Monday, November 30, 2009

Thirty-five

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

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

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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday aftermath

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Houseful


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

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

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

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

Friday, November 27, 2009

Exercise

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

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


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

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

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving


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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Development

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Family time

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

Company coming

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Girlfriends

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

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

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

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Renovations

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

Conversation

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

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

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

Conversation is becoming a lost art.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Passing

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Memories

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mom's birthday

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

Station wagons

Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned station wagon?

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

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

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

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stormy seas


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

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

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

Saturday, November 14, 2009

More leaves

I'm not sure why I'm so fascinated with the autumn leaves but I am so at this time of year I'm especially aware of what's going on in nature. Yesterday morning I was coming home from an early run to the grocery store when I noticed two things: first was a tree in front of my mother's house (right next door to me) whose leaves had all turned a beautiful shade of red, with the exception of a big patch of green right in the middle. On further investigation (as in stopping in my driveway to study it!) I discovered there was one huge branch that had not turned at all. The green patch was the leaves on that branch, just happy in their own little fantasy world, thinking it was still summer. Bizarre! I'm sure my scientist son will have a logical explanation for me, but how interesting, right?

The other tree that caught my eye is at the end of my driveway. On the entire left side it is bright orange. On the entire right side its more of a burnt orange color. Each side is distinctively different and give the tree the appearance of two photos which have been merged into one. Again, I have no doubt there is an explanation. In this case I think it has to do with the fact that on the right side the tree is right up against the cherry tree in my mother's yard, so it probably has to do with less sun or something. But it's an interesting effect and makes for one beautiful autumnal specimen. No doubt after this storm finally passes all the trees will be stripped pretty much bare. But its been a real spectacle while it lasted!

I love the way nature surprises us. I like the fact that as much as we may know, there are many things we simply cannot predict or expect will happen, because nature - or God if you will - has a sure mind of its own. And it loves to keep us guessing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Leaves

On Wednesday I met a friend for breakfast out at Poxabogue in Wainscott. We try to meet once in awhile because otherwise we'd never see each other. It takes work to maintain the fragile threads of friendship but really good friends are well worth the effort!

On my way back into the village I was struck by the sight of the fallen leaves flying around. It was our first windy day since they've started coming off the trees so I hadn't really noticed it before, but they were just whirling and diving all over the road and across the fields. It reminded me of the line from the famous Christmas poem, "The Night Before Christmas":

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky

That's a perfect description of what happens when the wind swirls around and picks them up, throwing them in every direction, including straight up. And they rattle and scratch at the sidewalks and roads creating a cacophony of sound when you're walking nearby.

Our weather has been really perfect this fall - until yesterday and today with the remnants of a hurricane bearing down on us. By perfect I don't mean warmer than usual, I mean perfectly suited to the season. Each day reminds me that it's autumn and I love that. Wednesday morning was exactly that - a reminder that the autumn is fleeting and winter is coming. And the leaves are nearly gone.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veteran's Day

Yesterday was Veteran's Day and I'm afraid it doesn't hold quite the place of honor in our minds that it should anymore. It's the easiest holiday to remember because its always the same: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Congress hasn't dared to change it as they have so many (for the convenience of a long weekend). And yet, we seem to ignore it pretty much.

Veteran's Day has become a day for shopping and sales and not much else. There are no big parades and no special honors for the veterans, who in my mind get the short end of the stick in many ways. I'll never understand, for instance, why they have to travel long distances to go to a special hospital - they should be able to walk into any medical facility in the world and get the best treatment available when they need it. What a crazy system! Shouldn't they be treated as well as our indigent or elderly populations and have the same benefits as medicare and medicaid offer? Yet we make them travel over an hour to get to a hospital in Northport to received the kind of care they need. Shameful, that's what I think.

Even beyond the simple issue of free health care is that of other special privilege. I think they should have ID cards that get them discounts in stores, free entry into national museums and parks, and many other perks that they've earned with their service.

So here they are, these men and women who've put their lives on the line for us and given us years of service, and we can't even manage to stop what we're doing at 11:00 every year on November 11th and pay a little respect to them. What is the world???

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More yard sales

I found such a great item at a yard sale last weekend I have to share! When we had the house re-shingled a couple weeks ago all the collected pieces of "stuff" (flower pots, driftwood, hoses, buckets, JUNK, etc) were moved away from the back deck to get to the house. When it was done and we saw how nice the house looked without its "decor" we decided to try to re-organize our deck and de-clutter it. This is not easy because we don't have a garage or usable basement so there's no place to store things like garden hoses. But with some careful planning we can make it better than it was.

On Friday we went to check out a yard sale that began in the late afternoon and was going to last through Saturday. There were a number of nice items I resisted, but one called to us both: an outdoor high back bench made of heavy wood construction with a nice design. It was marked $100. It would need a coat of paint and was more than we were willing to spend so we walked away. Then Saturday morning I went back. I checked it out again because it was still there and again knew it was something we could use so I sought out the person running the sale. I asked if she would take my name in case it didn't sell because I was interested in it for a lower price. She went to get a piece of paper to write on and when I started writing she said "What would you be willing to pay?" and I gave her my price - slightly more than I wanted to spend but way less than the asking price. "Oh, just take it!" she said and I did. Not right away of course, I had to go home to send my husband and son for it because it was too heavy and awkward for me to manage even though I had the pick-up truck.

So now we have a beautiful piece of furniture for the back entrance that will fit perfectly in the space and be a huge improvement over the garden hose and buckets. This spring it will get a nice new coat of paint and a new (not so faded) cushion and - voila! - I'll have a nice spot to park myself when waiting to be picked up for a ride when the weather is nice. We're just getting so gentrified here I can hardly stand us...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The telephone

Since November is the month my mother was born I find myself thinking a lot about her lately. Today I was reminded of all the letters we found when we cleaned out her house.

Back in the 1950s - when Mom was a young wife with babies and toddlers everywhere - she must have missed her mother terribly. I can't even imagine what it was like for her to get married and move over ten hours away by car, which was really the only practical mode of transportation in those day. Airplanes were for the rich, not the common man. Mom's family was in Buffalo and you can't get much further from Long Island and still be in the same state.

So here she was, a long, long way from home, and who does she have to ask questions about childrearing and housekeeping? I can't tell you how many times I picked up the phone when I was a newlywed and asked my mother questions about fevers and diaper rash, or pot roasts and baked potatos. It was pretty much a daily occurance. Sometimes I didn't need anything other than a daily chat with my mom just for reassurance and familiarity.

The same is true today as I speak to both my daughters nearly every day. It makes me feel better to hear that they're OK and their kids are OK and just know what's happening in their lives. (My sons are a different matter, but thus the nature of the beast!) Long distance telephone calls weren't always so accessible - I remember when they were expensive and complicted. It cost a lot of money and took an intermediary operator to make one. So what we found in her house were hand written letters that went back and forth between my mother and her mother and sister in Buffalo.

Sometimes I think we've lost something in the nearly non-existant habit of letter-writing. After all, there's nothing like the written word that can be read and re-read. All I have to do is look at my pile of "Get Well" and "Thinking of You" cards on the mantel, collected over this past year, to know the truth of that. I can't bring myself to throw them out anymore than my mother could bring herself to throw out the connection she had to her mother all those years ago. But nothing can compare to a real conversation either, even one as simple as "Hi, how are you" with someone you love.

Today I'm thanking my lucky stars for the modern telephone and the fact that it's become so cheap and easy to hear someone special's voice that we can, whenever we want to. And I'm thinking about my mother and what a strong, special woman she was.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Friends of old


Every month brings to mind birthdays and I always think about friends from my past on the months of their births. November reminds me of an old school friend that I haven't seen in years but I still remember her birthday - so in November I think about her. And then there's another friend who was in my life for many years but then moved to another state and her birthday is today. So I think of her too. My mother's birthday was also in November so all the bitter sweet memories of her come flooding back when the calendar changes every year. It's only been three years since she died so great sadness is sometimes right below the surface.

Isn't it interesting how people enter our lives along the way and leave their own, distinctive and indelible marks? Of course there are those whose names we can't even remember, but others become part of our history so thoroughly that they can never be forgotten. I've referred to life before as a tapestry with so many threads woven in and out, representing the people we've known. Some are strong colors, some create gold and silver accents, others become the most beautiful scenes as their lives intertwine with ours. And yet each is an important part of the whole, even the supporting threads which disappear into the mass.

Sometimes I wonder where certain old friends are now. Those that were most important I've tried to stay in contact with, but some just drift away over the years, never to be heard from again. Life is a strange and interesting journey and we are all so connected that when one part vanishes it leaves a hole. But even the holes are history and history is what we are about, whether we're making it or recalling it...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Last gasp

Many of the leaves of summer are hanging on for dear life to the trees of autumn and all signs point to winter's soon arrival, but I am really loving this weather. Maybe it's because summer was especially difficult for me this year with the heat and the wigs and all, but these cool mornings are so invigorating, and we still aren't turning on the heat here at our house. At night when we sit in the living room to watch TV we flip on the gas fireplace, which blows heat into the room, and it warms the downstairs enough to make it comfortable and cozy. It's divine.

Some how the last gasp of every season seems to be the sweetest, except when it comes to the winter. We love the lingering warmth of summer days in September and the beautiful temperate days of spring in July, and there's nothing quite as enjoyable as a December day when you can leave the house in nothing more than a nice wool sweater and a pair of leather gloves. But snow in March is an exception and at that point we are beyond enjoying the process of shoveling and blowing to get out of our driveways!

The long nights and cold days of winter are coming but autumn is far from over yet. Each glorious day is brimming with sunshine and my oddly collected mix of sweatshirts and sweaters is at the ready, able to be grabbed at a moment's notice for a trip to the grocery store or a walk along the beach. It's a wonderful time to live in East Hampton and I'm enjoying it immensely.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Swan song

This past week was one of really beautiful weather and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Among the pleasures of the week was watching the swans in Town Pond, which leads me to feel I should enlighten everyone as to what I understand is the true story of what's happened to the swan family. Many people have asked me about the "missing" swan and now that it appears to have returned they're a bit bewildered. So here's what I've been told by the people who should know:

The swan pair that's inhabited Town Pond these past few years was once again enjoying their late-summer, nearly empty-nest time as their offspring were quickly losing their gray feathers and becoming the white beauties of adulthood. But disaster stuck overnight in early September and a crew from the Village Highway Department had to fish the body of the adult female out as she had fallen victim to some predator and succumbed to her injuries. Thus the male was left alone for quite a few weeks. Then, since he had one female offspring who had reached adulthood, he drove his male offspring from the pond and now is happily swimming around with his new mate, his daughter.

Now I'm sure that many readers will find this a bit unsettling but this is East Hampton after all and we are, if nothing else, tolerant of all lifestyles and choices here. So I feel confident that this new pair will be embraced with the same affection as the other had been and despite the shadow of incest and betrayal (which apparently does not exist in the swan world) they'll be welcomed by the community. Just as with all celebrities, we'll embrace them despite their history and peccadillo's. After all, the pond needs swans...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Let there be light

Since my daughter and I head to the gym at 6am every day, this past week has been a real blessing with the time change. It's actually light when we come home and I no longer feel as though its the middle of the night. What a treat!

There's something quite strange about the way daylight and darkness effect our moods and our emotions. No doubt the whole vampire legend plays into those emotions, making the daylight a terror for the powers of darkness. But it truly is a bit unsettling leaving the house in the dark. Its the most difficult part of answering ambulance calls at 3am - I feel a vulnerable and anxious when I open my back door and step into an inky black night. What's out there waiting for me? So much nicer to be able to see what's just outside the range of the artificial lights we attempt to tame the night with!

Anyway, it's nice and bright now by 6:30am and it feels like time to start the day. I'm a creature of the light and once that sun is up so am I, so I'm much happier now. Perhaps the vampires of the world are suddenly scrambling to get back into their coffins by 6am but me, I'm starting the day with the treadmill and arc trainer. An unpleasant task made more tolerable by the sun peeking over the trees. Thank goodness for daylight savings time...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fall classic

Am I the only one who's disgusted with major league baseball?

First of all, this World Series in November business is ridiculous. Seriously, football is one thing but baseball in November? Really! Baseball is not to be played when its so cold out you can see your breath.

Secondly, what's with the time of these games? Am I the only one who longs for nice afternoon games, like when we were kids and everyone gathered around their little transistor radios in school to hear the score, including the teachers? I think they're losing an entire generation of kids because they can't stay up late enough to see the games. I can't stay up late enough to see the games! And I'm not THAT old yet! But by 10pm my eyes are getting pretty heavy and when I fall asleep only to wake to the roar of the crowd its frustrating to say the least.

I hate to sound like an old woman, but I think we've lost something here. I don't care how much more money they'll make in prime time - when there are no longer people in the stands what then? Baseball used to be the ultimate family sport, where everyone went to the park and cheered for their favorite team. In high schools all across the country they're bemoaning the fact that lacrosse and soccer have taken some of the best talent from the baseball fields. But when every game of the World Series starts at 8:00 at night I think major league baseball is the one to blame for our youth moving on to other sports.

How sad that money truly does rule the world.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November


November is such a great month. Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, it's the month I got married, and its the month my mother was born. And its a beautiful month of weather here in East Hampton. The trees are getting barer now but the weather is still spectacular and the election is over (thankfully!) so this week promises to be a good one. The work on the outside of the house is nearly done and the interior painting has begun. I think things are moving along nicely in my life and hopefully when 2009 closes out there will be nothing but good things to look forward to in 2010.

I usually begin planning for Thanksgiving pretty early because its a huge week. I have lots of baking supplies to buy because I'll begin my Christmas cookies and start filling the freezer with them. I'm thinking a trip to BJs is in my near future. Some family will gather here so I have rooms to prepare and food to plan for the big day as well as for the rest of that week. I want to finish up my Christmas shopping and get things wrapped so that's off my mind. And I want to come up with some nice way to celebrate my 35 years of marriage to a wonderful man. I have plenty to keep myself busy with this month!

I love November. And East Hampton is never any better than it is right now, with the light so pretty and the air so crisp. Life is good in East Hampton and we who live here know it. That's why when our summer visitors wonder what we do all winter long we look at them with a straight face and say "Nothing - it's SO boring here in the winter" - and we hope that keeps them all away...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Painting

Saturday I was working at my computer listening to my husband prepare a bedroom floor right over my head for paint. It got me thinking about all the painting we've done in our 35 years together and I think we deserve some award for surviving it as a couple. Working together is not easy but we've managed to do it and not let it destroy our marriage in the process. However, notice I was downstairs at the computer while he was working upstairs...perhaps we've learned to work together by being apart.

Painting together began before we were married. We were planning to rent the tiny house in Amagansett that my husband's grandparents had owned and which his mother and uncle had inherited. The tenants who had moved out had painted every room in that little place a different color, ranging from lavender to yellow, and I was overwhelmed with it. So the first thing we did was paint everything white: two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, and kitchen - all white. They were small rooms so it wasn't an overwhelming job and of course we were excited about moving in to our first place together so it was fun. Only the itsy-bitsy bathroom got some color - an orange and green plaid wallpaper if I remember correctly. (It was the early '70s, mind you!)

From that house we moved to a roomier apartment which we again painted completely. Mostly white and off-white I think. I was too harried with one toddler and another baby on the way to give too much thought to color and decorating. We were in that apartment for two years and it was one of my favorite places we've lived. I remember those years as some of our best. We were a small family, full of the promise of the future. The rooms were much larger than the ones in this house and I loved it there. But it was an upstairs apartment, which wasn't easy with little ones who wanted to play outside, or when coming home with groceries, a baby, and a toddler -and we wanted to own something - so when the opportunity arose we bought our present house.

Again, it needed work. This time we didn't do much before we moved in, but began a slow process of renovations that have taken us up to the present day. The bedrooms have each been painted at least three times in the past thirty years - some more. Downstairs I can think of four colors the living room has been and the bathroom at least that many, although we wallpapered a few times in there too.

All in all I'm tired of painting. Hearing my husband scraping and sanding the bedroom floor for a coat of paint brought back many memories - especially of the pre-latex years when the smell of that oil based paint would just about drive us out of the house for days at a time. The process has gotten easier - no more turpentine to clean brushes with - but its still hard work. And I'm just wondering: when do we get to retire?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Point of view

I've done a great deal of complaining about medical procedures and doctors' offices and such things in the past year so I feel as though I need to make it up to my wonderful doctors and talk about what I appreciate about them!

Last week I had two encounters with the medical maze (as I call it). First I went for my annual check-up. I was taken in promptly, didn't have to wait long for the doctor to arrive, and had a really nice visit with her as she gave me the once-over. I have to say I do love all my doctors and I'm grateful that we have so many wonderful choices in that profession now. It was not always so out here on the East End! But now I can go elsewhere if I please - which I don't. I enjoy seeing my doctors and consider them all friends now. With no complications for that visit it was a real home run.

At the end of the week I had to check in at the hospital for a minor medical procedure. I was asked to arrive at 7:45 which I did, husband in tow. We were taken to a room and I changed into my favorite clothing, the dreaded "hospital gown" (I saw the tag on the gown and it said it was made in Viet Nam. Perhaps that explains a lot). An IV was established, my interview was completed and it was now 8:15. And we waited. We watched television: Good Morning America, Regis and Kelly, Rachel Ray....it was a long wait. Apparently there were complications on the surgery ahead of mine so the doctor was also waiting patiently. Somehow, it didn't bother me quite as much this time to be sitting around because there was no anxiety associated with this procedure and my stress level was very low. (Note to hospital staff: patients need to be checked on occasionally when they are waiting for hours at a time! In a high stress situation I might have jumped out of a window after the second hour....)

Finally about 11:00 they came to wheel me into the OR holding area and there I waited only about fifteen minutes before moving from pre-op to OR. The procedure went smoothly and in no time at all I was out and ready to go home. If I could have I would have jumped off the table when they wheeled me out, but they make that difficult. So I waited patiently to be checked over in recovery before being wheeled back to my room where I did jump off the bed and run into the bathroom to get into my clothes. We were heading home a little after noon.

So that means it took me over four hours to have that 20 minute procedure done. But you know what? I was OK with that! Because as long as I knew there was someone ahead of me who was in trouble and needed extra care I could deal with it. The more information the patient receives the better. Maybe that's the lesson for this trip - keep the patient well informed and they'll be much less likely to mutiny!

I also realized on this visit that I'm beginning to know quite a bit of the staff in that part of the hospital by name. It truly has been a long year....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Jack-o-lanterns

I hate to sound old but it seems as though things were so much simpler years ago. I remember my grandmother and mother saying the same thing so I can't imagine what life will be like for my grand kids in another fifty years!

I seem to think that Halloween was much easier and simpler when I was a child. We spent about a week ahead of time thinking about how we would put a costume together. We thought about the clothes and props we had around the house and tried to come up with something we could make - with a little help from Mom - that would be a great costume.

The only other part of Halloween that took any effort was making the jack-o-lanterns and that was great fun. Mom usually came home with pumpkins - I don't remember ever going to pick them out the way kids do today. We would come home from school a couple days before and they'd be sitting on the porch, which was very exciting. Then on the morning of Halloween - or the night before if it were during the week - Mom would cover the kitchen counter with newspaper and haul the four pumpkins up for cleaning. She'd cut the tops off, scoop them out, and let us create faces on them with markers of pens. When we were old enough we'd cut them ourselves but for many years she did all the carving. I don't remember my father ever participating.

I can still see her going into the cupboard to find some old candle stubs to use inside them and then struggle to get them to stand up inside. She would never have gone out and bought new votive for such a thing when there were perfectly good used candles to use!

Yes, Halloween was simpler then. As was most every holiday and event. Somehow it was more fun than all the craziness that goes on now with costume parties and elaborate costumes. Even jack-o-lanterns have gone hi-tech. Somewhere along the way we've lost the simple pleasures. It used to be a kid holiday but it seems to have been hijacked by adults more recently. Boy do I sound like my grandmother...