeled summer residents who were intent on picking up an item at a particular place and quickly getting home to escape the riff raff they'd rather not rub elbows with. I felt a bit out of place among these people, none of whom I recognized. I grew up knowing nearly everyone I passed when I walked down Main Street! In the winter I usually pass familiar faces, mostly friends and neighbors stopping at Village Hall or Citarella, or more often than not on their daily constitutional. But in the summer, there's nothing familiar about anyone I pass.

The sidewalks of East Hampton hold many memories for me. In fact, when I suggested to Daisy that we duck down an alley as a shortcut she said "Do you know where this goes?" and I laughed out loud. I assured her that I grew up in East Hampton and knew where ALL the alleys went. (This particular alley used to have a phone booth in it which I used many times when I was wandering around the village with my friends, usually to check in at home.) Sure enough, we used the alley and emerged right next to our destination on Newtown. And I was able to point out to Daisy the bars on the shop window where the village jail used to be housed. A little history lesson along the way is a good thing!

Each alley and every sidewalk in the village is as familiar to me as my own skin, and yet I sometimes feel like the odd man out when I walk them now. It's sad, in some ways, and yet they're still "mine" and I'm not quite ready to abdicate just yet...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Full tables

Having my daughter here for an extended visit means the dinner table is full, not only with her family but with other family as well. It's quite a crowd when they're all here and chaos usually ensues. Many hands put things on the table and pass the dishes around, little ones are assisted and watched, and the noise level can reach what I'd call a "din". If I were to be in attendance when another family created such noise and confusion I'd no doubt work to extricate myself as soon as possible. But somehow, when its your chaos its not so bad and in fact, sometimes I sit back and just smile at the craziness that's happening all around me. I think back to that young couple who made vows nearly 35-years-ago now and wonder at where we are today. How blessed we've been!

Life is such a fascinating ride. Who of us could have imagined at the age of twenty where we'd end up at fifty? And if we could have, would we have changed anything? It's better we can't see the future. Our lives unfold in wondrous ways we could never plan and some things are just better left to a higher authority.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Montauk

This week we took a drive out to Montauk with the kids. I love Montauk - so close and yet in many ways a world away from the tony streets of East Hampton Village. It's more true to a "local" sensibility and always feels like "home" somehow.

My earlier ancestors made a home in Montauk long before there was much there other than the summer fishing village and the Montaukett tribe. So in a way it is like "going home" for me. My great-great grandfather was the keeper of the lighthouse and when I walk around the grounds I think what a lonely life it must've been. It's beautiful in the summer when the water is calm and peaceful, but winters were no doubt a challenge. How desolate and lonely for a girl - my great-grandmother - growing up there, with no one her age to spend time with. Her younger brother, who was probably her only companion most the time, drowned in the pond when he was twelve. She must have been devastated.

The family's kitchen, which was in the basement of the lighthouse, is still pretty much intact, with cisterns for water. Every part of life then was a challenge, living so far from the rest of the civilized world. A trip for supplies meant three hours by wagon to East Hampton Village and then another three hours back. No doubt it was on one of those trips that my great-grandmother met her husband who was a blacksmith. Not an easy commute for someone courting a young lady, and yet love prevailed and they made a life for themselves here after they married in 1893.

Where Montauk village is now could be seen from the lighthouse in the 1800s. There were no trees to block the view, just miles and miles of pasture where the livestock from all over East Hampton grazed in the summer. Not that there was much to see, but I remember reading that my great-grandmother could see all the way to the stretch from the front steps. They had plenty of warning when visitors were coming - they could see them from miles away.

Montauk has changed since those days and life isn't as lonely as it was. But it's still a place unto itself and I love to escape the village here just to step back in time and visit with my ancestors. And the kids seemed to enjoy it too.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Farrah


Hearing the news that Farrah Fawcett died was sad to me. Not only because she had cancer, which I certainly identify with, but because she was not much older than I and fought valiantly to the end (something not everybody does and I can understand why!). Combine that with the news that Michael Jackson died at the age of 50 - and a page in our local newspaper this week that featured the obituaries of no less than four people who were still in their 50s - well I'd say it was a bad week for us baby-boomers!

But Farrah was the ultimate seventies girl. She epitomized the carefree, sun-kissed look of the California girl that was so popular in those years, and all of us wanted those beautiful long curly locks. Every man wanted her and every woman wanted to be her. Few of us measured up!

I was a newlywed when "Charlie's Angels" hit the television screens and we watched it every week. We didn't have much money for entertainment in those days so television was our main source and I can tell you about any show that aired between 1975 and 1990. I especially enjoyed that show because I was able to watch three women in roles that showed them able to do just about anything a man could. They were smart, athletic, and beautiful - what a combination. My husband enjoyed it for other reasons, no doubt, but it was something we watched together and each enjoyed in our own way.

It's almost hard to remember those days of TV before "Charlie's Angels", when women were relegated to positions like "housewife" or "secretary" - and the idea of a woman being a detective was laughable in most circles. I'm glad my own children won't remember that world.

Farrah was way too young to leave us and her death is sad. Especially because she suffered badly at the end of her life. I hope she'll be remembered as the beautiful, young and vibrant woman that she was in her prime. For a generation of us she was so much more than just a pretty face.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Voices

Having three grandchildren in the house brings back memories of when my own children were small. My husband and I especially enjoyed sitting downstairs the other night listening to them giggling and conspiring when they were put up in the bedroom they all share. (At home they have rooms of their own so three of them sharing a room is quite a change for them - like being away at camp.) It reminded us when our two girls shared a bedroom and we'd spend the first 30 minutes of their bedtime yelling up the stairs every ten minutes to "quiet down and go to sleep", knowing that they were creating life-long memories and laughing together at their shenanigans.

There's magic in the laughter of children. During the years I worked in a church office I loved hearing the little ones when they'd run out to the playground from the nursery school, shouting and laughing as they passed beneath my window - it was like tonic, that sound. Children give us hope for the future and an optimism about life.

I guess that's the best thing about having kids in the house for a few weeks. It's a constant reminder of God's reassurance that life is meant to be lived with abandon, just as the youngest among us do. It's about laughter and playtime - and facing each day with joy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Morning bagels

My three grandchildren from Pennsylvania are here for a few weeks and I'm loving it. One of my favorite traditions has become the week-end morning rendezvous with my 7-year-old granddaughter. We're both early risers so some mornings we head out together, grab a fresh bagel and orange juice at Goldberg's, and drive to Main Beach to sit on the pavilion, eat our breakfast, and just talk. In those twenty minutes we talk about everything from God to sea gulls and whatever that falls between. We have a great time together.

We're especially excited when we get there early enough to watch the sand rake work its magic. (Her dad is a hockey fan so she attends Flyers games with him and she's nicknamed that rake the "sandbonie") It's fun to see it work its way back and forth, picking up debris and leaving behind a furrowed pattern much like a tractor working the soil. No sooner is it done than someone inevitably arrives with a dog in tow to walk along the shore, leaving fresh prints in the nicely smoothed surface like the first ones that appear after a snowstorm.

I think the short time we spend at the beach during her visits to East Hampton has produced some of my favorite memories. As she grows our conversations are becoming more and more interesting and I hope she wants to continue our tradition for a long time to come. I look forward to hearing what's on her mind as the years go by.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lawn mowers

The other day (when the sun finally emerged from beneath the bank of clouds that seem to have taken up permanent residence in this part of the world), the next door neighbor fired up the lawn mower and went at it. For some reason it transported me to a place I hadn't been in a long time - thinking about my grandfather mowing his lawn with an old-fashioned push mower, the kind where the blades spin around when you push it forward. I hadn't seen one of those mowers in a very long time but I looked it up on the internet and see that you can still buy them at Home Depot for $79! I can't even imagine how much work that was for him, pushing that little mower along to get his lawn looking trim. He wasn't a young man - he didn't even move to East Hampton until he'd retired from his job at the post office in Buffalo and he had to be well into his late 60s by then.

My grandfather - my mother's father - was a kind and gentle soul whom I never heard complain about anything. He had a soft face and deep chuckle when he laughed, and I adored him. Years later I realized it was from him that my own mother had gotten her easy-going spirit and loving heart. He was such a sweet, wonderful man and I wish he'd lived longer - I was in high school when he died. I would so have loved for him to see my own children - he would have adored them.

I'm sorry now that he had to work so hard to get his lawn mowed. He didn't seem to mind (although I would have been oblivious anyway) and in fact loved the outdoors - he had beautiful gardens. I remember him hunched over the rose bushes and begonias every spring and summer when we'd pull into the driveway. He taught me a lot about various flowers and bushes and I can still remember him talking about the snapdragons and hydrangeas he loved. The fact that my brother still lives in the same house keeps those memories very much alive for me. I glance around the yard and Grandpa is everywhere I look. I was too young to appreciate how difficult it must have been for him to keep that big lawn neat and tidy. Of course not many people owned fancy lawn mowers in those days!

I miss my grandfather and his little push mower.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day

Father's Day was always a very reflective day for me. I didn't have a storybook type of father - mine was emotionally distant and not really available to us in terms of the kind of nurturing children need. He wasn't a terrible person, it just wasn't his nature to be "connected" and the circumstances on his own life had not been all that conducive to raising a warm and fuzzy adult. So those wonderful fathers that people talk about, the ones who were always there, loving and accepting of them - well I never had that experience. My father had many good qualities and was a talented and accomplished man. He just wasn't the kind of father the really lucky children had. (Fortunately my mother made up for what he lacked and I got more than my share in the mom department!)

And that brings me to my husband. One of the things that most attracted me to him over thirty years ago was his warm, kind nature and his sense of humor. I knew he would be a wonderful father and he is. When my children were young I'd watch him interact with them and think how unbelievably lucky they were. He was a "wrestle-on-the-floor" type of father who was just as comfortable having a tea party with his daughters as he was playing catch with his sons. He adored his children and they knew it. His return from work in the afternoon was the highlight of their day - and mine. I couldn't have asked for a better father for my children.

Father's Day, with all the inherent baggage for me in terms of "what might have been", is also a day to celebrate the father of my children and I do. What a great father, and now grandfather, he is.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

School days

This being the last week of school here in East Hampton makes me remember those heady weeks from my own childhood. We spent more time partying than we did learning in those final few days, and most of that week there were few actual hours in the school day. I seem to remember being released at 11am a couple days and then about 9:30 or 10:00 the last day. Mostly we spent that week helping our teachers do inventory and clean their classrooms. Our heads were so full of spring fever we were more than happy to do anything, knowing we were in our final hours of incarceration for yet another year.

As we got older those last weeks meant two things: regents exams and summer jobs. Week days found us busy taking those horrible 3-hour tests that involved blue books and little boxes to be filled in. The stress was pretty heavy since they'd count as our grade for the entire year and often meant the difference between summer school and freedom for the following weeks. Then weekends we were busy getting trained for whatever employment we'd managed to find for the summer. I loved working summer jobs and the money was a heady by-product. I learned so much from the people I worked for every year - a topic for another blog for sure.

I enjoy seeing the buses weave around town in the late morning, knowing that the passengers inside are at the beginning of another summer adventure. Brings back such great memories.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Traffic

I'm going back and forth to Southampton pretty regularly these days, between doctor's visits and tests, and I have to say the traffic is unbearable. There are back-ups at every light and it's slow going all the way. What used to be a twenty-five or thirty-minute trip is now at least forty-five, and the frustration level is high. I hate the summer traffic. And its not even summer yet.

I try not to drive the ambulance once Memorial Day has come and gone because it's really an exercise in frustration trying to get to the hospital. I cross my fingers that another certified driver will respond to every call because that means I can spend the trip in the back of the rig doing patient care instead of laying on the siren or the air horn, attempting to get the summer crowd to move aside and allow us to pass. And its not just summer drivers-everyone is too confounded by the mess to pay enough attention. I don't blame the other drivers altogether because I know they're equally distracted by the madness around them and sometimes they just don't realize we're even there. But the stress level on each run is terrible. Just too many cars, too many drivers, and not enough road. And we never know what they're going to do so when they're coming at you from all directions you kind of feel helpless sometimes.

I'm hating that the traffic is already bothering me this early in the season. Usually I don't feel this way until early August. But then usually we have better weather which keeps them at the beach and I don't have to dodge as much traffic on the way to Southampton.

At least when I'm driving the ambulance most of the cars move away. Its tough to adjust to being a regular driver and not being able to pull around any car that's in my path...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Strawberries

I love it when the local strawberries are in season. I have to say its one of my favorite things and I look forward to it all spring. Because I only eat the local berries - I never bother with those over-sized bland things that you get at the grocery store any time of the year. To me they have little taste and just aren't worth the money. But the local berries - now they are something to get excited about. They're sweet, ruby red and tender. So delicious.

When we were kids my mother would take us to pick berries every year. Most the local farms had berry patches and we'd all pile in the car and head out to look for a patch that was open for picking. They were easy to spot because they were usually busy with other women and children in among the rows of green. We'd spend about 30 minutes hunched over those mounds picking all the really bright red ones. I think Mom paid 15 cents a quart for the ones that we picked - they were 25 cents if you bought them already done. So if we each picked a quart that meant she saved a whopping 60 cents. Well more, actually, because we often picked more than one quart each, but still! Sometimes she would go off with a friend to pick and come home with about 6 or 8 quarts and get right to putting them up for the winter. The savings must have been worth it to her because that was the routine - and she'd make enough jam for the freezer to last all year. She did that up to the year she died, although there haven't been any fields where you could pick your own for many years around here. And she could well afford to buy them already picked. Knowing her she would still have picked them herself if she'd had the option because she was all about saving a dollar where she could.

We usually had one night every June where dinner consisted of strawberry shortcake only. I loved that tradition and carried it on with my own kids because one nice, big strawberry shortcake is more than enough to fill any empty stomach and since the season is so short it seems worth it. Homemade shortcake and lots of whipped cream - well it just doesn't get any better than that. It's a celebration of the local bounty and one of the few local farm crops we still can enjoy.

I think tonight just may be strawberry shortcake night at our house. Yum!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Projects


I'm a "project" person by nature. That means I'm goal-oriented and my personality type thrives on have multiple projects going at the same time, all of which require a certain amount of organizational skill. Which translates to: I'm always drowning in legal pads.

Everywhere I go in my house there are legal pads full of written information. They're on my kitchen counter, they're on my desk, in front of the computer, piled in the "messy" room - I can't escape them. Sometimes I buy the multi-colored ones so I can easily spot what I'm looking for, but I have plenty of white ones too which means I'm constantly trying to figure out where I left the last one I was using. I sift through the pile looking for familiar notes for whatever it is I'm looking for. Sometimes I sit in the living room with a pile of them, making phone calls and writing notes to myself. When I've had business offices I always kept them neatly stashed away in the same desk drawer, but here at home they tend to migrate all over the downstairs of the house. There are pads for travel arrangements, business projects, community projects, family plans, even one with notes on research I've done on nice local places to go for dinner with friends. And of course, shopping and errand lists!

The only ones I never use are the yellow ones. For some reason I can't stand yellow legal pads.

Right now I have three right in front of me at the computer: one is for the minutes I wrote at the Historical Society Board meeting last weekend; one is for the church renovation project I'm working on; and the other has notes from my last Board of Deacons meeting. I need to organize the notes into computer documents and then rip those pages off. I know there are at least two pads on my kitchen counter right now but I can't remember what they're for. One is probably a list of things to be done today and tomorrow and the rest of the week. Sometimes I think when I'm 90-years-old they'll find me buried beneath a huge pile of legal pads.

Every so often I think I'm going to find a more efficient way of organizing all my projects and I buy a nice portfolio. But it never lasts long. I think I should have bought stock in the legal pad business a long, long time ago....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Beach trips

This time of the year always reminds me of the school beach picnics we had when we were kids. During the last week of school there was one day when we loaded into buses and headed to the bay where we spent our time playing in the sand - we were never allowed in the water. (That always seemed pretty strange to me - I mean why bother going to the beach if you aren't going to go in the water? But of course, the logistics of all those kids with a few teachers and no lifeguards...well I understand it now.) When I think back, there were no "teachers aids" in those days and there would be two or three classes of our grade level all together, probably about sixty kids, with only three teachers and a few parent volunteers. The adults must have hated those days. I wasn't crazy about them either. Not being able to go in the water seemed like torture.

But once school let out for the year our days consisted of long hours spent at the bay, always Albert's Landing, with family and friends. My mother and her friends would meet there with their families before lunch (with their coolers full) and we'd spend the next few hours playing with our friends in and around the water. There were no lifeguards there in those days and the beach was pretty sparsely populated with locals. We were always made to take an hour out of the water after we ate our sandwiches for lunch, and we pestered our mothers constantly asking when that hour was up at which time we'd race back into the water to swim again.

We didn't worry too much about SPF numbers in those days, and although we did use sun screen I remember more than one sunburn. And Promised Land was still in operation so when the wind was right the smell was wicked.

By 3pm we'd pile back into the station wagon, some of us stretched out in the back end lying with the floats and coolers, just enjoying the long ride back to the village along the old, windy road. We rarely went to the ocean. My mother was not a great swimmer, having grown up in the Buffalo area (she could ice skate like a pro!) and was rightly afraid of the surf. Besides, she and her friends wanted to make sure the kids all became good swimmers so it was the bay for us - unless the wind was just so and it was too cold on the bay side. Either way, we were oblivious to Mom's uneasiness near the shore - we were totally carefree and being in the water was second nature to us.

Summers growing up in East Hampton truly were halcyon days. How lucky we were.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Music


I was thinking recently about the role that music has played in my life and how different things would be if I hadn't been born into such a musical family. (I realize such exercises are useless since we're all a product of our environment and I wouldn't be the same person at all in that case, but life's all about dreaming so it's fun to think about.)

Both my parents were gifted musically, although neither had any serious formal training. My maternal grandmother was an accomplished pianist who couldn't go to a conservatory because of financial restraints but was serving as her church organist (at a large church in the city of Buffalo) by the age of 12. Obviously she was very talented and I wish I'd done a better job of learning from her when I had the chance. I don't think there was any similar link in my father's family, yet he had even more natural talent than my mother, so I was surrounded by good music from the time I was very young. I started singing solos in my church when I was five and spent all my growing up years singing in choirs, duets, trios, folk groups, concert choirs, and barbershop quartets. I loved music and it was something I was good at so it was a place for me, a chubby, curly-haired brunette, to find self-esteem in a 1960s world full of skinny, straight-haired blonds and cover girls named Twiggy.

So music has been a huge part of my life. I've loved being able to participate in the milestones of other's lives by singing at baptisms, weddings, and funerals. It's always a privilege to be a small participant in such important life events. When I was younger I dreamed of a career in music, perhaps on Broadway or as a chanteuse on the cabaret circuit (nothing like dreaming big, right?) but at the end of the day, just being a small-town girl available for weddings and funerals has not been a bad thing. It doesn't pay real well, but the emotional rewards are huge.

I'm fortunate enough to be surrounded by a family full of musicians. So when my own abilities become more limited by age and erode with time, which is already happening, I'll still have plenty of music around to feed my soul. And that's a wonderful thing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The train

All my life I've lived within a stone's throw of the railroad tracks. When we were kids we'd climb the hill where the trestle crossed the street near our house and leave pennies there, returning later to search the ground for the flattened pieces of copper that resulted from our folly. When my children were small we'd walk down to the front yard when we heard it coming and wave to the engineer, who often caught a glimpse of us and waved back to them. As soon as they were old enough we'd take them for a short ride from East Hampton to Amagansett or Montauk so they could see things from the other side, because the train was so much a part of our everyday life here on this corner.

I'd imagine to some people the sound of that train would be an annoyance, but I find it quite nice. When it goes by in the middle of the night and I happen to be awake I can hear if for miles as it makes its way east, whistle blowing at every crossing along the way, getting louder as it comes. But for the most part, I don't even notice it when it passes - familiarity sometimes makes us immune to certain sights and sounds. This morning as I was lying in bed thinking it was time to get up I heard it coming in the distance and listened as the sound approached, passed over the trestle here, and quickly rolled on by. I heard it move off in the distance and approach the crossing in Amagansett.

For me, the sound of the train is a familiar and comforting one. It signals life and activity and the passing of time. It takes me away for a few brief moments and makes me remember climbing that same trestle many years ago to lay pennies on the track. I love the train.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Friends

I'm continually touched by the way friends step up when you need them. All this week, when people were aware that I was having a chemotherapy treatment and would be hit with the fatigue and other side-effects that would accompany it, I've been the recipient of their kindness. Two brought home made soup. Another brought ambrosia, which is a simple comfort food for the soul as well as the body. Two people sent flowers.

It's sometimes the smallest gestures that mean the most. There's no need for huge expense or elaborate fixin's - because it's the simplest acts of kindness offered with affection that mean the most and I feel especially blessed. I have a husband who gets up and gets me what I need when I'm just too tired to move, children who call just to see how I'm feeling and ask what they can do for me, and friends who stop by with gifts of food and flowers, all of which translates into love.

My life is full and I'm content to know that I'm surrounded by these people. A strong. embracing community is such a wonderful thing.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Weddings

Today we'll be attending a wedding. The groom is the son of very good friends of ours and also one of our own sons' circle of friends, so this is a special occasion. We've known this young man since he was a baby.

Weddings have truly become touchstones in life as we've aged. When we were younger, they were merely celebrations - chances to get together and party with our friends. But as the years have gone by, I find that they've become more opportunities for me to reminisce about my life and the many paths that I've taken on my journey. When its a family wedding, we think about our children (or nieces and nephews) and the impact they've had on us. We shed tears of joy and sorrow - joy that they're making their way in the world and sorrow that they're grown now, and leaving us (in a sense). When its a friend's child, like this one today that we've known such a long time, we sit in the church reflecting on the many years of friendship that the occasion represents. We remember the good times and the bad that we've lived through together and gratefully acknowledge the appreciation we have for their presence in our lives.

This will be a day of great joy as we usher yet another of the next generation into this phase of his life. For him, it will most likely be followed by children and mortgages and all the things that go with a family. We rejoice with him in his happiness and are thankful for being part of it.

But at my age there's a bittersweet quality to every celebration as well. We think about the people who are not with us any longer and miss them on a day when we wish all the people we have loved in life could be together.

It seems a good way to end a week that started with a funeral. Weddings and funerals are times when life confronts you square in the face with your mortality, your blessings, your past and your future all at the same time. I'm looking forward to this day.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ethereal moments....


Last Saturday I was lucky enough to make a trip in to NYC to see the Lincoln Center production of "South Pacific". I knew the reviews had been outstanding and the show had won many Tony awards last year, but I wasn't prepared for the way it would move me so profoundly.

First of all, the themes are so current despite the fact that the show first premiered in the 1950s. It's the story of young men and women at war, being thrust into the middle of a strange place, in an unfamiliar culture, and far away from everything they've ever known. Sound familiar? The headlines of any daily newspaper bring similar images to mind. And of course the issue of bigotry and prejudice, which seem to be something that's a scourge in every society around the world, is part of the story. Then there's love and the complications it brings to our lives - a universal theme if ever there was one.

I know the show well - I had the cast album when I was in high school and know the score by heart. I even worked on a local high school production as an assistant director, so most of the lines are still firmly implanted in my memory bank. I was going to be in familiar territory with this one! What I wasn't prepared for was the depth of the performances I would see and how deeply they would touch me. Paulo Szot, who played Emil deBeque - the plantation owner who falls in love with the army nurse - is a man of incredible talent and he brought me to tears with his emotional rendition of "This Nearly Was Mine". In fact, there were so many outstanding performances that the entire cast, along with great staging, scenery, and orchestra combined to make this one of the best shows I've ever seen on a New York City stage.

Theater, at its best, moves us in wonderful ways. It stirs our souls and makes us connect as human beings. It changes us. At its worst, it is still entertaining! Last Saturday was the former and I'll remember it the rest of my life for the way it touched me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Noah


I've been channeling Noah lately because I'm fearful that it might be time to start building an ark around here. How much rain can we possibly absorb before the entire island just floats away?

I'm trying to look on the positive side of all this precipitation - like the fact that the window boxes and hanging plants don't have to be watered too often and the grass is a beautiful bright shade of green. But - it certainly puts a damper on plans when it's coming down so hard you can barely drive your car and it comes off in sheets when you take off your rain gear in the house. So enough already!!!

They are promising a nice weekend. And I'm hoping this wet cycle is nearly over because next week my daughter arrives with her three kids for three weeks and rainy days will get old in a hurry for them! They are envisioning beach days and sun screen, not boots and rain hats.

So I'm wondering what Noah would say about now. And also wondering how boring was life in that ark???

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Goodbyes



Monday I attended a funeral where I said goodbye to yet another elder of the community. Her daughter and I have been very close friends since high school and this woman had a huge impact on my life so it was a sad day, although a relief in light of her long illness and suffering.

Throughout the service my mind hearkened back to some of the things she'd said to me over the years. Back in high school, when lives are tender and easily formed, she was one of my greatest supporters. She told me I was beautiful, and that was not something I ever heard. She also told me that people who made me feel less than beautiful were not true friends. I know the wisdom of that now - but it was a new idea for me at the time. She was a warm, funny, kind person and I've missed her these past few years as her mind slowly deteriorated with the effects of Alzheimer's disease.

It always saddens me to say goodbye to the people who've been such a profound part of my life and had so much influence on the adult I've become. As a community I think we're lessened by every one of their deaths because they made us who we are and formed this us into the place it is. I'm so grateful for their lives. We have some very big shoes to fill.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hamptonian???

The other day I was sitting at the Hampton Jitney headquarters in Southampton waiting for someone and I happened to pick up one of those local magazines that pop up every summer on doorsteps and shelves all over the East End. This one was called "The Hamptonian" and the first thing that caught my eye was the "Publisher's note" on one for the first few pages. The publisher wrote that "The Hamptonian" was a "unique East End lifestyle and cultural magazine which seeks to answer a simple question, "What does it mean to be a Hamptonian today?"

"Oh my dear", I thought. "Please save us from people who think they are "Hamptonians.""

I guess it was about thirty years ago now that the term "The Hamptons" first made its way into the vernacular and I think I can safely say that most true locals hate it. It's a term that refers to a "state of mind" more than a place on the map, and those of us who live here are proud of our own municipality's unique personality and look. From Westhampton to Montauk and from Riverhead to Orient we natives love this area and we embrace the differences to be found along the journey east. We would never tell someone we were from "The Hamptons". We would identify ourselves as residents of whatever town or hamlet we happen to live in. The general opinion is that if you consider yourself to be from "The Hamptons" you're a person who's more concerned about what nightclub you're going to frequent this summer than what local charity you want to help. And you no doubt are more interested in what celebrity you might catch a glimpse of than the name of the person that works behind the counter at Starbucks or the IGA. I'm happy to say I really don't think I know any of those people and as far as I'm concerned they're welcome to think of themselves as "Hamptonians" if they want to - I surely do not think of myself that way.

Maybe that's why none of the local throwaway magazines have asked me to write for them....

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bird songs

I had to laugh the other day when my daughter was complaining about the birds being so noisy in the morning that they wake her up. I love the sound of the birds early in the morning! This time of year, when the windows are wide open and the sun is up early and the birds are busy letting us know they're out there is one of my favorites.

But it does wake me up early. By 5:30 every morning I start to stir and once those birds get going that's it for me. I may lie in bed for awhile just taking my time and being lazy, but I'm awake and there's no turning back. By 6:00 I'm either waiting for my husband to get up or I'm climbing out from under the covers myself because at that point I begin to feel as though I'm wasting one of the best parts of the day.

I love hearing the birds in the morning. I love that it's warm outside and the sun is up early and we're ready to face another day. June is such a great month!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rhododendrons


The rhodos are out in full bloom now and they're a beautiful addition to any lawn. I'm especially partial to the deep pink and red varieties, but even the lavender and white ones are nice. The fact that they grow so big and are so dense makes them wonderful cover foliage, forming nice hedges and privacy barriers without the formality of a boxwood hedge.
There are some spectacular large rhodos around town, particularly in the estate areas of Ocean Avenue, Lily Pond, and Lee. My own are smaller since I've only had them a few years now but some day they'll be nice additions to my garden. I like to cut a few stems for using in the house because a very few blossoms will fill a vase nicely. They're huge, like hydrangeas, and look great in the middle of the outdoor table when company comes for dinner. Along the side of my mother's house (the side that faces mine) there's a border of nice sized rhododendrons and I've been known to clip a few branches when I'm in need of a quick bouquet.

My own favorite thing about summer is the availability of fresh flowers to brighten my table every day. If I could afford luxuries I'd have a standing order for fresh flowers every week all winter long because they give me such joy. They don't have to be fancy - I'm just as happy with daisies as I am with roses - but buying some for no special reason is not something I can do regularly. That's why the summer, with abundant colorful flowers to clip and arrange into beautiful arrangements, is a real treat. I'm glad the rhododendrons are here again in all their glory!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Summer chores

Warm weather brings with it so many extra chores it makes me wonder why we long for it the way we do. We need to keep the deck or patio clean, water the plants and bushes, mow and trim everything green - and that's just outdoors. Inside we have additional laundry (beach towels) and more dust (due to open windows), and vacuuming the sand that gets tracked in the door. But somehow, with daylight staying longer it feels as though there's more time in every day and we don't seem to mind.

I admit to being sorry we've become a society obsessed with our lawns though. It seems that everyone wants a perfect lawn, dandelion free and clipped to within an inch of its life. I fail to see why that's so important and I wish we could let things go a little more and enjoy the long summer days in other ways. I seem to remember plenty of weeds in our yard when I was growing up and no one was worried about irrigation systems - they looked forward to the grass getting burned out in August because it wouldn't grow as fast and didn't need mowing as often. I remember sitting on the front porch at my parents house, just rocking and talking. I also think its too bad that we're no longer happy with nice Adirondack chairs and instead need cushioned wicker or teak in order to keep up with the rest of the world. What ever happened to the old red picnic tables and benches that everyone had forty years ago? Now its all about fancy tables and chairs in beautiful colors with matching umbrellas. Our outdoor living has become too chic for the modest pocketbook and we gladly go into debt to outfit our patios and decks with the newest and loveliest we can find.

And it all adds to our summer chores. Because those nice chairs and tables need scrubbing to stay looking good. And the cushions need storing. And those outdoor carpets need to be dragged out into the sun to dry after it rains. And the work just never ends.

And yet, we love the summer....

Friday, June 5, 2009

Very interesting...

I love finding little pieces of information that suddenly make things fall into place. It's like solving a word problem or fitting the final pieces into a jigsaw puzzle - it makes things finally make sense.
Here's my latest: For many years when people have asked me about the mode of dress for any summer social function here in East Hampton, my answer has always fallen along the lines of something like this: "You'll see everything there from jeans to dinner jackets so I always shoot for something in between." I've never really known why the nature of all things out here at the end of Long Island seems to be a casual one. I rather thought it had to do with our "resort" mentality, but I never knew for sure why we are the way we are. Then I was reading through a newly published historic structure report which was completed to guide the restoration of the Thomas Moran Studio on Main Street. (Thomas Moran was an artist of national renown when he moved to East Hampton in the late nineteenth century. His house is now in the process of being studied and restored using both public and private funds.)

Anyway, as I was reading through this lengthy tome, which I loved doing because it gave a wonderful little glimpse of life here in the nineteenth century, I came across a description of a dance which was given at the house in the summer of 1891 and reported on in the East Hampton Star. What caught my eye was this line: "There were many pretty toilettes and evening dress prevailed, although a yachting party of half a dozen came in flannels and sustained the East Hampton custom of go-as-you-please dressing."

Well what do you know! Even then, in 1891, you could find everything from flannels to formals at a fancy East Hampton social event. And, from the sounds of it, that was a common phenomenon. Certainly not a far cry from "jeans to dinner jackets"!

I've no idea what prompted such a custom here on the East End, but I know it's different than in other places, like so many things are. It's almost as though we're in our own time zone - or maybe even Brigadoon-like. But isn't it interesting how the more things change, the more they remain the same???

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Normal" day

I was sitting in my living room thinking what an ordinary, normal day it was late yesterday afternoon and a thought struck me: How lovely to have a "normal" day. Since January our world has been turned upside down with medical tests, doctors visits, surgeries, side-effects, and all manner of things that have made me long for normalcy in my life. Isn't that what we take for granted?

For the most part, life is all about taking things for granted. It seems to be the human condition to not know what we have until its gone, not appreciate what we have until we no longer have it, and not recognize the value of ordinary, every day life until we are suddenly faced with something else. We go from day to day just doing our thing, working, playing, interacting, stressing - and yet when something dreadful happens and we're faced with the prospect of losing it all, we're amazed at what we didn't appreciate before.

I am so grateful for normal, ordinary days right now. Because I fully understand that life is richest when it's most predictable. Surprises can sometimes be nice, but as the saying goes, we are much more comfortable with the devil we know than the devil we don't. It's what we're used to and its what we're content with.

For me right now, I'm still working toward "normal". But I clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel and it's so sweet. Normal is all I really want.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Facebook

I have a guilty pleasure and its called Facebook. Up until a few months ago I barely knew it existed and now I'm a bit addicted to it. Of course, like so many addictions, this one started on a whim. I kept hearing about it and was curious so I decided to go into the site and see what it was all about. Once there, I had to set up an account in order to look around. Then when I mentioned to my son that I had a Facebook account he accused me of "ruining" Facebook, which in his opinion was the property of the young and hip, and that reaction made me know I HAD to pursue it further. Before long I was hooked.

What I discovered was a wonderful way to connect with old friends and keep track of the new ones. It's easy to search out familiar names and faces and I enjoy adding people to my list. Now I can go in to the "home page" and quickly see what my kids are doing and how my friends are feeling at any given time of the day. What a great tool! A simple sentence typed in less than a minute and sent off to some one's Facebook page can serve to let them know I'm here and still care about them. A great way to keep the fragile threads of friendship intact when they're so easily broken through the busy nature of our lives. I love it.

As I've often said before, none of us could ever have imagined the ways that computers would change our lives. Besides the ability to do instant research and communicate without picking up a phone, and bringing us the news as it happens, they also put us in touch with friends and family in this new and interesting way, bringing them, along with their recent photos of family and friends and life-events, right in to our living rooms at a moment's notice. And finding out that an old friend is enjoying life in some other part of the country, or embarking on some interesting new enterprise, or better yet coming to visit this area in the near future - well - it's a wonderful thing!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Perfection


Last Saturday was a day of perfection. My daughter and her family made an impromptu visit from Pennsylvania so the rest of the family gathered around and the house was full of grandchildren. The weather was absolutely beautiful all day and it seemed as though life just couldn't get any better. When the entire family sat around on the deck enjoying dinner and watching all the kids play in the back yard, it seemed as though a little piece of heaven had descended for a few wonderful hours and I knew how truly blessed I was.

The thing that strikes me at times like these is that when we're young we're too busy with our lives to really appreciate how rich and full they are. We stress about money and raising our kids; we worry about mortgage payments and work schedules and the children's schooling. And yet when we reach middle-age and the children are grown, we look back and realize that those years flew by so fast, and we were so distracted we barely noticed. But now, this is the time we can sit back and just enjoy the fact that life is good and being surrounded by people we love and living in a community like East Hampton is more than any of us deserves.

My frequent prayer these days is that I never take things for granted. Days like last Saturday are at the top of that list.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June

Music has always played a big part in my life and I've been singing since I was very small. When I was in high school I took vocal lessons with an elderly lady who lived in Bridgehampton by the name of Hazel Donohue. She was a church organist and a skilled pianist and my hour with her every week was among my greatest pleasures because I loved to sing - and having my own pianist was a joy! After we got through the boring parts of the lesson - the warm-ups and the vocalizing - I was able to work on the music that I loved, singing my heart out with this wonderful accompanist who not only helped me improve my performance, but praised me as well.

The memory of those lessons all these years later is always stirred when the calendar page turns to June. Because one of the musical scores I worked my way through during those lessons was "Carousel" and among the songs I learned from that musical was "June is Bustin' Out All Over".

Ever since then, right about now when the bushes are full of buds and the grass is a deep kelly green I think about the words which have never left my memory: "June is bustin' out all over; all over the meadow and the hill! Buds are bustin' out of bushes and the rompin' river pushes every little wheel that wheels beside the mill!" It's amazing to me that I can remember the words to that song nearly forty years later and yet I have a hard time remembering when my next appointment is scheduled.

There's something very special about the month of June which is, I guess, why we chose to have so many celebrations at this time of year. It's a month of new beginnings, of bright happy colors, and the optimism of youth. And the idea of it "bustin' out all over" just seems to be right.