Saturday, October 31, 2009

Edwards Theater

I think I mentioned before how much I dislike Halloween and all the pressure it used to put on me as a mother to make costumes for my kids. But this year the holiday triggered a long forgotten memory.

When I was growing up here in East Hampton we had a wonderful old movie theater - the Edwards Theater on Main Street. It sat where the present theater is, but it was a classic old dark, velvet draped theater with some elevated seating in the rear for smokers and an honest-to-goodness usher named Jennie. She had a uniform and a big flashlight and she made frequent trips up and down the aisle during a screening to remind people to be quite, or keep their feet off the seats in front of them, or whatever else the infraction might be. She liked kids though and always enjoyed chatting with us while we waited for the lights to go down.

Every year on Halloween the theater showed a scary movie (remember "The Thing"?) and had a costume contest. I remember walking up there with my brother one year to enter the contest - I'm not sure if we did it more than once because this is the only one I remember. My brother was dressed in a full-head Frankenstein mask and wore my father's trench coat, which I seem to think was huge on him. I wore a gypsy costume which I had put together myself, of course, because no one bought costumes in those days (unless they were very rich). I remember a full, colorful skirt and peasant blouse, and I think my mother added a head scarf tied at the side and a side wrap on the skirt as well. I thought I looked marvelous.

The only other thing I remember is that all the people in costume at the matinee were asked to line up in the front of the heavy velvet curtains for judging. And I know that neither one of us won. I remember the girl that won was dressed all in white - a tunic type thing - and had fake blood on her but that's all I remember so I don't know what she was supposed to be. I was disappointed for sure. I was probably all of ten or twelve years old.

I miss the old Edwards Theater. It had a class and substance that its replacement never matched. We went from beautiful art deco to cheap sixties gaudy when the old theater burned down and was replaced by the present "cinema" (excuse me!). But I have the memories in my mind and if I close my eyes I can still see the interior of that theater in all its glory.

My one good Halloween memory....

Friday, October 30, 2009

Peak

The fall foliage has finally peaked here and its beautiful. So many stunning vistas if one takes the time to notice them. And the weather - well I've always been a big fan of autumn weather. Some wind and rain the past coupld days has dropped many of the leaves, but now its sunny again and those left are wonderful!

We have a couple Japanese maple trees in our yard - not red ones but green ones. We brought them home from a relative's house many years ago when they were just saplings and we literally pulled them out of the ground, brought them home and stuck them in the soil here on the chance that they might actually grow. And grow they did - they are both beautiful, towering trees now, one in the front yard and one in the back. Had we known how nicely they were going to settle in we probably would have given a bit more thought to where they were going, but now they're too big to move so they are where they are. These two trees are among my favorites here and one reason I like them so much is that they're the last ones to transform into their autumn color and always have leaves left after all the others are gone. Sometimes it's Thanksgiving before they finally give in and let go of their covering. They're beautiful trees for a full eight months of the year and even in the winter their form is really nice. So the fact that every time I look at them I think about some beloved relatives is a bonus.

Those maple trees are still nice and green. But everything else is well into red, gold and yellow. Some are beginning to disintegrate. But it's all quite delightful.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Make-up

Along the same lines as seeing what we look like in photos, I'm amused by how my chemotherapy has rendered me nearly unrecognizable when I look in the mirror in the morning. Interesting how different life is when we get to middle-age.

When I first started wearing make-up I was in my early twenties and went to one of those home parties for a product called "Jafra". I remember that it was formulated with something made by a queen bee - royal jelly I think it was called - and was supposed to keep me looking young forever. (So much for that claim!) Anyway, the thing that sold me on it was the sun screen. We were just beginning to understand the effects that the sun has on skin and this had sun screen in it so I figured I should use it. And I've been using make-up ever since.

The big difference back then was that I didn't look much different when I put the make-up on and I applied it sparingly: just a base for the sun screen, and a little eye liner and blush and I was out the door. Oh, how times have changed.

What was still left of my eyebrows fell out during chemo, never to be seen again. Mind you, I used to have caterpillars for eyebrows and grooming them to keep them in line was an everyday occurrence. But now - nothing. So when I look in the mirror in the morning I see a blank face looking back at me. I've learned to create decent looking eyebrows.

Then there are the age spots and the other irregularities on my previously flawless complexion. People used to comment on my skin because it was nice and even toned and I rarely had a blemish. Now, the age spots (despite the Jafra!) are coming faster than I can hit them with the concealer. Sigh....

The only positive side of all this is that my eyes are going as well. I thought I was doing a decent job of covering up those age spots until the girl I had gone to for laser hair removal (another blog!) casually mentioned that she could "take care of those age spots" for me. I was shocked! So much for my skills at camouflage. And thank goodness I can't see as well as I used to because what I don't see I don't stress over.

As my father used to say, getting old is not for the faint of heart.....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Photos

I really hate photographs. They're the only things in life, other than shopping for clothes, that shakes me out of my fantasy and hits me in the face with reality. I'm talking about photographs of myself, of course.

I've always avoided being photographed as much as possible. Even when I was young I hated seeing what I looked like. For me, the way I imagine I look is so much better than the way I actually do. I'm sure I'm not alone in this fantasy world I've created for myself. Somehow, when getting dressed to go out (and conveniently looking at myself in the mirror mostly from the shoulders up, of course) I manage to convince myself that I look OK. It must have something to do with the way I tilt my head up just so, causing the double-chin to disappear. Or perhaps its the perfect lighting I've installed around my bathroom mirror, nicely masking some of the age spots and wrinkles. But regardless of the reason, when I'm faced with a photo - irrefutable evidence of what other people see - I'm shocked. Who is that chubby, middle-aged woman staring back at me? I left the house looking so young and stylish and yet this image is of a schlumpy old lady who badly needs to diet. It's the ultimate wake-up call.

Life is funny the way it moves along so quickly we hardly notice the passage of time, and yet suddenly - BOOM - there we are, staring back at ourselves in a photograph, destroying whatever self-esteem we have in one fell swoop. Yet, true humility is a really good thing. I should allow myself to be photographed more often...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Foliage

We had occasion to take a drive to Sag Harbor last weekend and the scenery along the way was beautiful. I always make a point of taking that drive when the leaves are at their autumn peak. They weren't quite there yet, but they're close. Probably by the end of this week for sure. I think a drive to Shelter Island may even be in order.

About a week ago I was driving to Southampton and I passed a small field along the back road. All the trees surrounding the field were still clinging to their green leaves, which made for a perfect background for the one standing right in the middle. Because for whatever reason, there was this one adolescent beauty, in the midst of all that green, and it was gloriously yellow from top to bottom, every leaf ablaze like the fingers of a campfire. It was so stunning I actually pulled off to the side of the road and just looked at it for a moment before pulling back over and completing my journey. Why was that the only yellow tree out of the thirty or more around it? They all looked like the same species to me, but they probably weren't. And didn't matter, really, because whatever the reason it stopped me dead in my tracks.

I wondered as we drove down Rt. 114 last Saturday if there are actually people who drive past this spectacular show and don't even notice it. Surely everyone else sees what I see, right? But maybe not. Maybe there's a reason we are constantly reminded to "stop and smell the roses". It's a reminder I don't need. I've been stopping all along the way for a long, long time now. Because I know that the roses - and the autumn leaves - are what make life so grand.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More house work


It's been a challenge having the roof and sides of the house re-shingled this past week. One day I had no bathroom I could use because workers were up and down on ladders, all strategically placed for bathroom viewing. Another time I couldn't get out of the door without worrying about getting bonked on the head with a flying shingle or missile-like nail whipping through the air.

And then there was the driveway situation. There's no street parking where I live. Our street, and the connecting street, are lined with "no parking" signs. When those restrictions went into effect years ago we were forced to expand our driveway, taking up a good portion of the front lawn, in order to accommodate our cars. There were four at the time because we had high school and college kids here, as well as cars of occasional guests. But we still don't have enough space when there are work trucks and roll-off containers and contractors cars all jockeying for postition. Sometimes just getting out to a meeting involves a sort of chess game with various vehicles, and often I return home and have to figure out where I'm going to land. Fortunately the neighbors have a large parking area and are in the city most of the week so in a pinch we land there.

It's wonderful having work done on the house and it badly needs all of it. But how nice would it be to have the money to just go on a vacation when the work is being done? Or better yet, just stay in the city in our brownstone for the duration....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Class reunions

This weekend was my husband's class reunion. It's an interesting thing, reconnecting with people that were such a huge part of your life for the early, formative years, and yet many of them we never see again and have no idea what they're doing with themselves.

The high school years are especially fascinating to me. I often say "If only I'd known then what I know now..." about high school. Our way of looking at the world was so skewed as teenagers and we were so sure we knew it all! Yet we saw everything with cloudy vision. A person's physical appearance was their most important attribute and we thought little about integrity and honesty. We admired people for their personalities and didn't care much about their intelligence. We liked people who made us laugh and if those people were unkind on the process, so what? High school is a world unto itself, but we were too young and too dumb to understand that at the time.

I think it's the process of growing up and outliving those shallow standards that makes us want to reconnect with the people from those days. We want to see who they've become and how they've changed, as we have. We love meeting the class clown and finding out that he or she is now a stock broker. We laugh at the silly things we said and did back then and wonder at how we all turned out so well.

It's an interesting thing, coming of age with a whole group of your peers, spending hours together every day - away from your family. The ones who probably should have the most influence on you at that important time in your life just don't get to spend enough time with you. Those that are probably not the best people to be surrounded with are there all the time, molding you and changing you as the years go by.

Amazingly and thankfully, we mostly eventually find our way. In the years I went to high school we had the "druggies" and the "jocks", the "nerds" and the "in crowd". But as segregated as we were all those years ago, labeled and separate, we all get along pretty well now because we're all simply "survivors".

I love class reunions.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Medical mess


Is there anything more frustrating than dealing with the medical maze (as I call it)? It's like an unwritten law that if you have to visit a doctor's office, or a hospital, or even make a phone call to some medical facility of some type, you need to collect yourself in advance and be prepared for frustration and anger. I confess that I just don't get it.

In this past year I've had more than my share of contact with doctor's offices and hospitals. In the years prior to this one I experienced them through my husband's medical issues - and my parents'. None of us can totally avoid having to deal with the crazy world of medicine and I think that's part of the problem - they have us over a barrel. Where else can we go if we need help? No where. Therefore, we are their captive consumers.

This past week I was reminded all over again how difficult it all is. I went to the hospital for simple blood work. First I went directly to the lab, which was my first mistake. How could I possibly think it would be that easy? Now mind you, I'd parked on the far side of the hospital knowing that it was closest to the lab. I walked in fifteen minutes before my scheduled appointment. I was quickly told that I had to go to admitting first. Out I went, all around the outer perimeter of the hospital and to the opposite side of the building (where I could have parked!) to admitting. I checked in and was told to take a seat, which I did. And then I waited: five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes. Now there was no one else being helped - although there were three women walking around inside the admitting department. Finally someone called my name and I went in, did the interview, and was sent back to the lab - back through the maze of corridors to the other side of the hospital. Once there - now ten minutes past my appointment time, I sat and waited again. This time there were three people sitting at the desk and three walking around in the treatment area. But I sat patiently and waited because apparently my time is really not important and the fact that I was there when I was asked to be there didn't matter because they weren't ready to see me.

Finally I was called to the desk where the person helping me proceeded to tell me that because I was asking to have blood drawn for two different reasons I may be billed for one by my insurance company. The reason I arranged for a "twofer" is that I have difficult veins to access and its always a painful process so as long as they were going to go in there why not get everything done at once - totally logical, right? Wrong. There is no logic in the medical world. Regardless of the reason, and the fact that I was actually saving them money by doing it, I would probably be billed for a lab fee. I told them I didn't care - go ahead and do it and I'll do battle with the insurance company another day if necessary. And that's a blog for another time!

Listen, I love my doctors and I love the local hospital, but I guess I'll just never understand why medical procedures and the people who are there to "help" us are so difficult. It seems to me that if they were truly interested in patient care - and concerned for the welfare of the people they service - things wouldn't always be such a struggle. But then again, maybe I'm just a Pollyanna....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Autumn sun

I'm not sure why I'm so intrigued by the sun and the way it plays with the landscape, but I am.

The other day I had to drive to Southampton early in the morning and left the house at 7:15. The sun was still pretty low at that hour so when I turned down Woods Lane it was fascinating to see how the light hit some of the trees - pretty much wherever the branches stuck out into the roadway. It was at my back as I went west and was so bright in the rear view mirror I had to change it to the night setting, but it was not high enough to really hit most of the trees. By the time I got further up the road, past Buckley's, the light was not penetrating at all and it was like being in a dark tunnel, except for the tops of the trees. There, where the sun was able to hit them, they were bright yellow-green, in contrast to the dark forest green below. It was a beautiful effect, and reminded me of a punk hair style where only the tips are highlighted against the darker hair.

I love seeing the light dance around and make our view change throughout the day. Colors change and shapes become sharper, and we watch things as they evolve with the sun. With the sun so low in the sky it was especially pretty and a nice distraction on my drive to Southampton. Sort of a reminder from God that he is the master artist and is never quite done with his canvas.

I love that concept.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Food TV

Is anyone else out there addicted to the Food Network? It seems as though the less I cook at home the more I want to watch every cooking show possible, and Food Network is a gold mine! I also record Martha's show so I can see what she's cooking every day, but the great thing about the Food Network is its all cooking, all the time. I can tune in almost any time of the day or night and watch someone in a perfect kitchen, with every imaginable tool at their disposal, create a wonderful meal for their imaginary family or friends.

I'm told I'm not a bad cook. In fact, before I ever dated my husband he declared that someday someone would marry me for my cooking. I still enjoy baking and even cook once in awhile, but since the kids are off and on their own the new freedom we have means not using the oven as often as I used to.

I'd been married over twenty years before I owned a chef's knife. I owned one paring knife for all that time too. And yet I managed to cook for my family of six without too much difficulty. The idea of spending sixty or more dollars for a knife was too much for me - that was a week's worth of groceries! I drool over all those beautiful knives the television cooks whip out when they need them - a different one for every job - heavenly! And they never have to struggle with a too-small bowl or too-large spatula because they have every conceivable size at their fingertips. So for a food lover like me, watching them at work in their perfectly appointed studio kitchens is a bit like food porn.

We were able to renovate our kitchen three years ago and I have to say sometimes I feel as though I've stepped into my own studio because its beautiful and stylish and I love working in it. But then I go looking for a medium-size knife, or a perfectly-sized Pyrex dish and I remember - this is the real world. And I have to make do...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Small town

I find that funerals in a small town like East Hampton are wonderful touchstone events in the life of the community. I attended one on Monday for a woman who was a contemporary of my mother's and yet a friend of mine as well. She was a warm and friendly woman that I admired for her spirit and spunk and she had a pretty rough time during the last years of her life. The service was a celebration of a well-lived life that we will miss. Such is the typical funeral in a small town.

It seems as though when someone dies in East Hampton everyone has a connection. If we didn't know the deceased ourselves, we know family members or work friends or some other connection that causes us to be saddened by the loss. The threads that hold us all together are sometimes thin, but they are there, like pieces of a tapestry, each one part of the whole. And as members of a community like East Hampton we recognize how we are diminished with the passing of each life.

Attending funerals makes me very aware of my community and the people in it. I mourn with their families and I feel the loss for all of us. I think this is one reason I could never live happily in a big city. And also a reason why I love East Hampton...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"House" work

We're embarking on some major improvements at our house and its a bit overwhelming. For us, big projects have always moved at a snail's pace due to the fact that we did most all of the physical labor ourselves. We've knocked down walls, repaired holes, built cabinets, assembled shelves, insulated, replaced windows, painted every room in the house multiple times, and generally kept things going on our own like the thrifty stock we are. But now that we're finally done sending children to college and can see a bit more freedom in the financial area, we're embarking on work that's been put off and avoided long enough. I'm just not sure I'm ready for people to actually come to my house to do things! It's an adjustment I'm glad to make though.

Last month we refinished our kitchen and family room floor. It's one open, connected space and when we did work on the kitchen three years ago we added pine flooring to match the one already in the family room area, but we never managed to get it finished - so the two areas didn't match where they met. It was a major project which took a lot of furniture moving and days of not being able to use the normal entrance to the house. Fortunately I missed most of it because I was in Pennsylvania but my husband was here to oversee everything and the results are amazing. What a difference a new floor makes!

Our next project is to re-shingle the house. Since we moved into this house in 1979, we've never re-shingled it. We put an addition on the back in 1987 so half is "only" twenty-two years old but the other section is much older and looks it. We've patched here and there but never managed to get the entire thing done, so this is a big occasion for us. For years now my husband has been saying "We can shingle ourselves" but it just hasn't happened. Now it looks as though someone else is going to come and do it for us - glory be!

Our other project is the renovation of the three small bedrooms. Since our oldest son moved out a few weeks ago we've been emptying rooms and choosing paint samples to make the three now-empty rooms look decent. They're small bedrooms, dating to about 1920 when people didn't need closet space and happily lived with a bed and small dresser, but they are woefully inadequate for modern life. However, since they are guest rooms now it doesn't matter a whole lot. This project involves stripping wallpaper, painting walls and trim, refinishing floors, and buying new beds and bedding. I'm in decorators heaven and trying not to think too much about the cost.

We occasionally look at each other when we do projects nowadays and smile in the knowledge that at our ages we'll most likely never have to worry about doing them again. My guess is the next time the house needs re-shingling or the bedrooms need painting, it will be someone else's problem because the chances are all this new decor will outlive the both of us...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Let down

Yesterday morning the out-of-state family left after a weekend here. It was so much fun to have them for even a very brief time and we really appreciate their efforts to stay connected and visit often. Some of my memories from their stay this time are: Three-year-old Lucy bouncing on my lap, my knees working like pistons until my legs felt they would fall off, and she laughing hysterically as she pleaded "Again! Again!"; Four-year-old Tucker assuring me that his skeleton pajamas are "Only pretend, Grandma!"; Seven-year-old Daisy climbing in to bed with us about 4am and snuggling up so close it was as though she just couldn't get enough time with her grandparents.; Seeing my four adult children and their significant others laugh together, clearly enjoying each other's company and being silly as only siblings can.; Waving goodbye to the kids as their car drove off in the rain Sunday morning, worrying about their safety and yet so glad they had made the trip.

Life is made up of many wonderful, small moments that we treasure in our hearts and warm us to the core with the wonder of our blessings. Life is not to be taken for granted but rather nurtured heartily, and it also serves as a reminder to us that we are especially lucky to have people in our lives to love. We ought to never forget how blessed we are.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Overcast

One day last week the clouds just settled in and remained all day long making a gray and dismal day outside. It was a reminder that winter is right around the corner and soon our days will be shorter and darker as we settle in for the long months of cold.

It fascinates me how much the suns effects our moods. On bright sunny days we're happy and optimistic. When the clouds roll in or the rain comes down there seems to be a curtain that descends on the world and it seems like we're waiting for the show to begin, taking a short intermission. We're somber and lethargic and want something to perk us up. There is the eternal hope that tomorrow the sun will shine and once again the world will look beautiful no matter what the temperature is!

I can feel the mood of the day from my living room - I don't even have to venture outside. It's about the color of the landscape and the expressions on people's faces. We are funny creatures, we humans! We know we need the rain for life and the wind for pruning our trees and bushes. We know its all part of the cycle of life and important to our existence, but still...we long for the sun.

The leaves are just beginning to turn here and the next few weeks will be among the most special of the entire year on the East End. But we would just rather see them with the sun bouncing off the yellows and reds, sending light in every direction. All day Tuesday I wished the clouds away. My feeling is either give us a good soaking rain or bring on the sun. Overcast days are just not welcome here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shadows

When I came downstairs the other morning about 6:45 it was still so dark out I wondered if the clock was wrong. Early risers like myself are looking forward to the time change in a few more weeks! Mornings seem almost sinister in their dark shadows these days.

But as I sat at the computer writing I watched as the beautiful green field across the street began to wake up as the long streaks of light slowly moved across it like fingers opening on a clenched hand. The shadows began to dissapear as the long shafts of light worked their way from one end to the other, illuminating the grass and trees as it went, like a slowly waking giant just starting to stir. By the time I finished at the computer it was fully daylight and the sun had revealed a beautiful day ahead. This is a beautiful time of year in East Hampton and I feel as though I've a front row seat to the glory of it here where I live. I see the activity of the village but enjoy the serenity of a village green outside my windows and early in the morning it's something to behold.

Shadows are mysterious and can be downright frightening under certain circumstances. But in the early morning hours, as they work their way across the land waking everything in their path, they're quite beautiful. And sometimes they provide just the shelter we need. What a wonderful world.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I love this weather

It would figure that this morning it would be rainy and windy because I've been thinking lately how much I'm really enjoying the weather this fall. I don't know if its because it was an unusually difficult summer for me, dealing with the heat and the wigs and all that - or simply that this fall is especially nice. More than likely I just have a new appreciation for everything in my life at this point. It certainly is true that colors are more brilliant, smells are more aromatic, and my appreciation for everything around me is more intense than it ever has been before.

Whatever the reason, clearly I'm enjoying every day of this fall. I'm loving the cool nights, the warm (but never hot) days, and the wonderful feeling of community that surrounds us as we reclaim our East Hampton. I like buying wrapping paper from the school kids doing their PTA fundraisers and I like seeing the schools buzzing with activity. I enjoy the activities of our churches as they percolate back to life and I'm happy that the ambulance calls have dropped off with the disappearance of our transient population. It's all good in the autumn in East Hampton and I see this place that I love with fresh eyes every year. If we lived all year like we do in the summer, with the traffic and crowds and frantic pace, I wouldn't still be living here. Because its the East Hampton of the other nine months of the year that I live for. (It's just as beautiful here in August as it is in September, but with so many people here's its just too difficult to appreciate it I guess!) But September begins the wonderful part of our year here, where October leads to November and November, December. And of course, following the holidays are the quiet, beautiful days of winter. And the year passes again.

All that said, suddenly the temperature has dropped to the point where yesterday I turned on the gas fireplace for some heat and today looks as though its going to be a soggy mess. Oh well, it couldn't last forever now, could it? And I'm still enjoying life just the way it is, rain and all...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Window boxes

One of the things I love here is the proliferation of window boxes on houses and shops. They add an extra touch that's just so nice, bringing the color and vitality of the landscape up to our windows. I think East Hampton does the whole window box thing especially well. There's one majestic beauty on Ocean Avenue that takes my breath away with its window boxes just overflowing with cascades of red, green and white - perfectly adorning the beautiful Queen Anne architecture like just the right jewelry on a designer dress. And in the business district it really softens the look of the wall-to-wall buildings with pretty flowers and greenery gracing the front on many of them.

For years we struggled to keep our house and yard looking decent. My father, who lived next door, was chagrined most of the time at his shabby neighbors. He was at the point in his life where he had some extra money to put into his yard and he was extremely proud of his beautiful green grass (courtesy of his sprinkler system) and nicely trimmed bushes. But right next to him we lived with our sad little browned out yard and nary a flower in sight. Between spending time with our young brood and not having much disposible income, we were in a totally different place than he was and it would be years before we could afford to spend any money on landscaping. I'm afraid he didn't live long enough to see our own house at its best.

One of the first things I did when we could afford a few extras was buy window boxes. Every summer they're brimming with geraniums and they spark up the front of the house so well. Now they're full of yellow and gold mums and are lengthening the season outside. All it takes is a little water and they're happy and healthy. My father would have been so pleased.

When I look at old photos of our house I have to smile at the sorry state it was in: no shutters, no window boxes, no landscaping. We've added hedges, bushes, trees, plants, shutters and those window boxes and its like a whole new place. Soon it will get new shingles too. It's been many years in the making and sometimes I'm truly jealous of those who can afford to move into a place and immediately make it look as though it's from the pages of a magazine. Yet at the same time there's something very satisfying about looking around and appreciating all the years of love and labor that went into our humble surroundings.

It may not be much, but there truly is no place like home...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Critters

As much as I love the fall, there are a few things I really detest about this time of year, specifically creepy crawly things like mice and crickets. Every fall, without fail, we have crickets in our downstairs bathroom. Not only do they somehow get into the house in that same spot every single year, they procreate there. Last week I dispatched three tiny little hoppers as they careened around the tile floor. At least those three won't eventually be huge mothers that meet me in the evening when I go to use the facilities. I really hate crickets.

And then there are the mice. Living in an old house means that every year, as soon as the weather cools down, the mice find their way into our basement. We've had our share of the little darlings up on the main floor (usually seen while I'm watching television) and they scamper across the floor of the back room thinking no one can see them. Just a glimpse out of the corner of an eye is enough to set me into panic mode and the next day the poison gets set out all over the basement.

I grew up in an old house so it wasn't a shock for me when we moved here and found the annual mouse invasion was part of the deal. For the most part we've learned to be pre-emptive after all these years and just this week I reminded my husband to pick up some boxes of poison on his next trip to the hardware store. If he doesn't get it out out soon enough they'll be working their way up the basement stairs...but hopefully he will and we'll get them as soon as they enter through some teeny hole in the foundation somewhere. I imagine there's a tiny little sign hanging just above that crack in the foundation that says "entrance", or an itty bitty welcome mat worthy of a Beatrix Potter drawing placed strategically in just the right place. Because they obviously have no problem finding the spot that has eluded us all these years.

So here's the normal routine: every fall we set out boxes of poison about every 10 feet all around the basement. Then I make sure there are a couple good heavy magazines on hand in the bathroom for dropping onto unsuspecting crickets from above. (It's the only way to get them, from above, because they have amazing reflexes.) In a few weeks we'll check the basement and replace all the boxes, which by then will be completely empty. (It seems they party pretty well down there.) And so it goes, every year, over thirty in this house now. It's just part of the annual fall routine.

I'm sure Beatrix Potter is rolling in her grave to hear this, but I hate the little creatures that live among us.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The film festival

Last weekend was the annual Hamptons Film Festival. The first thing I detest about this event is the name - I dislike the term "Hamptons" and nearly anything with that term attached to it starts off on the wrong foot for me. I don't know what exactly "The Hamptons" is, it's certainly not a place on the map and to lump all our wonderful little communities together under that umbrella does none of them justice. It implies they're all pretty homogeneous, which couldn't be farther from the truth. They are, in fact, as unique and special as the ornaments on a Christmas tree. All you need to do is show me a photo of any one of our little hamlets or villages on the East End and I can tell you which one it is with very little trouble at all.

Beyond the name, I have to honestly say I've never been to an event that's part of the Hamptons Film Festival. I'm not a fan of crowds and we rarely go to the movies between June and October for just that reason. If we do venture to the cinema it's for a late afternoon show, after a film has been in town for at least a week, when there are never more than a dozen people there. In general, I don't like jockeying for position, or standing in line, and I really don't like being jostled by people anxious to get ahead of me. So, the film festival is not my "thing" at all.

I'll admit to some amusement at the crowds that come here for it though. You can spot the out-of-towners a mile away because they're dressed all in black and have huge IDs hanging around their necks like hospital employees or other workers in secure facilities. They tend to roam around in packs and when walk down Main Street like large black blobs moving down the sidewalk. The crowds lining up at the theater and other venues all week-end made me happy to be driving by and not standing with them. I'm hopelessly "small-town" and not the least bit excited about celebrities, so mostly I ignore it all.

By today they'll be gone and once again East Hampton will revert to itself. No longer will we be part of "The Hamptons" for at least another seven months, but have become again the small town place that we love, where we'll happily live out the winter months in peace and tranquility while the more metropolitan crowd will wonder what in the world we do out here all winter long...

Monday, October 12, 2009

The weekend


This has been a gorgeous holiday weekend here on the East End. Oh, there was a brief shower at one point and it was a bit windy at another, but all in all, this is the time of year I live for and Columbus Day weekend has always been one of my favorites. I have no desire to be anywhere else.

I didn't accomplish as much as I'd hoped to on Saturday for various reasons. I had a board meeting to attend for one of my favorite non-profits, the East Hampton Historical Society, and that took up most of the morning. I managed to do a few things around the house in the afternoon but then by 4:30 we were heading to Southampton to volunteer at a fund raising event at the hospital. Sunday I attended another board meeting, this time for the East Hampton Healthcare Foundation, and from there went directly to church. But after church we drove over to Sag Harbor where we had lunch at my sister's house and I was able to catch up with the family which I always enjoy. It was quite sunny - and warm enough to sit out on her deck and chat and we spent most of the afternoon there with neices and grand-nephews, sisters and brothers, etc. A nice way to wile away the hours.

And today is a bonus day - A holiday when my husband is home and we can do things around the house, maybe eat a meal out, and just enjoy each other's company another day before he heads back to his office on Tuesday. The weather is so great this time of year and everyone is in such a friendly, optimistic state-of-mind (compared to a few weeks ago in the summer!) that there's very little for anyone to complain about. Even the unusual crowds from the holiday weekend's tourists, and the always annoying film festival events, could not dampen my spirits.

Life is good in East Hampton in October. If you don't love it here now you may as well go someplace else because this is about as good as it gets...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Free time

I am enjoying all my freedom these days since my chemo and doctor's appointments have ended. Not that I won't ever go back to the doctor, but the visits are more sporadic now and I'm not looking at weekly trips back and forth to Southampton, which is what it was like for so many months. Some weeks I made two or three trips. Now I'm feeling as though I've been let out of school for the summer and its so sweet.

I'm finally able to look at the empty calendar and think about projects and plans. I can actually imagine myself tackling something new and exciting and having the time to fit a new challenge in to my schedule between work and family. Isn't it amazing how little we appreciate things until they are taken away from us and then when we get them back they're like an precious gift - like a glass of water for someone who's been in the dessert. Sometimes we just need to take a step back and see all that we have and stop allowing the minor issues in our lives drive our moods and set our tone.

There are so many cliches about smelling the roses and making lemonade and just generally seeing life for the gift that it is and for the most part they're all true. The problem is they were written by people who, like me, have walked to the brink of the chasm and looked over and suddenly realize how great it is just to stand on the precipice and enjoy the view instead of wanting something different. And I think until you stand on that edge you just don't really get it. It reminds me of a story in the Bible where a man begs God to allow him to return to earth to tell his loved ones what's on the other side. God says it would do no good because he's already sent prophets and wise men to tell them and they don't listen to them so they most likely won't listen to him either. How true!

I wish for all the people I love to have the sense of wonder and joy at every day life that I have, but without having to go through what I did to get it. I've always been the type of person who realized life was precious and tried hard to enjoy every moment of it and still I feel as though I'm seeing it all with fresh eyes. Why does it take such trauma to open them?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Christmas shopping

I started to organize my Christmas gifts this week. For a while now I've been picking things up and getting names crossed off my list, but instead of organizing as I went along I simply piled boxes in my bedroom and now I have a large pile of boxes - but no idea what's in them. This is my most dis-organized Christmas ever.

I have a large family - four children, six grandchildren, and extended family as well so there are many gifts to buy. I enjoy shopping for the people I love so I don't mind it at all, but it does take some careful planning. My normal method is to buy gifts throughout the year, write them in a book so I know what I have, and then in October I check off what I have, go purchase what I still need, and start wrapping. I finally got around to the sorting and wrapping this week and had not kept a list at all so there were surprises and delights as I sifted through the pile. I actually had done more than I remembered. But this time I have no book for the list (can't find it!) so I made notes and sat at the computer to put everything down in some sort of order.

So - I would say I'm more than half done, but I still have about a dozen gifts to buy. Mostly they are of the small, token variety, like to our friends in Norway. She -my Norwegian friend - gets hers in the mail to me so early that they arrive before Thanksgiving. I've never been able to manage that feat. But I should be able to find something lightweight and easy to mail so I don't need to pay extravagant postage fees.

I love Christmas and gift-giving is one of the joys. But only if I'm organized. It could quickly turn into a horror if I'm not careful. After the year I've had I'm giving myself a little leeway, but hopefully by Thanksgiving I'll be wrapped and ready. At least this week I got moving on the task. And now I feel better...

Friday, October 9, 2009

More birthdays


Another birthday in my family today. With twelve months in the year you'd think the six of us in my family could have spread ourselves out a bit more, but no - my husband and daughter both have birthdays the same week in October and my son and I share the same week in March. Bad planning on our part I think.

It only gets worse as the kids marry and have children. Now we have three in March, three in May, and the two in October. Soon there will be a fourth in March, unless nature intervenes and presents us with our new grandchild at the end of February instead. My calendar is becoming my lifeline in terms of remembering every one's special day, but the older I get, and the more of them there are, the more difficult it is to keep things straight.

I've always loved birthdays and like to make a big deal out of them for the people I care about. That was easy when they were little because from the time they woke in the morning until they closed their eyes at night, their days were all about them. Their favorite meals, their favorite cakes, the much coveted things they received for gifts - everything worked together to make them know they were loved. Now with everyone spread around and all with their own lives, it's a bit more complicated than that. I can't even figure out what to give them for gifts anymore because they pretty much get what they want for themselves. And my husband - well he's a whole issue unto himself! What do you get the man who has everything (i.e. me)?

Some years you just can't seem to get inspired for a gift. Birthdays may be more complicated than they used to be - just as Christmas is - but its still a great time to let people know how much we care about them. So happy birthday sweetie - I love you so much!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Re-purposed


I love the term "re-purposed" which seems to have slipped into our vocabulary of late. I hear it on all the HGTV design shows and love seeing how people take objects meant for one thing and make them work for another. It's a great term and a great way to recycle in this age of being "green".

So I've recently been able to re-purpose a nice piece of furniture. We bought it back when my husband was part-owner of a furniture store so we were able to buy this beautiful hutch, or breakfront, of whatever you want to call it. The bottom has three drawers and two cabinets and the top is glass-fronted with shelves inside. It was perfect in the dining room of the apartment we were in at the time and we assumed we would be there for years because it was spacious and affordable. Little did we know an opportunity would come up that we couldn't turn down and we'd soon be moving into the house we own, or we never would have invested in this piece because there is not a wall large enough to hold it in this house. We offered it to my grandmother who had room for it and had admired it and she gladly took it at the time. When she died my sister took it and I was glad to see it used by someone in the family because it is really lovely.

Well...my sister recently renovated and was looking for a new home for this piece and I bemoaned the fact that I had no space for it. But a few weeks ago the church knitting group was talking about the need for a place to store all the shawls we make while they are waiting to be distributed, as well as the bins of yarn and pattern books we have. Eureka! I called my sister and she was glad to give us the breakfront so my husband and I went and rescued it from the shed where it was sitting and are in the process now of polishing and cleaning it up to go into the building at church where it will be beautifully displayed, the shelves stacked with colorful knitting shawls and the drawers stuffed with yarn, ready to be put to good use.

It feels as though its come full circle, but really, its all about re-purposing and I'm so happy that it worked out this way.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rainy Saturdays

Last Saturday we woke to pouring rain. I actually like the rain - I find it soothing and peaceful and I appreciate what it does for my flowers and bushes. But I'm not a big fan of rain on Saturdays.

Our Saturdays are made up mostly of chores around the house. Quite often we spend the first couple hours going to yard sales, if there should be anything interesting advertised in the papers that week. But we're early risers and only hit the first ones - any that don't start until 10am are immediately eliminated because by that hour we're busy working around the house: cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming floors, making trips to the dump, and everything else that happens on Saturdays when my husband is not at work. Sundays are church and family days so Saturdays are the only chance we have to get things done.

Last Saturday, as usual, we had a long list of things needing to be done around the house and for the most part they were outdoor chores. Typical of October we still had our end-of-summer rituals to complete, such as stacking and covering outdoor furniture, cutting down the ornamental grasses, pruning back some and planting other bushes, and clearing the deck for the snow that will come. Soon we'll get out the snow blower lest we wait too long to bring it from the shed and have it handy when it's needed!

But the weather man had other ideas and when I woke at my usual 6:15 it was dark as night in my bedroom and I could hear the soothing sounds of the rain outside. So I pulled the covers up over my head and went back to sleep. By 7:45 when my normally "up-at-dawn" husband still had not budged, I pulled myself out of bed and got dressed to face the dark day. By 10am I still hadn't accomplished much besides reading the newspaper and eating a bowl of granola, so I decided it was time for a project. All in all it was a pretty non-productive day, although I did get some knitting done.

Turns out it was the perfect day for catching up on all the TV shows I'd recorded when I was out of town....

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Comfort food

The days have become cool enough now that I don't mind getting back into the kitchen every so often. There are some things I only make in the cooler months and that started last week when I made a pot of chili for dinner. I don't make dinner much anymore so this was a big deal! But the air was crisp, the house was chilly, and something was just compelling me to get into the kitchen and make chili.

My other winter favorites are soup, pot roast, and macaroni and cheese. It seems that by October I'm pretty weary of hamburgers and hot dogs, potato salad and baked beans and I don't really care if I have more of that until next May, when once again the weather warms up and without a doubt I'll be craving them. But right now its all about the baked goods and the stews and soups as we begin to gravitate towards our fireplaces and pull out those nice warm throws to drape over the backs of all our chairs and sofas.

When we were newly married we had an energy crisis. People my age will remember the days when we had to line up for gasoline depending on the last digit of our licence plates: odd numbers on odd days and even numbers on even days. And we literally sat in line for get it, sometimes for a long time. We had a baby at home so my husband would get up early and get to the gas station by 6:15 just so he could get to work on time. Well, during those days of conservation awareness and high fuel prices we began the habit of turning our heat off the first of April and leaving it off until the first of November. Its a habit we still try to keep, (although the older we get the harder it is!) So I have a drawer full of heavy wool sweaters and a blanket chest full of nice warm throws to get us through the ever colder days of October.

Somehow, as we navigate the change in season and adjust to the colder days of winter, that comfort food is just the thing we need. Not only does it feel good going down, but it keeps me moving around while I make it, which is good for the circulation and staying warm. Dual purpose foods - for body and soul. I see lots of pot roast in my future...

Monday, October 5, 2009

My husband

Today is my husband's birthday. I tease him because he's older than I - by all of five months - but in those five months I can enjoy the fact that he's hit a milestone before I have. We've known each other since we were children, although he was in a grade higher than I so we never shared classrooms. We were aware of each other I should say. We didn't socialize or spend time together, but East Hampton is a small town so we pretty much knew everyone around us in school. Throughout high school I considered him funny but not the least bit of interest to me - a bit of a clown who didn't take life quite as seriously as I did and wasn't worth a second look. (I don't even want to know what he thought of me but words like "uptight", "goody two shoes" and "prudish" come to mind as possibilities.)

It wasn't until a couple years after high school that we became re-acquainted when we were both in East Hampton - where few our age were at the time. Those of us who were here found each other pretty quickly and week-end plans were spread through the grapevine easily, as they still are today among the single twenty-somethings that are around. Before long we discovered that there were things we actually liked about each other and learned to appreciate each other's attributes as we hadn't before.

He was twenty-three when we were married - I was twenty-two. Mere babies, really. Yet old enough to know we were meant to spend the rest of our lives together. I'm grateful beyond measure for thirty-five years of marriage with him. He's been an amazing father and a steady presence in my life. I sometimes wonder what I would have done without him.

I always hesitate to say too much about the state of my marriage publicly. Call it the "Kathy Lee Gifford syndrome" and women everywhere will understand that. But since today's his birthday and I really have nothing especially exciting to give him as a gift I decided to tell the world that I think he's the best. And I've been blessed to have him in my life.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Grandparenting

Here's the best part about being a grandparent: I'm not in charge. Here's the worst part about being a grandparent: I'm not in charge. Life is so funny, isn't it? The things we love are the things we hate. The things that attracted us to our spouses can drive us crazy later on. The job we loved when we took it can become drudgery in a short time. Humans are fickle creatures!

Everything they say about being a grandparent is true and I love it. I think it's the greatest joy of my life. It's wonderful not to be in charge of their discipline, not to worry about their manners, not to stress about buying clothes or whether their shoes still fit. It's great not to be totally in charge of these delicious little creatures.

On the other hand, its hard not to be on the front lines when something goes wrong! Too many grandparents have gotten themselves in trouble by being "overly concerned" about the details of their lives but its not easy to sit back and watch someone else take charge of their well-being when you love them so much! We're so used to being the ones to decide when our darling children should go to the doctor or emergency room, or get a haircut, or learn to ride a bike. Getting a phone call that says "I'm on the way to the hospital with (fill in the blank with a grandchild's name)" is stressful beyond measure! Because we want to be there too! We want to hear what the doctor says, comfort the distressed child, do all the parenting things we learned to do and want to do because we love them so much.

Being a grandparent is more about learning to sit back and watch than anything else. When they want us involved they'll ask. Otherwise we need to stay out. But oh that is so hard. Luckily for me I trust my children with my grand kids. I don't know what I'd do if I thought they weren't totally competent! But even so, sometimes I just want to take charge. Because...that's the way we are.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The moon


I've had a love affair going with the moon for a very long time. I think I've always been fascinated with it, from the time I was quite young. I clearly remember my grandfather telling me once that if I looked very closely I could see the face of the man in the moon, and I think I was probably only five or six at the time. For years I studied that moon every time it was full, searching for the features that I assumed were there - sometimes I could actually make them out!

As an adult I get giddy when I see a full moon. There's something quite compelling about that bright, beautiful circle that emits such ethereal light over the earth. There's a "glow" about it that fascinates me. Oh, I understand the science behind it, how it's merely reflecting the sun's light back to us, but that means nothing when I'm staring up at it on a clear crisp night.

One night when I was staying at my daughter's house I turned in for the night with the window next to my bed wide open. I found myself unable to take my glasses off and lay them on the bedside table because there was a glorious full moon staring back at me through that window. Her house is on a bit of a rise and the land slopes off away from it. Because she's in a fairly new development there are few mature trees on the landscape and the moon was illuminating the ground with an amazing amount of light. It was mesmerizing. I probably lay there ten minutes staring at it before I finally placed my glasses on the table, turned away from the window and went to sleep. I can still see that scene in my mind - along with dozens of others when the moon rose over the ocean while we sat around a fire on the beach. And there's one night I've never forgotten, when I was on an ambulance call about 3am and the moon was so awesome that we stood outside the ER and just stared at it for a few minutes before we piled back into the ambulance to head back to Bonac.

Yes, I love the moon. And it does strange things to me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Adult children

It's so nice to be able to appreciate our children as adults. For so many years I felt so much responsibility for the things they said and did and for their well-being and happiness. Finally, I can honestly say that all my children are grown and independent and they honestly don't need me anymore. It's a wonderful, although a bit melancholy, feeling.

After spending a week in Pennsylvania with my daughter I've been reflecting on how nice it is to be able to sit back and just be her friend. We shopped, we talked, we knit, we talked, we laughed, we talked - we had hours to be together and enjoy each other's company. I can honestly say in all that time it never once occurred to me to try to change her mind about something or convince her to do something another way, outside the realm of normal adult friendship. It was as though my job was done and I could just relax and enjoy her for the wonderful person she is. The day we got home we took my son and his wife to dinner and again, just enjoyed the adult conversation, feeling no compunction whatsoever to correct any one's English or question a decision - I don't even know if my son put his napkin on his lap or not and truthfully I don't care. Now that is amazing! When you spend over twenty years scrutinizing your children's actions it can be said that the ability not to even notice them is beyond belief! (That's not to say I never fall into the parenting role, but after all these years it would be impossible not to - at least once in awhile!)

I could relay similar stories about my other two children because they are equally mature and adult and I find I'm falling in love with all four of them all over again. No longer am I entranced by their tiny, perfect little faces - or proud of their proper manners or school grades. Because no longer are they an extension of me. Now I love them for the adults they've become and I can barely believe that they turned out as well as they did, considering who their parents were....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October

Today is the first day of one of my favorite months of the year. I love the climate, the colors, and the activities of October, from high school football games to pumpkins and gourds decorating houses, to the beautiful leaves that set the sky on fire - its a month of rich and wonderful treasures for the eyes and the soul. I love October.

I especially like the fact that I no longer have to think about Halloween costumes. I have to say, Halloween is one of my least favorite days of the year. When I was young I loved dressing up and doing the whole trick-or-treat thing but after raising four children and having to come up with new costumes every year I'm so over it! We couldn't afford to buy costumes and thirty years ago the store-bought ones were pretty sad anyway so it was always on my shoulders to make things the kids would wear. I made red crayon costumes out of felt for my girls, turned two boxes into a pair of dice for my boys, and spent many hours agonizing over how to create whatever it was they wanted to be as they got old enough to make requests. My biggest dilemma was when my two boys wanted to be the "ghostbusters" characters from the movie - I could manage the outfits and made backpacks out of boxes so they looked pretty authentic, but one insisted on being "the black ghostbuster". How was I going to do that? I certainly didn't want to insult anyone and his request was sincere - but wouldn't "blackface" be considered a bit racist? Oh the things we do for our kids!

Thankfully, no more Halloween for me and I'm glad. So the only thing I regret about October is that it's over too soon. But today it's all still ahead of us and although time flies by way too quickly, there's plenty to look forward to.