Sunday, January 31, 2010

Phones

When I wrote about the stores on Main Street a week or so ago someone made the comment "What's a pay phone?" (of course they knew - it was sarcasm!) and it made me think more about phones. I remember when we were kids and my parents - everyone's parents - had a heavy, black dial phone. If you were lucky you had two in your house: one upstairs and one downstairs. Some people even had party lines which they shared with others and they had to be careful what they talked about because it wasn't only the operator that could be listening in on the other end!

When I was about ten my grandmother suddenly possessed the most beautiful, exotic phone I could ever imagine: the pink princess phone! I wanted one so badly...but of course my parents were much too frugal for that so we would never own anything other than a basic black model. But I coveted that phone and whenever I visited her I found some excuse to call home so I could use it. It was a phenomenon in the 1960s - just check out any movie from that era and you're bound to see at least one!

By the late 60s everyone had dial tone out in East Hampton and phones were becoming more streamlined and fashionable. I think my parents still had black, but many people had red ones or blue ones and offices often had phones that matched their color schemes like green or beige. It was a wonderful new world for the telephone! And one always made sure to have a dime on them when they left the house in case they needed to use a pay phone in an emergency!

And now there is the cell phone. I remember when we made the decision to take down the pay phones at the beaches because no one needed them anymore - everyone had a cell. I have one but I honestly rarely use it. When people ask me for the number I laugh - not only do I not know the number but it's so rarely on it's not worth anyone having. I use it for personal convenience when I'm away from home - if I need it I turn it on and use it. It holds a charge forever and I love having it but I find them obtrusive so often with people walking around talking to friends on the sidewalk or in a restaurant. I don't want to be that accessible.

I'm amazed at the range of available phones now, from ones which you can watch a TV show on to ones you can slip into a wallet. We've come a long way from the big early models like Maxwell Smart's shoe phone. But honestly, I think we've lost something along the way. Because nothing awes me any longer in terms of technology. It's almost expected that every year we'll see a new product that does bigger and better things than the old ones.

But they just don't have the same sense of wonder as that pink princess phone did back in the early 1960s. Not THAT was technology!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Home in Bonac

Yesterday was a long day of travel and today we'll be trying to settle back in to our normal routine. Being away for an entire week means plants to water and mail to sort and Saturdays are always cleaning days so we have our work cut out for us.

Sometimes its hard to come back to earth after a trip like that. All that time with family, with no stresss or responsibilites, well - its the best. With the possible exception of the long hours and the miles of walking involved in a trip to Disney World, it was a perfect vacation. (I was so exhausted every night when I got into bed I seriously thought I might never get out of bed the next morning. I told my husband that they could put "Death by Disney" on my tombstone. We laughed at the irony of the thought - being worn out by the "happiest place on earth". But it's true - there is so much to see and you want to squeeze everything you can into your time there! It can be overwhelming. But then again its equally overwhelming to come home! I'm not looking forward to the pile of laundry.)

But, we're home now, refreshed, rested, and happy to be here. Disney may be a wonderful fantasy world but when we turned the corner by Town Pond yesterday afternoon I realized that fantasy is just that, and while it's fun to visit, East Hampton is our reality. It's a good thing I love East Hampton! And my very own bed...

Friday, January 29, 2010

There's no place like home

Coming back from any trip always makes me feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, clicking my heels together and repeating "There's no place like home, there's no place like home" over and over again. Because there really is no place like home!

Having to use the airport on this trip reminded my of a handsome tour guide we had in Spain when I was in high school. He told us that in all of Madrid his favorite place was the airport. Because, he explained, when he was leaving for a trip he was excited to be there and when he was returning from a trip he was equally excited to be there. That stuck with me all these years because its so true. It's great to get away but its also great to get back home.

Today we're flying home. I am terrified of flying - so ridiculously implausible and all that. But I do it because I need to and in this case there was no choice. I'll be very happy when those wheels touch down and thrilled to death to see Islip MacArthur Airport. It surely is one of my favorite places on Long Island too!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Me again


I think I can honestly say I feel like "me" again. After a long year of doctor's appointments and hospital visits and medical tests, I've been longing to just be "normal", whatever that is, and not feel like a patient anymore. I'm finally there.

When I visited the hospital three weeks ago for my annual mammogram I found myself sitting in the waiting room feeling very comfortable and not at all anxious. What a pleasure that was. I overheard a woman and her husband talking to the receptionist and it was pretty clear to me that she was going through exactly what I went through just a year ago at this time. She was setting up appointments for biopsies and MRIs and she had a look on her face that made my stomach flutter with recognition. It was that look of uncertainty and concern for the "unknown". I wanted to jump up and run over to this woman and say "It's OK - we are stronger than we think and I got through it - you will too! Hang in there and keep the faith!". But I held back, knowing that I wasn't even supposed to know what they were talking about. I wanted so badly to give her a hug because I know how much I needed hugs. I wanted to give her advice because I know how much I needed advice. And I wanted to give her hope because I know how important hope was.

I've told everyone in the doctor's office and at the breast center of the hospital to freely give out my name and number to anyone who needs someone to talk to. I've been there and I can help them maneuver the system and keep their heads up. I hope they do.

But for me, I can honestly say that I'm not the same person I was a year ago. I'm stronger and healthier and I see the world in a new light. I'm feeling like "me" again, only better. It's a great feeling!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's up?

Its a wonderful thing to get away from home every so often and I love vacations. But I still think about home when I'm away and wonder how everything is going there. I hope our house is OK and the newspaper was stopped as I requested. I worry about the loved ones I left behind and wonder if they are all safe. (I hope they're checking the house as promised!)

East Hampton in the dead of winter is the best and worst of times. I love the quiet streets but I don't miss the dark skies and long nights. I love the friendly faces - I don't miss the shuttered spaces all around the village. Winter has its charms but by February we long for spring.

So I may be in sunny Florida, enjoying the pleasures of the azure sky and the golden glow. We've never needed a vacation any more than we did this year so this has been a godsend. I'm enjoying ever minute here with my family but will get back on a plane in a few days to get back to my reality. Because my reality is not such a bad thing at all!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Child's eyes

Being at Disney World with my grand kids allows me to discover it all over again through their eyes and its a wonderful thing. Daisy, who's seven-years-old, was four on our last visit and she is re-discovering the magic of this place. Tucker is five now but he was only one then and Lucy is only 3 so for the two of them this is all new and incredible.

I love the fantasy of this place and seeing it through their eyes just makes it all the more wonderful. They cry out in delight when they see a familiar character walking around greeting children and their faces light up when a princess passes by. It's as though every Disney movie suddenly comes to life and everywhere you look there are amazing things to see and hear.

This week will go way too fast. I wish my other grandchildren were here too - they would so love this place. Their grandmother certainly does.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Disney

When I was young I loved watching the Mickey Mouse Club on television. Darleen, Annette, Bobby, Cubby - they were friends and I looked forward to that show! The latest adventures of Spin and Marty, and the Hardy Boys search for those missing doubloons - well, I was enthralled by it all. I had my own Mousketeer ears with my name embroidered across the front, and in my dreams I wore the same pleated skirt and white sweater as those girls did. How lucky were they to have access to Disneyland? I watched them spin in those tea cups with such envy!

So when I was twenty and working as a Travel Agent I was thrilled with the opening of Disney World in Florida. No longer was it an impossible dream to visit the fantasy world of Walt Disney - it was within affordable distance! I couldn't wait to get there.

My first visit was with a friend and Disney World was in its first years of operation. We stayed at a hotel in the area and we took a shuttle to the park. I remember entering Disney property, driving under a huge sign that announced their property line, and then driving about ten minutes through the woods before coming to the only completed portion of the 27,000 acres that Disney had bought: Fantasyland. We spent two days there, exploring ever inch of the place and re-living our childhoods as wannabe Mouseketeers. It was great.

Since that first trip I've been back four times: three with my own children and once with my grandchildren. This trip is my sixth. And it never gets old. I've watched the progress through the years as the geniuses at Disney added Epcot, then MGM, and most recently the Animal Kingdom. And of course along the way there were hotels, shopping areas, lagoons, and even a real community - along with lots and lots of roadways covering that acreage. It's an amazing accomplishment and a gift to families everywhere.

I remember traveling in Spain when I was a senior in high school when I came upon a small statue of Mickey Mouse in a square in Madrid. It had a very simple inscription: In appreciation to Walt Disney from the children of Spain. I realized then what a gift to the world he was. This week, I am once again enjoying Disney's dream, where people smile, offer excellent service, and keep things clean, all while entertaining people of all ages. It really is a wonderful world!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ebay

I love ebay. OK, I've said it. Now laugh if you will, but I've found some wonderful bargains there and sometimes its the perfect answer for that hard-to-find birthday gift. It's become my go-to place to find things.
My brother is one of those people who is impossible to shop for. Ebay comes to my rescue in the form of 1950s collectibles from TV shows like Roy Rogers and Hoppalong Cassidy. When my mother was alive I put a gift together for her one Mother's Day, made up of many items produced the year I was born, like magazines, all assembled in a basket with a poem I wrote about that year in her life. It was a big hit.

I also find that ebay is the best place to shop for things that are out of my price range. When I knew my son and his wife wanted a fancy edition of the game Scrabble, which cost over $100 at the store, I turned to ebay where I found brand new, still wrapped Scrabble games for about a quarter of the current retail price. I had the same luck with a kitchen sink and fixtures when we renovated a few years ago. Apparently large stores liquidate their overstocks on ebay! Who knew?

I've come to the conclusion that before I buy anything of significance at retail anymore I need to do two things: shop yard sales and check ebay. Its a wonderful world of bargains out there!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Flying

It seems to me that all the joy of flying has been sucked out of the experience lately. It's not something I look forward to doing and I wish I could avoid it, but sometimes you just can't.

What ever happened to the romantic days of air travel? I remember the cute uniforms the stewardesses wore and how pretty they all were. Oh sure, it was sexist - but it was also great fun! They looked so nice and were so admired by every young girl in the 1960s! We all wanted to be one!
And those planes! Not only did you have leg room, blankets, and pillows, but you were actually served nice meals! They were downright good to eat and were served with charm and a smile. Now we're lucky to get a few peanuts to wash down with our small drink.

Well its sad that we no longer get to feel pampered and special when we fly. It's much more like a cattle car now. Add to that the inconvenience of taking off half your clothes and walking in your socks to sit and put your shoes back on and its downright unpleasant. Sometimes I long for the early 1960s again. Life seemed so much simpler then. It was I guess - but then again, those were tumultuous times. I guess I need to live in the moment and enjoy what we have, which is easy access to anyplace in the world with a few small inconveniences. And Disney World is so much fun! I will enjoy every day of it until I have to start thinking about flying home again...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Florida

Today we're heading down to Florida for a week. First we'll visit some friends and then we'll meet my daughter and her family in Orlando for a five day stay at Disney World. There's nothing quite like seeing Disney through the eyes of a child and we all become children while we're there. It truly is one of the magical places on earth and I'm looking forward to the escape from reality for a short time.

Florida is not on the top of my list of favorite places. It has its charms of course. When I was young I longed to live in a shack somewhere on the beach in the Keys, just like the boy in the TV show "Flipper". To me it seemed like the perfect life, wearing cut-offs with bare feet every day of the year. But now, as an adult, that lifestyle doesn't suit me quite as well. I don't play golf, which is a major draw for most people who look to warmer climes in the winter months, and I'm not a great sun lover, so why would I want to spend my winters in Florida? I don't even like the heat. And it's just as well since it will never be in the cards for us to have two homes to shuttle between, and the idea of giving up my life in East Hampton is unthinkable.

But today, once I get through the trauma of flying, I'll be happily donning short sleeves and going sockless for a week. Like I said - Florida does have its charms!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nerves


Tomorrow is travel day and my nerves are getting the best of me. I love adventure and vacations are fun, but the process of getting somewhere is stressful for me! I hate flying and I hate packing and my entire day today will be spent wondering if I'm taking the right things and if I'll get there in one piece.

I always take too many clothes. I worry about having the right thing so I put too much in the suitcase and then never use half of it, but I'm a planner so I'm always trying to think ahead to what might happen. I'm trying to learn to be more spontaneous and not worry so much. If it rains, I can always pick up a cheap poncho somewhere, right? And if its colder than I think I'll buy a nice new sweatshirt. But then, I won't be able to fit everything in the suitcase on the way home so that presents a whole new problem.

I should really have been born at least 50 years before I was. I was meant to travel in style, with at least a dozen trunks and a few hatboxes, and probably by boat. I can see myself on an ocean liner with all my trunks around my cabin, gowns hanging safely inside and boxes of matching hats nearby. Or even on a Pan Am Clipper as it flies across the ocean toward England, stewardesses at my beck and call, serving wine in real glasses and steak on real china. Now those were the days of luxury travel! I remember my mother having a very small suitcase - more like a large pocketbook but square and sturdy and with muiltiple opening compartments - that she called a "train case". I haven't heard that term in a good long time. That was another luxurious form of travel in its day!

But truth be told, if I'd been born 50 years earlier I probably would never have left East Hampton because I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. So I need to thank my lucky stars I can go anywhere and stop worrying about what to pack or how safe the plane will be. Or about those long lines of security checks.

Oy vey.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Snowfall

Almost two weeks ago now I woke to the most beautiful snowfall. I was entranced by the visual beauty of it when I looked out my bedroom window and I looked forward to getting downstairs to see what it was like. But I was saddened by all the Facebook posts bemoaning the fact that it was snowing yet again.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a big fan of the white stuff when there's too much and it stays too long. And I guess the "blizzard of '09" has made many people already longing for spring. But this particular day it was the perfect snowfall and I loved it. I actually had a doctor's appointment at 9:00 at the Healthcare Foundation so I got into my boots at 8:40 and went out to clean off the car. I picked up the brush we keep outside our back door for just such purpose and was pleasantly surprised at how easily it came right off the car. It was a light, dry snow that was coming down in a slow, steady rate and it had barely covered the walkways, which I also swept with my broom.

Once on the roads, which were clean and easy to maneuver, I was enthralled by the vistas in every direction. Every tiny branch of every bush and tree was coated and the snow fell just as lightly and prettily as you can imagine. It looked like a movie set - just the way snowfall would be in a romantic comedy set in New England. I only had to use the windshield wipers sporadically and when I came back out of the doctor's office there was barely any accumulation at all on the car.

By mid-morning it was over and was just the kind of snowfall I love - over quickly and just enough to cover the dull discolored leftover snow still hanging around from last week. And the sun was shining brightly, making it hard to even drive without a pair of sunglasses.

Winter can be so beautiful.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Singing

I don't ever remember a time when I didn't sing. I think I was about five when my grandmother prompted me to stand up in church and sing a solo for the Christmas pageant - maybe younger. And I've been singing ever since. Solos, duets, trios, quartets, ensembles, choirs, choruses - you name it and I've done it. I sang in every honor chorus throughout my junior high and high school years and have even traveled with singing groups in my earlier years. But I can tell that my singing days are soon to come to an end and its breaking my heart

I'm not sure how you deal with the loss of something that's such a big part of your identity. I've sung at so many weddings and funerals around town I feel as though I've been blessed to be part of people's lives in a very special way. I think I'd like to talk to a sports figure who has to give up their sport because they're probably the people who I could best connect with in terms of the emotional trauma. I can't remember a time when I wasn't singing in some sort of group as well as doing solos at church.

No one in the world is going to grieve over the end of my singing days except me. For me it will be the end of something that's given me so much joy in my life that its difficult to even put into words. So I'm trying to sing whenever I can - in the house, in the car, in my choir - just so I enjoy it as much as I can before its gone. When I was young I could never have imagined a day when I'd no longer be able to sing. But age - and gastric reflux - have taken their toll. Soon singing will be a memory for me. I want to leave the arena gracefully and before someone else has to tell me its time to stop.

I'm just not sure how to do that.

Monday, January 18, 2010

High School

I was recently thinking about the building that now houses the Middle School. In my day it held 7th through 12th graders. We called the western portion "the new wing" because it was built in the early '60s (where the Penny Candy Store stood) and it was pretty new when I was attending there. But the thing I remember from my elementary school years is visiting that old high school for special assemblies, which were held in the old gym/auditorium. It sat in the middle of the building on the main floor with entrances from the front hall on either side. We walked in and immediately went down steps to the bleacher seating, which angled down either side of the sunken gym. The stage was where it still is but the seating area there now is where the gym floor used to be. For special events the floor was filled with folding chairs and there was lots of seating for audiences at graduation or school plays. Many a high school romance started in that space where years of Junior and Senior proms were held. By the time I got into high school that gym had been converted to the present auditorium and the new gym was in the "new wing" along with a spanking new cafeteria where I spent many hours in Study Hall or eating lunch.

That old building has certainly done its service to the community, having spanned three centuries now as a school. Any true local attended that building for at least part of their schooling and everyone has memories that bring smiles to the faces of others who hear them. There's a certain charm that comes with old buildings and that one has it in abundance. I hope its never torn down.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January thaw

Yesterday had to be one of the most picture-perfect days ever in January. I remember past January holiday week-ends that were so cold we could barely stand to leave the house. But yesterday - well that was one beautiful day.

I happened to be up at Main Beach for awhile and the sun there was warm and bright. The sky was as blue as August and it looked like mid-summer the way people were walking their dogs and hiking along the shore. After a couple weeks of freezing temperatures it seemed as though spring had arrived.

There are a few patches of snow left from our record-breaking blizzard of a few weeks ago. But yesterday no one noticed them I'm quite sure. It may take a few more days before those little spots of white are completely gone, and we may even have more snow fall before this winter is over. But for one glorious day yesterday, East Hampton was bathed with sunshine and smiles. Somehow I think we humans appreciate everything much, much more when we've been deprived of it for awhile. Yesterday was the perfect example. What a day for the middle of January.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Empty stores


I find it incredibly sad to see so many stores shuttered this winter. I'm not worried so much about the economy because I know by summer they'll be alive and kicking, looking for those big bucks brought in by our visitors. But I mourn the fact that there are so few shops bringing life and activity to the commercial core anymore.

I loved Main Street and Newtown Lane when I was growing up. Not only were they great for shopping, and most staples could be found there, but they were fun to wander around with friends. We would meet up at the old VFW and just meander around, up and down alleyways and from one end to the other, hoping to run into boys doing the same thing, or when I was a teenager, someone driving their car around looking for passengers. Then we could count on a few trips to Main Beach doing "the cycle" (Main Beach to Main Street, left onto Newtown, u-turn in front of the high (now middle) school, back up Newtown and right onto Main, around again...) with a few variations now and then. Eventually we'd end up at the Marmador and have burgers and cokes before we all headed home.

I never see kids on the street anymore. And teenagers are totally off the grid. At least in those days my parents knew where to find me! And if I needed a ride home I could always call from one of the pay phones by the VFW or in the alley by the old Village Hall. I always had a dime in my pocket.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Movies

One of my favorite winter treats is going to see a late afternoon movie at the theater. Of course the "new" theater (built in the 1960s) will never rival the old Edwards Theater in terms of charm, but it will do for an afternoon's escape from the world.

My husband leaves work early in the afternoon so we can always make a 4:00 show. At that hour, in the dead of winter, there is usually an empty theater for us to enjoy. On days without too much snow on the ground or too much wind whipping through the trees, we walk to the theater. On others we take advantage of the fact that Village Hall closes its doors at 4:00 and we can park in their newly emptied parking lot. From there it's a bit shorter than walking from home and we avoid the hill by Hook Mill, which can be deadly when the wind is strong.

Once in the theater its warm and cozy and for the next two hours we can relax and enjoy whatever the show is. We don't do it often so it's a great treat for us. And if we're really feeling flush whatever week it happens to be, we may grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants nearby: Sam's, Rowdy, and Citta are all good places for a nice meal.

By 7:30 we can be home in the comfort of our living room, content after an early "date" and able to unwind before turning in for the night. It's a great way to spend a winter afternoon.

Boy am I getting old...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The mail

One of the things that's never changed since I was very young is my anxious wait for the mail every day. I remember hearing the sound of the mail being dropped in the box when I was barely tall enough to reach in and get it out at my parents house. I would race my sister for the front door and happily take out the letters for my mother to sort through. Sometimes there was a letter from my grandmother or aunt, both of whom lived way upstate and we only saw a few times a year. At others there was a catalog we loved looking through, like Sears or Montgomery Ward. But always there was that sense of anticipation, which was like catnip for kids. And we always knew our mailmen too. They tended to be there for their entire careers so I don't remember more than two different ones while I lived at home. I don't remember their names any longer - but I do their faces.

I still love the sound of the mail being dropped into our box by the back door. There's a distinctive "clinking" when the top closes and I know my mail carrier (no longer a man!) has brought me something to look at. Even the junk is fun to sort through - catalogs and special offers from one company or another. Its like a lifeline to the rest of the world. And I like our mail carrier. She was kind enough to bring my mother's mail to me every day when she realized Mom had died and I was walking next door to pick it up. And she rarely makes a mistake. In fact, I can always tell when she's away because inevitably I get someone else's mail.

In so many ways, East Hampton is still a small town. Knowing your mail carrier and her knowing the names of the people that live in your house is one of them. I still love getting mail every day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Changes

As the town of East Hampton takes on new leadership and begins a new year I can't help but think about politics and the strange thing that it is. I dislike it so much, which many people find odd because they think I'm in the midst of it, but I truly am not. Very little of what I do in my elected position is "political". Of course there are times when we have to walk that thin line, but for the most part, I consider myself a very non-political person.

Perhaps its the fact that I've been immersed in this very non-political position for ten years now that I find more politically charged administrations so abhorrent. I just cannot stomach political payback and positions of importance given out as gifts to people who've been loyal to the "party" or the candidate. When the newly elected members of our town board were sworn in they gave lip service to being "non-political" and talked about doing what's "best for the town", but within a week many political appointments had been made and good people who were doing good work (for the good of "the town") had been moved aside. I find the whole thing quite distasteful and have already become cynical about this new administration.

I know I'm not alone in my feelings because it seems as though everywhere I go people are talking about it. They're disappointed that is seems things will be "politics as usual" on the town level when we were all hoping for better. Hope springs eternal and we always start out expecting the best from our new officials! Which makes it that much more disappointing when they let us down.

I'm happy to say that there are no political parties in my little village and as a municipality we are much better for it. People are appointed for the quality of their performance, not the number of letters they've written to the local newspaper over the years. We may not always do things the right way, but at least there is no one to blame but us because no one else is pulling the strings.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mornings

My daughter and I have been going to the gym about 5:45 every morning to work out. It's a mixed bag, getting up and out of bed that early. I love getting the most unpleasant job of the day done and over with before the sun comes up, but its hard climbing out of bed when the air is so cold! There are days I just want to stay there in the warmth of my down comforter and forget about being healthy and able to keep up with my grandchildren. But mornings are so beautiful when I get home.

We're home about 6:30 and the sky is still pitch black at that time. But by the time I shower and dress and get back downstairs its about 7 and the sun is just beginning to bring life to East Hampton. I sit at my computer and watch as shadows creep across the field and everything suddenly looks bright and new in the early light. I like being up early - there's something very invigorating about it. Not to mention the feeling of superiority it gives me to know some people are still in bed and I'm already being productive! (Of course by 3 in the afternoon I'm completely fading, and then all the late risers can reclaim the title of most superior!)

Mornings are wonderful and East Hampton has a beat of its own in the early hours. Those that are out and around are like their own sub-culture: delivery people, police officers, EMS workers, and of course those of us who are stupid enough to be out doing our daily exercise. I'm so glad to feel well enough to get out of bed that it keeps me going. I've experienced the opposite and this is where I'd rather be!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Winter streets

I drove through the village one day last week in the early afternoon and it was eerily quiet on the streets. There was parking in abundance and many shops were closed and abandoned. Last winter was also dismal in the commercial core but this year is every worse. I love the quiet streets but realize that this is not a good sign for the economy here.

I wish we could return to the quiet days of the 1950s in East Hampton, when no one lived in Northwest Woods and The Springs was a quiet little hamlet of artists and fishermen. I'd love to be able to walk down Main Street and pass store after store of locally owned businesses, where the shopkeepers knew who I was and who my parents were. I wish I could walk into Marleys or the 5&10 and talk to Mr. Marley or Mr. Brill and ask for help finding whatever it was I was looking for. I miss those little wooden bins of toys and games where you could buy individual plastic soldiers or little elastic bracelets. Or those crepe paper "surprise balls" for birthday party favors, the ones your friends would unwind until they found their prizes in the center. And I wish I could run into Fifth Avenue Fashion and pick up some new underwear or a sweater for the party I'm attending the same night. How we took those things for granted then!

But...there is no going back now and those days are long gone. Although I would love to have Mrs. Epstein back on Main Street and Ross Jewelers back in Newtown, it isn't to be. And all those empty stores are a sad reminder of that fact. Winter is stark enough without those reminders that we have become a "summer" village. How sad is that.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Church

I never remember a Sunday when I didn't go to church as a child. I'm sure there had to be sick days or other reasons we may have missed a Sunday, but I honestly cannot remember one. My mother was a faithful church-goer and she took us every week. At that time, her church of choice happened to be in Southampton, which meant a 20-30 minute drive every week, and she did it alone (apparently my father did not share her commitment). I remember making that drive in snowstorms that would have kept a normal person home in bed, but my mother was from Buffalo and a little snow never slowed her down. (She once drove us to school in the snow only to find it deserted because school had been canceled. She was incredulous.)

Anyway, we never missed a Sunday of church and her dedication payed off for me because I can't imagine Sunday without worship. I'm the kind of person who feels out of kilter all week if I can't attend for some reason so that rarely happens. To me its like breathing - and Sunday church keeps me balanced and steady. I figure, as my mother did, that an hour a week is not too much to give back to God. But as an adult I know that church is much more than worship. It's an opportunity for a human connection that's so important to us all, and if I don't touch base with my friends at church every week I miss that too. I need those fragile threads of humanity in my life and I look for them wherver I can find them and then work on keeping them strong.

Today, as on every Sunday, I'll be in church worshipping and being grateful for the freedom to do so. And for feeling good enough to get out of bed and go.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winter in East Hampton

We are deep into the winter in East Hampton now. Although it may be only a few weeks old according to the calendar, we all know that winter really starts at the end of November and ends at the end of March, so we're about halfway through at this point. And this winter looks to be a cold and snowy one if the first part is any indication!

The snow has been beautiful. Each snowfall has brought with it the wonder of the season, covering everything in sight with its marshmallow fluff and masking the dull winter browns with the bright, white cold. Somehow its magic, even after all these years - and I love watching it drift from the sky, blow around the yard, and form ominous shapes out of hedges, bushes, and anything else that happens to be left out in it. I'll never tire of this wonder of nature. Yesterday's version was among the best: a slow, quiet snowfall, light fluffly flakes. Perfect!

The cold has been bitter though and sitting in the house with the fireplace going is a simple pleasure. Pop corn, hot chocolate, and freshly baked cookies can all make it a perfect evening, as long as there's no place to have to be going. It's the cocooning of the north and a perfect excuse to stay inside.

I don't dislike the winter, which is why I'll never move south. And East Hampton is beautiful right now. It's the kind of place that winter songs are written about - a true winter wonderland.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A re-do

I feel as though this year is what we call a "re-do". It's been exactly one year since my annual mammogram sent me off on my lost year (as I call 2009). It seems as though this is my opportunity to do 2009 all over again, only this time it will be more fun. I get to skip all the stress and trauma of the uncertainty because now I know where I am, what's happening, and what the future should hold. (Not that any of us really knows that....) I can forget about the surgery and testing because that's done. I don't have to think about chemotherapy or plan my life around "good days" and "bad days" and I can pretty much go along in the same carefree way I did before January 2009.

The thing is though, I can never again be as oblivious as I was then because things have changed. I no longer take the simple pleasures of everyday for granted. I appreciate feeling good and I love the fact that I know how lucky I am to be alive. I'm more likely to tell you how much I appreciate you when I have the chance and I'm less likely to complain about anything. Because I've learned that people are what make life worth living and that no bad weather or other inconvenience is a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Life looks rosier to me these days and I'm enjoying the simple pleasures.

So here we are in 2010, but for all intents and purposes - in my life at least - its still 2009. Happy new year to me!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why blog?

I'm heading toward my 600th blog entry and occasionally someone will ask me "why?". Why do I want to blog and what is the purpose of it all? I don't really have an answer to those questions but I have thought a lot about it. I call it my "therapy" and it does indeed make me feel "unburdened" to put things on paper and make them seem "legitimate" somehow. There's also the thought that perhaps I want my adult children to know their mother better. I know I would love to uncover a diary of my own mother's and get a glimpse into what she was thinking and feeling at different times in her life. So much of our parents' innermost thoughts are lost to us simply because they tend to share those with their spouses or close friends. No one wants to burden their children with their fears or deepest desires. And yet, as a middle-aged adult I wish I knew those things now. Knowing how my own mother coped with life might help me in my own efforts!

Then there is the simple desire to express myself in some sort of artistic way. If I were a better painter I would be working on canvas because I love to paint and draw. I can create things with my hands, and I do, but its the writing that really seems to fulfill me the most. No doubt it was meant to be my vocation but I wasn't very good at figuring out what I wanted to do when I was young. Or at least I wasn't very good at figuring out what I did well enough to make a living doing. Better high school counseling might have helped, I don't know.

But I think I have uncovered a clue as to why I'm compelled to write. I was reading a piece in the NY Times magazine section last Sunday about how braille is becoming a thing of the past for the blind, due to the advances in modern technology. At the end of the article the writers opinion became clear when he or she quoted the Latin expression Scripta manent, verba volant. It means "What is written remains; what is spoken vanishes into the air". There's something more permanent about putting words on paper, even if its only blogging on the computer. It seems to be a lasting thing. Perhaps, like the inscription on a tombstone, my words will outlive me.

Probably not, but who knows?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Skating

A Facebook entry last week about skating on Town Pond set off a long trail of comments from fellow Bonackers who waxed nostalgic about their skating days at Town Pond. They talked about their pom pom skates and their skating skirts, and how busy the pond was whenever the water froze.

My own memories of Town Pond certainly include skating. When we were young my mother took us whenever the ice was safe because she grew up in the Buffalo area and she loved to skate. She would glide around the pond effortlessly with one of us in tow, trying to teach us the basics of staying on our feet. I was never a good skater and my weak ankles proved to be my downfall. But even if I stood talking with friends I enjoyed the times we went.

Once in junior high and high school I do remember the required pom poms on our skates, preferably to match our scarves and hats. I never had a skating skirt like some of the other girls, and I probably would not have liked to wear one anyway - I hated the cold. I envied the girls who could skate well and gracefully slid across the ice to show off near where the boys were playing hockey at the far end.

Being more the indoors type I can honestly say my favorite part of the whole skating thing was that my mother would make hot chocolate when we got home - and usually chocolate chip cookies as well. Now that's a memory to savor....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Harbor

Sag Harbor has become my favorite place to shop. As much as I love staying close to home, and I do love the smaller shops along Newtown like "Steph's Stuff" and "A Little of What You Fancy" for instance, there aren't as many I can actually get what I need in as I used to be able to. Not only that but I find that as nice as it is to have these big corporate stores with their mega-millions to sink into our old buildings and keep Main Street beautiful, there aren't many local faces behind the cash registers anymore. I think they must import people from their other store to work here because its rare to see a familiar face or sense a "local" sensibility among them.

But Sag Harbor is like East Hampton was forty years ago. The old shops are still the same, with the Variety Store being my favorite place to wander around because of the old rickety floors and dusty upper shelves filled with the kinds of things we actually need in our homes and businesses. I can get yarn for my new knitting project, a box of pens and some memo paper, and then head to the other side of the store for a dish towel or some rubbermaid containers. It has the same feel that the old East End Hardware store had and I miss that musty, wonderful aged patina here in East Hampton where everything has been re-built and shored up.

I can walk the street in Sag Harbor and make a series of stops, all of them productive: the Country store on the corner, then Andrew and Co., then the Wharf Shop (another old gem of a building) and I've managed to feel at home with both the buildings and the shopkeepers.

I dread the day Sag Harbor goes the way of East Hampton. As much as I love those old buildings I know eventually someone will come in and renovate them. It's one of the inevitabilities of life I suppose. But for now, I take it all in and make the short trip over there whenever I can, just for nostalgia sake.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Square dancing

Over the holidays we watched an old movie that was set in the 1940s. In one scene the main characters attended a square dance. It set me off into a nostalgic moment and made me realize that I haven't heard about a square dance in many years. Is the square dance a thing of the past?

When I was growing up it was not unusual to hear of a local organization holding a square dance. We were taught square dancing in school. And I remember in Girl Scouts we had lessons in square dancing as well. As I got older I was fascinated by square dancing "clubs", one of which met at the Neighborhood House. The women made special costumes for themselves and their husbands. The men wore western style shirts and the ladies full skirted, ruffled dresses that coordinated with their husbands. Naturally I thought it was "quaint" but not "cool" so it didn't interest me too much. The outfits reminded me of the TV show "Hee Haw" and most of the ladies were too chubby to look terribly good in their traditional garb. But somewhere between the 1970s and today, the genre seems to have disappeared, at least in this area of the country. I wonder if it still flourishes in other places? I certainly hope that it does.

It would be a shame if such a wonderful, indigenous art form were to fade away and be forgotten. I didn't want to admit it at the time but I actually found it fun! And were someone to invite me to a square dance today, I'd be there. Hopefully, somewhere in this country there are couples happily "do-si-do"ing all around a dance hall, swinging their partners in wild abandon. And maybe someday, someone in East Hampton will pick up where Tom Beebe left off and learn to "call" a proper square dance.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tom Thumb

For some reason I was remembering something from my childhood the other day and it made me smile. It's funny how a word, or a smell, or a glance at something can suddenly trigger memories in our minds.

When I was very young - I think maybe three years old - we attended the Presbyterian Church on Main Street. In those days - the 1950s - there was apparently a popular fund-raising event called a "Tom Thumb Wedding" in which children acted out a wedding ceremony complete with gowns and flowers and everything. (I assume this was a response to the actual wedding of the famous "Tom Thumb" of Barnum & Bailey fame. In doing an internet search on the topic I could see the connection.) The idea seems a bit strange to me now, but I guess it was cute (albeit extremely non-politically correct!). In any case, I was involved in one. Although I was only three, I have very vivid memories of the occasion. I remember that Bobby Sucsy played the groom, Naimy Hackett the bride, and my brother was the minister. I was a bridesmaid. Naimy and I were good friends and I was jealous of the beautiful white gown we watched her mother create for her at the sewing machine. My own gown was blue and there were other bridesmaids, but I couldn't tell you who they were.

Anyway, this ceremony was to be held in the Session House - the building behind the church. In those days it had a stage on the main floor and a great long staircase entance from David's Lane. We were to come up the steps, enter the building in line, walk down the aisle, up the three steps on either side of the stage, and line up on the stage for the ceremony. The only problem was I tripped going up the three little steps to the stage and fell. The rest of the event is a blur of tears for me - I spent it crying in my father's arms. I don't remember being hurt - I remember being humiliated beyond words. It was my first experience on stage and I blew it, big time.

Eventually I was able to move beyond my early trauma and learn to love the stage, but I think the butterflies I always feel before any performance are a sure remnant of that early disaster. I remember that my father was annoyed with me because I wouldn't stop crying. He just didn't understand that it was the first time I'd every experienced shame.

A "Tom Thumb Wedding"! What a bizarre concept - but fascinating memory!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My tub

People seem to fall into two categories in life: "shower" people and "tub" people. I enjoy a quick shower once in awhile, but I definitely fall into the latter category. Probably because when I was young my parents hadn't yet done any renovations in the old Victorian house we lived in so there was a wonderful old claw-footed tub in the upstairs bathroom. It was a treat to soak in that tub and when they replaced it with a more modern tub/shower combo when I was in junior high school it was never quite the same. I started taking showers.

When we were newlyweds we had no shower in our first rental property - or in the next - so baths were once again the norm, but not nice leisurely soaks because I was too busy with little ones and there was no time for that. Even in this house, which we bought 30 years ago now, there was a shower/tub combo but I was lucky to get a shower some days. Life was too crazy with four children running around.

Then about twenty years ago we added a master suite on to the house, which was bursting at the seams with only three tiny bedrooms. My one request was a big soaking tub, and ever since then I've been a confirmed "bath" person. Especially in the winter, when the temperature in our house is pretty low and we snuggle under the blankets to stay warm watching TV at night. I love my tub. Because right before bed I walk into that bathroom, run a hot, hot bath, and climb into my little piece of heaven, where I can see the steam rising from the surface of the water. For the first time in hours I'm totally enveloped in warmth and feel it right down to my bones. I love it.

I've two regrets about my tub: first, that I have no one to clean it for me (at my age it's becoming more of a challenge to climb in and scrub it down) and second, that we didn't install a nice sound system in the master suite when we built it. I can light candles and make the room feel like my own little spa, but the missing ingredient is some buttons to push on the wall so I can be surrounded by classical music - a total escape from reality.

Oh, and a towel warmer would be nice too....

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

I have no real memories of New Year's Day festivities at my house growing up. It was pretty much a day for taking down the Christmas tree and putting some decorations away. We never had a big meal or anything like that - we were certainly in recovery from the holidays. When we got older my mother always hosted a New Year's Day Open House. It was the perfect kind of party for her because she loved to bake cookies and do hors d'ourves, and my parents didn't drink at all so with all their friends having hangovers from the night before no one cared if they had fruit punch at my parents house. It was a big house and could easily hold nearly 70 people so it was a crowded afternoon as people came and went. I thought it was a great way to end the holidays.

I'm looking forward to this new year. And I'm already considering how I'm going to spend it. I have projects to do around the house and things I want to accomplish in my community. I want to live a healthier lifestyle and be more productive than I was in 2009. I'm hoping that we all have a happy, happy 2010. Here's to ringing in 2011 together too.