Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Moments

Thirty-six years ago I experienced one of the most important days of my life. I married the man I've been with ever since.

Now there are many people who marry and stay together for their entire adult lives so I know there's nothing special about that. But what I think makes it special is I'm still happy to be with him. I've known way too many couples who grow apart over the years and I think life has a way of driving wedges between relationships pretty easily. So many things can derail us and there are so many outside pressures that make staying together - and enjoying it - nearly impossible. Life was simpler in my great-grandparents day, that's for sure! But I'm glad to know that it's still possible, with commitment and grit, to make a relationship that will last a lifetime.

For me, it isn't just about two people who fell in love. It was, and is, about a family that started that beautiful autumn day back in 1974. It's about the amazing children that came along, one, two, three and then four of them, each one making our hearts fuller and our souls more connected. We worked hard to nurture our relationship, rejecting temptations as they presented themselves and protecting it at all costs. It hasn't always been easy, but it has been worthwhile and I've never regretted a single day. (Well, maybe one, but that's a blog for another time!)

I'm not sure I'm as important to my husband as he is to me, and I don't mean that in a negative way - it's just that he's always been pretty independent whereas I'm not a loner and I crave companionship. And he's not terribly demonstrative either so who's to know these things? But it doesn't matter. I'm content and determined to stay this way, whatever life may throw at us from here on out. I actually think some of the toughest years are yet to come. But I think we can withstand anything now. After all, we're still here!

Happy Anniversary to my husband! I hope I've made you as happy as you've made me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Homeward bound

We were home for Thanksgiving this year but we went to Pennsylvania the following day to spend some time with my daughter and her family. We haven't seen the grandkids there in over a month and they won't be coming up to East Hampton until Christmas so it seemed a good time to grab a couple days vacation and see the little ones.

Coming home from a few days with the kids is always so melancholy. I miss them the minute we drive out of their driveway but I'm also anxious to get home to the schedule I have to follow. Tomorrow morning is my day to volunteer at the hospital and its also my anniversary so we'll be doing something to celebrate. The rest of the week is busy with all the usual holiday stuff - choir rehearsals and banquets and even a funeral. Part of me looks forward to getting home and getting things done - but part wants to stay right there with those kids, reading to them at bedtime and cuddling on the couch with them in their pjs.

Someone once said their favorite place in the world was the airport because they were always happy to be there: happy to be going away on a vacation and happy to be coming home from one. I feel that way about my trips to and from Pennsylvania. I love being there and I love coming home. Life is full of such paradoxes, isn't it?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Big week

This week really starts the busy time and I'm feeling a bit crazed already. The first weekend in December is going to be overcrowded with activities including dinners, rehearsals, and card writing. I love the holidays, but....

My wedding anniversary is Tuesday and every year I feel a bit guilty about what I did to my family, getting married on Thanksgiving weekend 36 years ago. At the time I thought nothing of it - after all, it was a great time of the year so why not have a wedding. right? I was young and care-free and very naive. Now I know that I put a real burden on all those that had to travel on that busy weekend as well as my mother who had lots of other things to worry about at that time of the year. Not only did she do Thanksgiving dinner for a large extended family, she had my wedding two days later, a mother-in-law who went into a nursing home the day after the wedding, and a big family to shop for with Christmas right around the corner.

If I had it to do over again I would choose a quiet time of the year - maybe October or April - and plan my wedding when it would be the only thing happening. But I'm thinking that my mother was too loving to suggest such a thing then. And despite what was going on in her life, she did everything she could to make my wedding special, which it was. I hope my daughter who got married two days after Christmas 13 years ago can say the same thing!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Royalty

Thirty years ago I set my alarm clock for some ungodly hour of the morning and got out of bed to watch TV. I wanted to see every detail of the royal wedding - Price Charles and Princess Diana. I'm already looking forward to the one that will take place this spring.

OK, I admit it. I love the whole royalty thing. I don't know why exactly, but I do. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that my ancestors were from England and I often think about British history as my own. Or maybe its because I'm fascinated by all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with all bit state occasions and I watch Presidential Inaugurations with nearly the same enthusiasm as I do royal weddings. Or, most probably, like all little girls I grew up thinking about how wonderful life would be if I were a princess.

When I was in high school I read all the articles about Prince Charles, who was then a bachelor, and dreamed that perhaps I might be the one to win him over if only I could find a way to meet him. I was already happily married when he found Diana so I was not jealous, but I watched with fascination over the years as she blossomed into a beautiful member of the royal family. I was envious of her life and all that went with her station and I admired her for the way she carried herself.

My son was born within a month of Prince William and I made sure to paste a magazine article about it in the baby book under the "current events" section. My life was again a reflection of hers and I wished I had the ability to buy the beautiful smocked rompers and pleated shirts that she dressed her little one in.

There is a wonderful fascination with royalty - especially British royalty - in this country. I rather think it has to do with our connections to the mother country but maybe its simpler than that. Maybe we just like to escape into that little fantasy world once in awhile. Come spring I'll be watching every minute of that royal wedding, from the moment they leave Buckingham Palace in a grand carriage to the waves from the balcony as they couple greets their subjects as husband and wife. And thanks to the wonder of modern technology, I won't even have to wake up so early to do it. I'll be recording it all on our DVR where I can see the best parts over and over again...

Day after

Some of the thoughts I had throughout the day yesterday while preparing for Thanksgiving dinner:

I wonder if our mothers know how they are represented at our table? My son is making the cream puffs that my mother always made and I made my mother-in-law's chocolate angel food cake. As I was slathering on the chocolate whipped cream frosting I thought about her and all the years she made those for our Thanksgiving table, as well as for so many other occasions. My husband's favorite cake which I never made until she was gone because I wanted it to be her specialty.

I wonder how our troops are doing overseas? And how are their families coping stateside? I hope they know we're thinking about them.

I wonder if my husband knows how much I love spending holidays with him?

I wonder if my kids know how much I'm missing them?

I wonder if anyone else remembers the year my mother's oven broke down but she didn't realize it until the turkey didn't cook?

I wonder if anyone else remembers how my Grandmother Strong used to hide from the camera on Thanksgiving? In the old home movies she would duck under the table as the camera panned in her direction.

I wonder if anyone else remembers Thanksgiving 1963 when we drove to Buffalo to have dinner with my aunt and uncle because Kennedy had been assassinated and there would be an extra day off school and work, giving us time to make the long trip?

I wonder if anyone remembers the first year my mother's parents were with us for Thanksgiving after they moved to East Hampton from Buffalo?

I wonder if my grandchildren will have as many wonderful memories of me as I do of my grandparents?

Thanksgiving, like ever holiday, is full of memories. I wonder how many people share mine?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving thanks

This is such a nostalgic day for me and I think because our crowd is so small this year I'm especially remembering the old days when the house was a hub of activity and excitement and there were lots of people everywhere.

Regardless of who's here or what our plans are, Thanksgiving makes me contemplate all that I have to be thankful for. Packing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child a couple weeks ago made me even more appreciative for all that I have. As I bought small stuffed animals and crayons with paper for those small gift boxes, I imagined the children who would be receiving them and the joy those things would bring them. And then I thought about my own grandchildren and how lucky they were to have so much. We are all blessed beyond belief in this country!

I'm thankful for my wonderful family, that I love without measure. I'm thankful for a husband that I love more now than I did the day I married him. I'm thankful for amazing friends who support me and helped me get through some difficult times in the past three years. And I'm thankful for a God who loves me. I'm thankful for my life-every special day of it!

I'm thankful today to be right here, in East Hampton, where I can walk outside and enjoy the beauty of the countryside, the blue sky, and the open sea. And I'm thankful that I have so much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Prep day

Today is the last day to work on the meal for tomorrow. When my kids were young I'd use today to have them make come cute place cards or other table decorations for the dinner table on Thanksgiving. I loved doing that kind of thing with them and I think I would have made a good elementary school teacher, but unfortunately when I was in high school I wasn't all that crazy about kids. It took having my own to make me really appreciate them! Now I think I would have loved spending my days with kindergarten or first, second and third graders. No matter though - I have a good supply of grandchildren to keep me entertained!

I hope I have all the food ready and all the ingredients in place for the big day. If not, I see that the local grocery stores are now open in the morning! Now that's something that never would have happened twenty years ago!

I'll be up early to get the turkey in the oven. The the day will be spent baking and relaxing around the house. I'll miss the family - most are away - but I'm grateful to have a husband to keep me company and look forward to the meal when other family members gather.

This really is my favorite time of the year.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The other side

Today is my second morning volunteering at Southampton Hospital as an "Ambassador". I can't tell you have wonderful it is to be on the other side of things there!

It will be two years in January that I started my adventures there. It began simply enough with an annual mammogram. For the next year I would spend so many hours at the hospital, having tests, surgery, recovering, and waiting, waiting, waiting. I spent time in each of the waiting rooms on the first floor, just as I had spent time in the waiting rooms on other floors at other times in my life: when first my father and then my husband were in ICU; when grandparents were in rooms that my young children could not enter so I took turns sitting with them while my husband and I visited; waiting for a look at a new niece or nephew, and more recently grandchildren. I've spent time in all those waiting areas. But in 2009 it was all the main floor - radiology, surgery, main entrance - I've become very familiar with all of them.

But now, I'm returning as a warrior to the site of my battle. I waltz around the first floor feeling like a victor and gladly watch for others I can assist in their travels. I take them magazines, offer them a friendly face and smile, and hopefully help them maneuver through the maze of medical tests and stressful moments. I find myself looking forward to the morning despite the drive and the early hour. I'm content and at peace when I walk in the door - no butterflies and no apprehension.

I can't wait to get there.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blue moon and preparations

Last night the moon was beautiful and the sky haunting. A full, bright circle hung high in the sky and the clouds were dark and gray, surrounding it with motion but not covering it - just adding an eerie glow to the night, like something out of a horror movie. But it wasn't frightening, it was beautiful. With the temperature dropping and the night so bright it was a typical November evening.

If one is not well prepare for thanksgiving they may be in trouble. I have my turkey thawing in the refrigerator and the cranberry relish made. I'll get the linens out today and make sure my lists are complete and I haven't forgotten anything. For us it's a small crowd this year. Since we get together with my extended family every Sunday and the number generally falls between 16 and 22, we're used to a big crowd. We won't have more than 9 on Thursday so that's a small group for this house. Three of my children will be out of town with their other families so I'm glad that my brother and his crew will join us, along with my son and his girlfriend. It will be a little sad with no little ones here - all the grand kids will be gone - and of course I'll miss my other children but I've gotten pretty used to sharing them all with their spouses' families.

The temperature outside is finally beginning to feel like the holidays. Up 'til now it's been warm enough to feel like September, but there's no doubt at this point that the holidays are upon us. Driving through the village last night at 7:30, looking at that beautiful blue moon casting its milky glow on all the open yards and rooftops along the way, was like entering into the season of joy. Life is good and at no time are we more aware of our blessings than this week - and the month to follow. It's a great time to be alive, and grateful.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wrapping

I think my Christmas shopping is just about done now and I'm breathing easy as the stress of preparing for the holidays has become less heavy already. There just are not enough weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas to accomplish everything so having that chore out of the way is huge.

Not that I consider shopping for loved ones a chore - I really love it. But there're just so many of them to shop for now that it's becoming a bit harder. I remember the first Christmases when I was old enough to work summers and save some money. I loved actually having money to spend on gifts and I shopped carefully for the members of my family. Once I had all 7 or 8 gifts, I set to my favorite part of the job, which was wrapping. I even remember some of the paper I used in those first couple years when I carefully shopped for unique ones and bought enough of the same to wrap everything I had. Then I carefully chose some coordinating ribbon and started the fun part. I wrapped each gift and then found a unique way to accessorize each one. For some I'd make paper fans from the extra wrapping, or maybe fashion it into paper flowers. Everything was coordinated and each was special and different. I loved being a little artistic and designing the wrapping to be as much a part of the gift as what was inside the box.

I remember those years with longing because if I could I'd still be spending time doing special wrapping for every gift. But now that my list has grown to about forty there's just no way I have the time to spend on every one. I wrap as quickly as I can, rarely trimming the ends carefully the way I used to, and using rolls of wrap that I was able to find on sale the year before, not ones I chose for their unique look and the potential for special design aspects. There are no more paper flowers or fans but hopefully there'll be time to slap some pre-made bows on them before they're put under the tree. I'd really love to work at a gift store, just wrapping gifts for customers. I'd have all kinds of fancy ribbons and papers at my disposal and the time to spend on each one. That would be heaven!

I feel guilty every year because I can't spend the time I'd like to on fancy and beautiful wrapping jobs, but I think I'm the only one who cares.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Afternoon light

One of the things I love about the afternoons now is the light. Since the time change I've noticed a wonderful diffused light at about 4pm, throwing long shadows across the lawn and open fields. The side of the house and trees facing west are still ablaze with bright light while the opposite sides are settling into gray. The front windows are bright - the back ones are looking like dusk has arrived. It's a beautiful time of the day and I love sitting in the living room with the laptop, watching the shadows of leafy branches dance along the walls facing the windows. My walls are deep red so the shadows stand in stark contrast to the light streaming in and changing the shade of such saturated color.

In no time at all the days will be their shortest and the trend will reverse again. Each month we'll notice the daylight lingering a little longer and we'll be looking forward to Spring. But I don't wish the winter away, I welcome it. I love seeing the change of scenery and like the way it even makes the colors in my house reflect the season. No need to paint, just wait a few months and the walls will take on a whole new hue.

The afternoon light is beautiful in the fall and it's leading us on to winter's darkness.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Legacies

I often think about my parents' legacies - not things like money or possessions but physical attributes and medical issues. I seem to have inherited the worst of both!

All the years when I was growing up and through most of my adult life I assumed I had all my father's physical attributes: very wide feet that wouldn't fit in most shoes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, thick, unshapely legs - the list is endless. However, in the past few years I've discovered my mother's genes are equally strong. I'm now dealing with her bad feet (structural problems abound and pain is a constant companion) and her gastric reflux (she lived with the Tums by her bed and now I'm being treated for my constant stomach problems). All of which brings me to something I used to think about when I was having my own children: wouldn't it be nice of we could choose the things our children would inherit from their parents, like going through a menu and checking off the choices?

When I was pregnant with my first child I wanted her to have her father's sense of humor, his body type, and his hair. From me I thought maybe my eyes, my teeth (he needed braces but I never did) and my hands. There were many things I did NOT wish upon her, but fortunately I suppose, we cannot choose and she came out with a nice combination of both of us, good and bad, and she's perfect just the way she is. No doubt if we could choose we'd totally screw up the next generation and rather than the perfect beings we'd want to produce they'd end up looking weird.

But isn't it a nice idea anyway? Sorry Mom, but I'm just not enjoying your feet. Your smile, however, I'm happy to have!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The train

I've lived within a stone's throw of the railroad tracks my entire life. Even when I was first married we lived in my husband's grandparents' old house in Amagansett, right near the tracks. In our next place, an apartment, we were on the other side but within sight of the passing train. Then we moved here which is right next to the house I grew up in and only one house from the tracks so the railroad has been a constant in my life.

When we rented out the bedrooms in the summers (we had moved into our own home and we moved downstairs with our two little girls and used the bedrooms for income) occasionally someone would call about prices and then ask the question "Is it near the railroad tracks?" For some people this was a problem. I never really understood that because its not like being under the elevated tracks in NYC - the trains are few and far between and the house doesn't shake or rattle when it passes. In fact, I find the sound of it rather soothing. In the summer when the windows are opened and the wind is right it can be loud enough to drown out the television, but that's rare and fleeting, and we can't even see it from the backyard anymore now that the foliage has grown so tall and thick.

For my children, and now my grandchildren, the sound of the train whistle was cause for excitement and often meant a quick trip to the front yard with an adult to watch as it rumbled across the overpass. There's a certain romance to trains and its not lost on any of us. I find comfort in the routine sound of it as it approaches, passes, and moves on the the next stop.

I actually enjoy living near the train. As long as they don't increase the schedule...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Memories

Since today was my mother's birthday it seems a good time to share a memory. I honestly can't remember whether I've already shared this with my readers and I apologize if I have, but in going back over posts I can't find anything that looks like it so here goes:

My parents had a boxer puppy before they had any children so I grew to the age of about eight with this big dog as part of the family. My brother, who is older than I, would have been about 11 when we lost Duke so he and I were the most saddened by his death. My younger sisters would hardly remember him I think.

Anyway, Duke had been gone about 6 months when my grandmother came by the house one day and picked me up to "go for a ride". We ended up at an animal shelter where my grandmother disappeared inside and returned shortly with a lively young boxer on tow. Or perhaps it was the other way around - this was a pretty active animal. I was beyond excited, but not nearly as much as my brother was when we got home with this adolescent canine. I remember him grabbing that leash and running all around the yard with the dog, laughing and shouting as my mother and grandmother looked on with smiles.

Suddenly my father pulled in the driveway. He quickly took in the scene and climbed out of the car with a scowl. "It's going back tomorrow!" he declared and my brother and I were crestfallen. But then my grandmother - his mother - pulled herself up to her full 5 feet 3 inches, scowled right back at him and said "Oh no it's not! It's staying!" and for the first time in my life I saw my father cower slightly, back off, and storm into the house.

When we took the dog inside my mother went to a high cabinet and pulled out a new dog dish and a few cans of food and then disappeared into the basement, emerging with a dog bed. She set up a corner of the back room for the dog that we had already named "Dutchess" and we watched as my father sulked in the living room, knowing that he was defeated.

My mother and my grandmothers were my heroes. They were constrained by the times to fill their "roles" as they knew them. But when it came to us, they were mother bears protecting their cubs and that day I knew that as much as they were able, they would always be our advocates.

Happy Birthday Mom - I hope you know that I remember!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spellcheck

OK I'll admit it: I'm a terrible speller.

When we were kids we used to have "spelling bees" in our classes - they probably still do - and I always hated them. I just am not a person who remembers word construction well. I memorized all the words I needed to throughout my school years, but most of them have disappeared from my fragile memory. I do remember all the rules, like "i before e, except after c....." etc, and that assists me in doing a fairly god job of not looking completely illiterate when I write letters. But my biggest asset in life has been "spellcheck".

Before computers I lived with a dictionary close by. I had one in my home office and one at my work space. I referred to those dictionaries pretty regularly, not only to make sure of my spelling but to check word usage as well. I love words, and I love unusual, unique ones that you don't often hear or see in print. So I often use them when writing either for pleasure or business. I think they make things more interesting. And now, with the use of my computer, I can check both things with ease. All I need to do if click a button and all my misspellings are highlighted and correct spellings are offered. Sometimes it makes me smile because my spelling is so convoluted that the computer isn't even sure what I was trying for and gives me 6 or 7 alternatives, hoping at least one of them is the one I was looking for!

Even my blog comes with spellcheck and on the occasion I forget to use it I always find something wrong when I read it after its published. Often those are typos (because I'm an equally poor typist!) but they are also sometimes misspellings that even I can see aren't quite right. I then quickly go back to edit and correct whatever it is that I goofed on.

Computers are real lifesavers for people like me who aren't very good at it. Now - I'm going to spellcheck this piece so I can publish it without shame...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Happiest place

Last week Good Morning America had a segment on the "happiest places on earth". An expert who had done studies on this subject (way too complicated to go into here but logical nonetheless), had found the four places on earth where the people were the most satisfied and content. East Hampton was not among them.

Interestingly enough, the places they found where people were most content were not necessarily places where people had the most money or possessions - in fact some were very poor areas of the world. They found that people were happiest when they had things that cost no money at all: time with extended family, a religious faith, and long vacations every year.

I found this interesting for a couple reasons. Earlier in my life I'd assumed if I had enough money to pay my bills and save for retirement I'd be happy. Not necessarily true. The issues of family and faith I fully understand because those are the things that give me so much peace and pleasure in my life now. And the vacation thing - well, that's something we can only dream about in America! I've always thought the Europeans had it right and the fact that most of them have at least a month off every year is so right. Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing? At least a month off to recharge - and see the world? But money - not such a big deal.

For me, East Hampton is the happiest place on earth because most of my family is here and it's the place I love. I find contentment in walking through its familiar lanes and spaces and I enjoy the beauty that it has in every direction. I also love thinking about my ancestors and how they lived here two hundred years ago. Would I be content somewhere else? Probably. Because at the end of the day I really think contentment starts inside each of us and we can take it with us wherever we are. It's as much a choice as anything, with the exception of health issues that can't be controlled. But even then, we choose how we're going to face adversity and that's what makes all the difference in terms of our happiness quotient!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

It's funny how things like television ads from our childhood stay with us forever. My husband can sing more jingles from the 50s and 60s than I can even remember, but most of them stir memories for sure.

But it isn't only television commercials that stick in our minds forever. When I was young I listened to a lot of radio. That was the only way to hear the latest rock 'n roll records and everyone had a radio next to their bed to listen to in the morning getting dressed for school and at night when were supposed to be sleeping. I listened to 1010 WINS and 770 WABC in NYC and WKBW out of Buffalo, and I can still sing those jingles as well as name the DJs that kept me company so often as a fourteen-year-old.

The other thing that sticks in my mind is some of the unique radio ads from those years. And almost every Sunday at least once in my mind I hear the one for Raceway Park. "Sunday, Sunday, Sunday at Raceway Park!" It was a distinctive, catchy phrase that anyone who heard it would remember.

I never went to Raceway Park and I never got to experience the funny car races or the drag races. But I think about them every Sunday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

November Saturdays

Last Saturday came at the end of the first real chilly week we've had so our main focus was on getting the screens off the windows and putting up the storm doors. The snow blower was taken out of the shed, the final bits and pieces of summer were cleaned off the deck and put away, and the last of the outdoor flower pots were emptied and turned over so they wouldn't freeze over the winter.

We still need to turn the outdoor table and chairs on end and tarp the whole pile of outdoor furniture which is in the corner of the deck under the overhang. It will be safe there until we uncover it all in April.

I have quite a few Christmas gifts left to wrap
and hopefully that will get done today. This
afternoon we're attending a wedding which
should go well on into the night, but this morning
there are chores to be done. Winter is coming.
And we need to be ready.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Leaves

Last weekend's wind brought lots of leaves down and some of the trees are pretty bare now but thankfully they don't all change into their autumnal colors at the same time and there're still enough left to make the scenery pretty nice.

Before the wind kicked up I enjoyed seeing the puddles of color around the bases of some trees, three small ones on Huntting Lane coming to mind. They're little guys that were only planted a year ago and stand in a neat row in front of one of the newly renovated houses. The tiny branches had been completely bare but at the base of each lay a perfect circle of bright yellow on the green grass. I was disappointed to see that the wind had scattered them when I drove down the street yesterday.

A drive through the woods is still nice and the late trees are quite beautiful. Two Japanese maples in my own yard are always the last to go and they're only now turning from green to orange, the outer ends of the branches bright and cheery and the inner areas still dark. Usually they're still shedding at Thanksgiving, the last ones holding tough.

This week the weather reports are spectacular and there's no big wind in sight. I think we'll have another couple weeks to enjoy the fall colors before the trees are completely stripped bare. It's one of natures greatest shows and I enjoy it every year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Flannel sheets

I put the flannel sheets on the guest beds last weekend. Surely that means winter is coming!

I have to think that flannel sheets are one of the great inventions of modern times. We never had flannel when we were kids and when they first came out about twenty years ago I didn't invest. At that time all my kids were wearing flannel PJs and flannel sheets were expensive, so it took me awhile to invest. But once I did, I was hooked. We've always kept the temperature low in our house and the comfort of those flannel sheets is undeniable. Once they're warmed up with your body heat they just envelope you in luxury. Of course, once they reach a certain age and start pilling they lose some of that luxury, but they're still pretty nice.

My own bed won't get the flannel until the overnight temperatures fall well below freezing. We like a cool room and we keep the windows cracked all winter. So it has to be pretty darn cold to warrant those warm winter coverings. I'd venture a guess that by the end of November they'll be gracing my bed as well as the ones in the guest rooms. No more flannel nightgowns for me - the sheets will do quite nicely and my bed is toasty warm regardless of whether or not the snow is flying.

So the flannel sheets have been put on the guest room beds and I suppose that means time is moving on. Here's to a nice, cozy, flannel-warmed winter.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Walking II

Yesterday morning was my first time to walk outside since we turned the clock back. Monday it rained so I used the gym, but yesterday it was clear and comfortable and I happily left the house at 6:30 in daylight. It was a mixed blessing.

I didn't have a nice sunrise to enjoy, but the clouds, while dark gray in most the sky, reflected the sun along the eastern edges, beautiful golden yellow and white powder puffs brightly welcoming the day. The sky was the palest of blues as only the early sky can be and the streets were already humming. Cars and trucks flew by - and a nice little gaggle of folks gathered at the Jitney stop, waiting for their ride into the city. I love having daylight arrive earlier and love starting my day by circling around the village and checking on all the activity already happening.

The downside was that person reflected in the windows of all the shops I pass. I literally roll out of bed and into my work-out clothes, eschewing make-up and shower until I get home. I pull a headband/ear warmer over my head and my curls stick out of the top, flapping in the breeze as I walk. I hope I'm invisible to anyone who might recognize me because I look a fright and would rather not run into anyone I know. Yesterday morning on my way home I heard a horn and turned to see a friend waving to me as he drove by. I guess I'm not as unrecognizable as I thought I was. Sobering to be sure...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thankfulness

The other day someone posted on Facebook that every day between now and Thanksgiving we are supposed to post something that we're thankful for. And I was so struck by the fact that I feel every single day that I have so much to be thankful for I could never list only one thing. I could write something every day for the rest of my life and not run out. Doesn't everyone feel that way?

Of course, I know full well that there are people who are sick and don't have the energy to get out of bed - I've been there. I know there are people who are hurting because they've lost someone they love dearly - I've been there too. I realize completely that people have needs and hurts and unrealized aspirations and their lives are not perfect. Neither is mine. But in my darkest and loneliest times I've always found something to be grateful for.

My wish for everyone this holiday season is that, whatever is happening in your life right now, good or bad, you have many things to be thankful for. And most importantly, that you're able to see past the not so great stuff and be grateful - and find satisfaction in - the blessings.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Names

Someone asked me recently if I was a "bonacker". And that's an interesting question.

The name "bonacker" is derived from the name "Accabonac" as in the harbor. It implies the people who lived around that body of water and plied their skills there. In a generations before mine, it was often used as a derogatory term, as in "he's just a Bonacker" and not something that was much of a compliment. They were hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people but as in most cases where people live off the land (and not in white collar trades), they were often looked down upon.

Somewhere along the line, I'm thinking perhaps during the WWII era when so many East Hampton boys were far from home and needing to connect with the place they loved, the term began to take on another meaning, that being someone who was born and bred in East Hampton. The term "Bonac" became synonymous with "East Hampton" and therefore all of us natives were "Bonackers". The high school adopted it as in the "East Hampton Bonackers football team" and when I was in high school we heard it pronounced all kinds of ways over the loudspeakers at high schools up west. That only made us prouder to belong to such an elite club no one else had ever heard of it!

Today, people "from away" tend to think of all locals as "bonackers" but we know better. The true bonackers are the children and grandchildren of those early, tough, strong people who settled The Springs and made it their home. They were unique in so many ways, including the dialect which still survives in the way many of us talk. No one uses the term as a slur anymore and those who rightfully claim it are proud to do so.

Unfortunately I'm not an "upstreeter" either, as bonackers were likely to call those of us who lived in the village. Those were the lawyers and bankers who lived at the top of the hill. I fall somewhere in between, or "down hook" as the old timers would say.

Am I a bonacker? Hard to say, really. I thought so when I was in school. But honestly, I think not. Then again, I was born and bred here so maybe that counts for something...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

More salesmen

Yesterday I talked about the salesmen that used to come by our house on a regular basis when I was growing up. What I didn't mention was the local vendors who came by to sell things, which was interesting because they were both Italian immigrants who were working hard to make new lives for themselves here in America.

One was Mr. Iacono. He was raising chickens on Long Lane and he stopped by every week to sell my mother eggs and an occasional chicken. I can still see him at the back door with his little leather drawstring bag where he kept his money, counting out change in his heavy accent. He was polite and friendly and always had a smile for us kids.

Mr. Brullo was the other local man who came to the back door on a regular basis. He always had a big bag of corn and he'd count them out by twos in Italian. I remember his weathered, tanned hands, rough from working in the fields and larger than I think I'd seen before...or since. Mr. Brullo also had a leather drawstring bag.

Occasionally someone would come to the back door with a fish. Usually they were men that did business with my father and did it as a gesture of thanks for his extended credit to them, or helping them out with some special problem.

It's been many years since knocks on the back door meant salesmen with goods to peddle. How nice to have things brought right to the house like that! It was the era of home milk delivery and baked goods fresh from the bakery. I wish it still happened today.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Salesmen

An old friend writes a blog that I read every time he posts something and a couple weeks ago he did one that really sent me into an entire day of nostalgia. He referenced the Dugan man who used to come door to door selling baked goods. I knew exactly what he was talking about because the Dugan man came to our house as well and I can still see his panel truck pulling into the driveway and my mother grabbing her purse. He would take a few minutes to gather his goods into his large carrying tray and then walk up to the door, knowing what things he'd sell at this address. He always had bread and rolls and he always brought some extra goodies (like cupcakes) to try to entice Mom to spend a little more on this trip. My mother was a great baker so she didn't often buy extras, but the special order cakes she bought for our birthdays were an amazing treat I still long for: layer upon layer of luscious cake with wonderful butter cream icing in between. And the beautiful flowers on the top along with the birthday girl or boy's name were amazing to me!

There were other door-to-door salesmen in those days. We saw the Fuller Brush man at least twice a year, and Mom would always get new toothbrushes and sometimes a nice hairbrush, as well as the occasional toilet brush or other household item. There was a man with a heavy middle-eastern accent - perhaps Egyptian?-who came about once a year carrying two suitcases stuffed with beautiful linens. They were wrapped in brown paper with twine and he would open each package, bring out the tablecloths or napkins one at a time for Mom to feel and admire, turning each one over with care, then when she politely admired them and shook her head "no" he'd re-wrap them. I remember being fascinated with the knots he made in that twine - each one carefully tightened just right.

Mom rarely bought linens but she looked longingly at them all and sometimes picked out something special for the dining room table, which she then cared for meticulously. They must have been expensive and a real stretch for her pocketbook.

Living in the village meant we were visited by all the salesmen as they traveled up and down Montauk Highway. What a wonderful era that was and how I wish I could sit in my living room now and shop while being able to touch and examine those linens instead of shopping for them on my computer, or look at them through heavy plastic wrapping! Those were surely more civilized days.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Walking

My morning walk around the village was especially memorable Wednesday morning. It was just about 7am when I walked outside and headed up the hill and as I got past the Hook Mill the sky to my right was a beautiful wash of color. The blue was a rich pastel shade and a bank of clouds contrasted with a lovely deep pink, reflecting the rising sun and creating stripes that would have made perfect decorations at a baby shower. It was really striking.

It was brisk for sure and the air stung my face but the more difficult thing was the way it made my mouth feel as though I'd just downed a popsicle or big bowl of ice cream. It's impossible to keep one's mouth closed when working a power walk but the effect of that frigid air on one's lungs is not nice!

Once I looped around by Guild Hall and headed back home the sky had changed and the colors were no longer there. Sunrises and sunsets are fleeting gifts and are only enjoyed by those lucky enough to catch them. On this day it was what I needed to keep me motivated on my morning rounds - as an avowed exercise-hater, I need all the motivation I can get!

There were only two real negatives on my morning walk that day. The first was simply that in my mind (which is where I prefer to dwell when faced with reality) I'm a fit and trim young woman out on her morning walk. When I passed Citarella and caught a glimpse of my reflection in their windows, a chubby, middle-aged woman, I was startled to be sure. That and the huge Santa Claus that was waiting to be put into the window at J. Crew were equally depressing. I just can't seem to warm up to the pre-Thanksgiving Christmas decorations...sorry! But other than that it was a nice morning to be out and around and enjoying the birth of a brand new day.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chill

It is downright chilly when I leave the house early in the morning for a walk around the village. I've put off my departure until about 7am just to gain a little more daylight, but the sun isn't up enough to make a difference in the temperature and I know my mornings walking outside are soon to be over. My ears are freezing by the time I get home but I know a hat would make my head sweat so I stopped in the store up in the village the other day (that features all types of work-out gear) and picked up a nice ear covering/head band type of thing to keep them warm.

I'm most grateful for chap stick of all types. I have the brand name in some of my various coat pockets but I also have some made by Burts Bees and Nivea and they all do the job nicely. I'm wearing heavier work-out clothes and longer socks, but once the thermometer dips below 35 I think I'm done. Then it will be back to the gym for me. The gym is more boring, but it's also more comfortable!

All that said, I still enjoy getting outside on nice clear mornings. Other than the traffic that speeds down Main Street at unbelievable rates early in the day, its more peaceful - and quieter - than at any other time. Besides the group waiting for the Hampton Jitney or the folks going and coming from the Golden Pear and Starbucks, it's pretty calm on the sidewalks. It's a nice way to do some window shopping and admire the beautiful clothes that are so far out of my price range.

It's a great way to start the day. I'll miss it when it ends for the season.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Voting

OK-is it just me or has New York State just taken a giant step backwards in terms of voting? I can't believe what it was like yesterday with the new system here.

First of all, we get this huge paper ballot with a "privacy sleeve" and a small slip of paper that has your voting district number on it - just in case you can't remember, I suppose, even though you're standing in the line that has it written in huge numbers all over the place. You have to juggle these three items (along with anything else you may be carrying, like a pocketbook and car keys) and find yourself an empty "booth". I use that term loosely here because all it consists of is a counter-height desk with sides. You go to a booth and attempt to read the ballot, which is difficult because at my polling place at least, the lighting was horrible. My eyesight may not be what it used to be but this was not an easy task! If they did this to make it simpler for elderly voters its a joke -I can't imagine how an elderly person would have been able to see anything!

So I filled out my form, which took much longer than pulling the levers ever did, and I dare say many votes will never be counted simply because people never pay attention to the instructions and everyone who used check makrs on theirs, or failed to properly fill in the little circles, will never be included.

At this point I slid the ballot into the "privacy sleeve", which is another joke since people had been passing behind my booth in a steady stream to get to the actual voting machine and anyone would have had a clear view of my vote if they'd wanted to.

When I got to the machine, which is a computer and therefore another problem as far as I'm concerned. If banks and other big businesses can be hacked into, what makes them think these computers won't be? Anyway, I was ready to slide my ballot into the machine but it didn't want to go. As I struggled to get it to work a gentleman came over - a poll watcher I suppose - to help me and he took the ballot our of the privacy sleeve and shoved it into the machine which finally took it.

I had read in the paper that in order for your vote to be counted you needed to push the "vote" button when the paper was in the machine. But the poll watcher wouldn't let me touch the machine and the button was not lit up so I have no idea if my vote actually registered or not.

I'm not a Luddite and I'm not opposed to technology or new ways of doing things, but to me this just seemed antiquated compared to the simple, very private voting machines we've been using here since I was eighteen years old.

I've never missed an election before but I have to say this new method could possibly sour me to the whole thing. 2012 had better be an interesting election year or I may just stay home. Then again, New York State being what it is, they may have chucked this system by then and gone back to the old reliable machines...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Change in the air

Last weekend certainly did signify a big change in the weather around here! We've had an exceptionally beautiful fall this year, with warm days and comfortable nights, and I haven't yet put my tee shirts away. But by Friday things started to feel as though winter was indeed not far away.

Friday night I worked at the Mulford Farm, assisting with the Haunted Halloween festivities. By the time we'd been standing outside for three hours in the dark, it truly felt like summer was a distant memory and perhaps the sun had moved on, lending its warmth to other parts of the world. There was a stiff breeze blowing, which didn't help any with the chill that was reaching deep into my bones. By the time I got home I had to draw a nice hot bath and soak for about 15 minutes just to stop shivering.

I think its fair to say autumn is more than half over as November takes its place in our lives once again. The leaves, which have been a blaze of color, setting the sky on fire as the sun covered the tops of the trees with daylight, are falling at an alarming rate. In no time the branches will be bare and we'll be wondering about the first snow.

But this is the season of joy and there's no need to mourn the warm weather. We have much to be thankful for and its time to celebrate. And so we shall.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Topaz

My mother's birthday was in November so I always remember this month's birthstone - its topaz. Actually, I think they've substituted citron now because topaz is so expensive, but topaz was the traditional birthstone and I was fascinated by it when I was a girl. My own birthstone is aquamarine, which I love now, but as a child it seemed so ordinary to me compared to the exotic topaz, which is rich in color and yet as amazingly eye-catching as a diamond - a beautiful deep yellow/gold stone.

Every year on her birthday I wanted to buy her a topaz ring. Nothing was ever too good for my mother, but I couldn't afford a topaz and every year that disappointed me. I honestly don't think she cared at all - I never once heard her admire a topaz ring or bracelet or any other piece of jewelry, so I imagine I was the only one really enamored with them. Its funny how children focus on things like that. It was just so beautiful to a ten-year-old girl!

Mom was a person of simple tastes. I don't think jewelry meant much to her and although I was totally in love with everything sparkly and shiny, she had more important things on her mind. Now that I'm a mother myself I know the things she longed for were hugs and love from her children, not gems and expensive gifts. I wish now I'd given more of both to her when I could have. Of course I loved her tremendously, but I didn't tell her that nearly often enough. How sad that we regret things like that later in life - such easy things to do and yet...I guess that's what makes them so special. We don't get them often.

Every year in November, if I happen to be walking through a nice department store, I stop at the jewelry counter to admire the topaz rings and bracelets. And I think about Mom and wish I could tell her once again how important she was to me. I hope she knows. Someday I might just buy myself a topaz ring in memory.