Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rainy parade



Yesterday morning I got up early, turned on the television, and was dismayed to see that there was a heavy line of thunderstorms marching across Long Island in our direction. Judging by the time and the speed of the storms I knew what was going to happen: the rain was going to hit here just in time for the parade. It was disappointed but not deterred.

The last time we had heavy rain on Memorial Day was about 8 years ago. I marched with the ambulance association and was soaked by the time I arrived at the green. Then I had to sit with the officials on the hill and when I realized that the marching band had not attended because of the weather, I offered to sing the national anthem. How could we not have the national anthem? The Commander of the American Legion was happy to take me up on the offer. Then I nervously sat there thinking about all the people who have butchered that song over the years because of the difficult words and music. I said a quick prayer for help and all went well. The crowd was small - very few attended.

But it was one of the most meaningful Memorial Days ever for me. Because as I walked, and then sat, in the pouring rain, my thoughts went to my father and all the other service men and women past and present who endure much harsher weather conditions. I remembered my father talking about the winter he spent engaged in the Battle of the Bulge where the snow and cold were so bad that men froze to death overnight on a regular basis. I thought about the muddy conditions in Viet Nam where my own contemporaries spent hot humid days with wet socks and boots and uniforms. And I thought about those serving right now in the Middle East, where the desert can be brutal and a little rain might be a welcome relief.

So yesterday when the rain started as we stood at the reviewing stand watching the marchers pass, I again spent my time thinking about the sacrifices made by others on my behalf. Somehow the rain seemed apropos.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Parade day

I've shared my memories of the Memorial Day parade when I was growing up before so I won't do that today. I've done the exact same thing every year on Memorial Day my entire life, which is over half a centrury now, so its pretty much imbedded in my soul. I get up, walk up the hill to the parade, then back down the hill to have lunch with family and friends. In the early years we rode our bikes in the parade, or marched with the girl scouts. For many years I played in the high school marching band, and then later we made the walk with our children on shoulders or in strollers, or to watch them in the band carrying on the tradition. Then I marched with the ambulance association and now I stand at the reviewing stand with other elected officials. I've always stayed for the ceremony, now seeing it from the other side as I sit on top of the hill looking out over the crowd. Since I live right here in the village, its like a neighborhood celebration and I've never missed it. I'm always surprised when I meet people who don't attend.

But this year I want to talk about taps being played.

To me, Memorial Day is all about taps. For many, many years there would be an echo rendition done by two trumpeters from the high school. One would be at the green with the rest of the crowd where the ceremonies were completed. The other was back alongside the cemetery, just far enough away to sound like an echo for the first. It was the emotional end to the morning and the only time I heard taps played in person until I was old enough to attend veterans' funerals.

One of the saddest things to happen in recent history is the use of recorded music being played instead of a live playing of taps. It's simply not the same and I'm disappointed when it happens. My son-in-law is a trumpet player and sometimes they ask him to play but sometimes they don't. Why wouldn't they want to use a real person? Its a puzzle to me.

I haven't asked if he'll be playing this year. I hope I'm not disappointed.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Promise

Memorial Day week-end always seems full of promise for me. Especially when its a sunny, warm week-end with parades and cook-outs and coolers on the back deck. Because this is only the beginning.

When we were kids my family had a traditional Memorial Day cook-out with three other families every year. As is usually the case, they were families that consisted of friends of my parents who had kids all about the same ages so we were all entertained and it was always fun. I have so many memories of those family times and they're all good. I loved the other adults and liked the friends my age, so it was a great party every year.

When we got older my mother began to have a cook-out in her back yard every year following the parade down Main Street. We'd walk back down from the ceremony at the green and the hot dogs would be on the grill in minutes as we put the food out and sat on their patio while our kids played together in the back yard.

So - every year for my entire life, Memorial Day has meant a cook-out with friends and family. Somehow it just doesn't seem like Memorial Day without one. And I find with my mother gone these four years now I am compelled to plan a cook-out, lest I find myself at home with no one to celebrate the day with.

Isn't it odd how our traditions can become so ingrained that life seems wrong if those things don't happen? Just like Christmas and Thanksgiving, most the other holidays are set in my mind as days to celebrate life with people we love. It would have been great if my parents had celebrated at least one holiday at a restaurant instead of with my mother entertaining......

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Family history

A friend's blog that I read regularly recently spoke of his father's silver baby cup and what it meant to him as it reminded him of his heritage and the past history of his family. Which got me to thinking about the same thing here in my little corner of the world.

I have a number of things which have come down through the generations that I wish I had more detailed stories about. I have a cedar chest that my grandmother gave me. Was it hers? Was it her mother's? What is the story behind this piece of furniture? Then there's the Limoges tea set that came from my grandfather's cousin. Did it belong to my great-great grandmother originally? Could it have been that old? And how about the photo of the Hook Mill which was hanging in this house when we moved in. What was the date of that photo? From the dresses on the ladies I'm guessing the 1920s, but could it be earlier? And who are the ladies?

I grew up surrounded by family here - all the neighboring houses were family homes. The oldest house was owned by my great-grandfather's sister and I remember her well. The stories she could have told if I'd only been smart enough to ask! My great uncle and aunt built the house I live in and I knew them well too. Why did I never ask them about what it was like to grow up in East Hampton in the early 1900s? And my grandparents! they would have been a wealth of information had I bothered to probe a little. Oh the secrets they took to their graves.

I wish I had the chance to go back in time now and talk to them all again, knowing what I know now and being smart enough to ask the right questions. The things I could learn...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Really?

Last weekend we celebrated my son's wedding and it was a wonderful family time. But one thing happened that had me scratching my head and saying "Really? Already?"

It was when we went to the salon on Saturday morning. Me, my two daughters, my daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters all headed to Amagansett for hair and nails, ready to enjoy some special time together making memories. The little girls were excited to be going along with the grown-ups and it was a real "girl's morning" as we talked about what color to have our nails done and how we wanted to have our hair styled. Here was the surprise: Lucy, who's five and has pretty soft curls in her hair, wanted hers straightened for the occasion. Daisy, who's nearly nine, has straighter hair and she wanted hers curly. It struck me that here they were, still so young and innocent, and already they were longing for things they did not have.

Why is it we're never happy with what we have anyway? And how can it begin so early in life? Is this something we teach them or is this a basic human nature thing? I wonder - can we learn to be content with what we have or will we always long for something more? I know it's one of the ten commandments not to covet things we don't have so perhaps its just something inborn, I'm not sure.

Despite all this we had a great time together and as I walked down the sidewalk to the car, with one granddaughter holding each hand, little Lucy, as she skipped along, declared "We are three fancy girls" and I laughed at the truth of it and her delight in the experience.

I think both my granddaughters are perfect just the way they are. I thought both my daughters were too. And yet just like the little ones, the one with curls likes to straighten her hair and the one without likes to get hers curled......aren't we an interesting species?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Seasonal feel

There is a definite difference in the air here in East Hampton as we approach Memorial Day. I notice this every year and I always wonder if this is something people everywhere feel or if its a local phenomenon associated with life in a resort community. It reminds me of my childhood where everything about this last weekend in May signaled change, from knowing school was nearly over to seeing all the landscaping trucks clogging the side streets again. I usually had a summer job to start on the weekends too. This week, new shops are opening with great fanfare and old ones are completing their touch-ups, with paint drying and trainees busy learning their new jobs.

You can feel it when you walk outside your door in the morning - summer is coming and as a community we're both bracing for it and welcoming it. We are schizophrenic people here, longing for the beautiful long days of summer while we hold on tight to each other preparing for the onslaught of tourists (and second-home-owners who would hate to be considered that)! No doubt about it though, once Memorial Day dawns we are into the season here on the East End. And there's no turning back for at least a few months!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Scotch broomstick

The shrubs and flowers are really wonderful right now. My lilacs are pretty much gone, with only a few still blooming and lots of brown on those, but the irises are all out now and lime mound spirea is bright yellow green, brightening up the walkway they line and bringing the warmth of the season indoors since I can see them from my living room window. The color is pure spring.

I have a bush in my front yard which I picked up a few years ago at the local nursery when it caught my eye. I remember walking by it and stopping in my tracks to take a closer look at this fascinating little potted plant, wondering what it was. It was tiny but the small yellow blossoms that came off the long stalks which grew up and then cascaded down like a waterfall were so interesting and different that anything I'd every seen. I picked one up and bought it, knowing I had to try growing it in my front yard. I'm not sure how old it is exactly, but its a nice size now, about 5 ft. across, and fully in bloom now with its pretty yellow and green totally brightening up my front yard. I'm so glad it survived and is thriving here where I can see it from my front window. Every time I notice it blooming at the end of May it makes me smile. The common name for it is "Scotch Broomstick" but I have no idea what the technical botanical name is, and in my experience common names differ from region to region.

Whatever the name, its become one of my favorites and I'm so happy to see it again this year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Finances

How much simpler was life back when we had less money! Sometimes I think about the early days of my marriage when I didn't have two nickels to rub together! I'm not crazy enough to seriously want to be there again, but there was something freeing about living totally within our means at all times.

When we were young we were both working at local places. With no college degree I wasn't in a high paying job, I worked as a travel agent and thought I would go to college once we settled into our marriage and before we started a family. But plans don't always go as expected and I found myself pregnant within a couple months of our wedding and, due to the cost of child care compared to my low salary we decided to try to make it on my husband's income alone. It was a life-changing decision.

We went on to have three more children and for a long time I considered motherhood my job. I threw myself into parenting, working as an aide at the nursery school to pay tuition as each one was old enough to attend, and being class mother for each child's class when they got into elementary school. For fifteen years I was a stay-at-home mother, making money when I could by doing odd jobs (like baking for a caterer and doing free-lance art projects). Still, money was beyond tight.

But, we managed to get a house (with some help from my parents) and we felt lucky to have food on the table. We didn't have any credit cards and rarely went out unless there were grandparents to babysit because there was no extra money for things like that. It was a rare treat to see a movie or eat a meal out, although parents sometimes treated us to dinner. We didn't go on vacations and we paid cash for everything. If we needed to replace an appliance we borrowed the money from family and paid it back as soon as we could. We made many sacrifices to allow me to be home, sacrifices we are still making. But I've never regretted it!

Life was so much simpler then. I worried about paying the bills every month, but at the end of the day we had pretty good credit and didn't miss our mortgage payments. Eventually we qualified for credit cards. Now I think they are one of the worst inventions known to man! It's not that we have huge credit card debt, because we don't. But I often think about how much money we'd be saving if we didn't have the option of pulling out that card whenever we see something we'd like to have. Back in the old days the lay-away plan allowed people to put things aside at stores and pay weekly until it was payed for. But the credit cards are another issue altogether. Combined with the internet, where the world is at our fingers, I think young people are at such a disadvantage. There's just too much temptation out there for them and its way too easy to spend money.

I think perhaps we should go back to the pre-credit card world where it wasn't so easy to get them and we all paid cash when we needed something - or we did without.  I think our economy would be healthier if we did. Nor to mention our pocketbooks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Housing

Sometimes I wish we lived in a smaller house. Other times I wish it were bigger.

When my children were little I wished more than anything for a little more room. Our house was small - about 1200 sq ft - and had three small bedrooms. When we had the fourth child it became really tight - since it was an old house there was barely any storage space, with tiny bedroom closets. The downstairs consisted of a kitchen which opened to the living room and there was no place to find peace and quiet. I wanted space. I needed space. I went a little crazy before we were finally able to add a small addition on when the baby was two: a bedroom upstairs and family room down. It helped, but still wasn't what you'd call roomy. The fact that we had an unusable basement was the worst part because what could have become a retreat for teens or adults was wasted space.

As the children grew and moved on, the house began to feel plenty big. We have three empty bedrooms now and plenty of room for the two of us to spread out. I often think how nice it would be to have a smaller home to deal with now, one with less to clean and not as much maintenance. A little cottage with great storage but cozy and warm, just big enough for two.

And then, the family comes to visit. Holidays and summer, whatever the reason, when they're all here the walls suddenly start closing in on us. I love having the family all together in our house, but I also long for a bigger dining room where we can all sit comfortably, and bit more space to spread out when everyone's here.

I think I'm a bit torn between larger or smaller, but in the final analysis I'm thinking it's probably just the right size after all.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pasta

What did we do before pasta?

Oh I know that pasta has been around for a thousand years, but I never had it in my childhood, except for the occasional spaghetti and meatballs, and some macaroni and cheese once in awhile. The Italian menu never quite made it to my house and I would have been ignorant of the glories of this cuisine had I not developed a close friendship with a girl in high school whose grandmother still spoke with an accent from the mother-country. It was then that I discovered the wonders of rigatoni, ziti, and a good lasagna. And life was never the same again.

Of course my mother also found Italian dishes to add to her menus in those years and became quite good at making baked ziti and lasagna. But my early training at a real Italian household made me pretty discerning in that department and I love making dishes with pasta. I enjoy a good Italian restaurant and have no patience with anything less than authentic fresh mozzarella cheese and a nice Parmesan freshly grated. There is a difference!

In more recent years I've been finding healthy ways to include pasta in our lives, adding fresh vegetables or making simple sauces instead of jarred. And the selections available in the grocery stores now are unlimited.

I'm in love with pasta in all its forms and functions. I even find it a great crafting tool in its raw form. It has to be the perfect food.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Wedding day

Today is the day my last child is to be married. What a great feeling it is to celebrate such a thing as a family!

This is my third child so he's not the youngest, but he is surely the non-conformist of the group. He's always marched to his own drummer, always traveled the road-less-taken and done things his own way. This wedding is no exception. It's a small affair - immediate family only - and I'm actually very excited about it. There will be fewer than thirty people in attendance and it will be an intimate, private celebration for the people who love these two the most.

Weddings are always joyous occasions and this is our fourth as parents. Each has been different and unique to the couple and this one will be as well. With all seven of our grandchildren in attendance it will be a real family celebration and the memories will last a lifetime. I'm incredibly happy today and very, very glad that I lived to see this. Two years ago I didn't know if I would. I'm a very lucky lady - especially blessed.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Westward

After a week of rain and overcast skies it was a wonderful thing to wake up yesterday to wet grass and bushes but no rain falling. I went out early to cut some lilacs and got soaked from the branches as I pulled them down to get to the blossoms, but it was so nice to be outside without a raincoat on I didn't care!

As the day progressed things get better and the sun even managed to peek out a few times. And about 1:00 in the afternoon I headed west for an appointment. It was a wonderful drive. All through Sagaponac and Wainscott I smiled at the fields which had recently been plowed and looked rich and brown with freshly turned soil. And all across the tops were fluffy swirls of fog, hugging the ground but moving quickly across it and traversing the road in front of me. It wasn't thick enough to be a driving hazard, but took on the look of swirling snow as it raced across the horizontal surfaces.

Once I got to Southampton I drove right past the Princess Diner and headed up Hill Street because I always prefer the back roads to the more heavily traveled main one. The skies were still a bit overcast and as I turned my favorite corner coming into Hampton Bays I glanced across the water where I could barely discern the outline of the Ponquogue Bridge through the fog that still lay on the water. I couldn't see the outline of the buildings along Dune Road but I knew they were there.

By the time I drove back along the same route two hours later the sun was bright and the late afternoon was glorious. I'm not sure the rain has completely left us yet but if we're lucky we've seen the end of it. At least the worst of it for now! Everything is green and beautiful in the light of a Spring day.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Memorials

The same week that I attended a funeral I also attended a memorial service. This was different in nature and tenor from the funeral but left a similar impression on me in terms of what a great community I live in.

The memorial was for someone I grew up with. Our families were good friends and we spent lots of time together. He was the youngest and his older brother and I were in the same class in school so although I knew him well, I'd lost touch with him in the past twenty years. His brother and I remained connected though and when this service was announced I knew I had to be there.

I was struck by two things: First, because it was held in the Jewish Center, I thought about the wonderful place East Hampton was growing up, because I had Jewish friends and didn't think anything about it. I also had black friends and didn't think there was anything strange in that. We were a community that got along well and would never have tolerated any overt racism or prejudice. I was taken by surprise when the uprisings of the 1960s occurred and watched in fascination as the civil rights movement was played out on the television during the 7:00 news. It was as though I was watching a foreign country instead of my own. I didn't understand why people hated each other or why anyone would not want someone else to be near them or eat with them or whatever it was they were objecting to at the time.

That's not to say there was no racism in this community because I know now that there was. But it wasn't overt and it wasn't seen by me. We grew up very isolated here and there was never any negative talk about other races or religions in my home. So sitting there in that beautiful sanctuary where I've attended funerals and bat mitzvah and other special events over the years made me appreciate once again how comfortable I was there. I didn't feel like a stranger, I felt like part of the congregation. I think that's a rare thing.

The other thought that came to me as I looked around at the crowd was how connected we've all stayed here in this little town. Across the aisles were many people I'd gone to school with, older and younger, friends and acquaintances, all part of the fabric of this place, woven together in this wonderful tapestry of a hometown. We come and go in each others' lives, passing sometimes like ships in the night, at others working together for the common good.

I love living in a small town and I love the community here. Is it the same East Hampton that it was in the 1950s and 60s? Of course not. But it's still a wonderful place to call home. And those of us who still do are indeed the lucky ones.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Memories and memos

My morning walks are a combination of memories and mental memos these days. I find that as I walk along the same sidewalks that I've wandered down sine the 1950s, many memories come to mind - sometimes things I haven't thought about for a long, long time. I think about the fads that passed through time, like the circle pins that I was fascinated with at Ross Jewelers on Newtown Lane - all the high school girls were wearing them and I wanted one so badly! I used to go in whenever I passed and "Oooh" and "aaah" over the ones I liked the most. They were usually the brushed silver ones I longed for.

One thing that came back to me one day was the memory of a rack of hula hoops on the sidewalk outside Marley's Stationary Store. I miss those small-town shops along Main Street, where I could run in and pick up a couple puzzles for a children's birthday party as well as some pens and legal pads for home and a candy bar if I was hungry. Those were the days! One stop shopping all over town and especially in the commercial core.

The other thing I do as I'm walking is make mental notes about what looks good, or needs fixing, or could use a little tweeking. As a public official I need to know which sidewalks are buckling and where hedges need trimming and I try to remember what I observe all over the village. Being up close and personal helps and things are obvious when I'm walking that I wouldn't notice if I were driving. For instance, the stones in the sidewalks. Every time we put in new sidewalks we talk about how much stone should be in the mix - more in the historic areas and less in the core. I love the sidewalk by Hook Mill - its almost like cobblestone, but with smaller stones and pebbles. I'll remember that stretch the next time we're doing one.

Memories and memos keep my mind occupied while I get my exercise and they both make the time go quickly. I hate working up a sweat so any distraction is welcome....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The blessing and the curse

I've talked before about living in a small town and what a mixed blessing it is. This was brought back to me last week when there was a funeral to attend.

This funeral was for someone who could be called "irascible" and "opinionated" and some people loved him but others did not. He wasn't afraid to express an opinion but he also was a hard-working, community member and family oriented person who loved East Hampton and his life reflected that. Whether or not I agree with someone I always appreciate having the conviction that they're doing what they think is the right thing, not out of personal ego or self-promotion, but of a genuine love of doing what's right. This was a person who had his priorities in order and although even his son joked in the eulogy about his father's reputation as being sometimes hard to get to know or get along with, he was a person who liked people and wanted to do right.

It was yet another example of the blessing and the curse of a small town like this one. Because although we may not always have an easy time dealing with someone, whether in business or social settings, we  also appreciate them for who they are and what they stand for. And in a small town we are more likely to come to that place of enlightenment because we can't avoid each other the way we could in a city. Here, in little East Hampton, we see each other at the grocery store, the Little League field, the beach, and the Memorial Day parade. We need to be friends and we need to learn how to not only get along, but learn how to know each other's hearts.

A blessing and a curse. Everyone knows your business. But they also, hopefully, know your heart.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekends

Weekends are getting busy here on the East End.

It seems as though the real test of the season is the traffic and it begins on the weekends, building from now until July 4th when it will peak and stay pretty heavy until after Labor Day. This past weekend was a harbinger of things to come.

So many months of the year I love living here in the village where my family has been for generations. I love the continuity of it and the feeling that I'm carrying on a tradition that was set down over 200 years ago. I love being in the middle of the action, so to speak, and being able to walk to almost anything I need to get to. When I talk to friends who live way down in the deepest part of The Springs and they talk about their six mile drive every time they need to get groceries or go to the drug store, I'm especially grateful. I realize that most of my week is spent within a 2 mile radius.

But when the traffic comes in May I consider it again. My street is one of the busiest in the entire town. It's one of the entrance points to Springs and people heading there pass by every morning and every afternoon, coming and going to work or on their errands. It's a crossroads of sorts, and while I enjoy waving to people whenever I'm in my yard, sometimes it seems as though everyone in town passes our house in the course of a day.

Weekends are now getting very busy here and it's a challenge getting out of my driveway. I wish I lived on one of the quieter streets in the village like  Conklin Terrace or Dayton Lane Extension. But it is what it is and my ancestors could never imagined when they built these homes that one day they'd be passed by hundreds of automobiles every single day. So what's a girl to do?

It's nearly Memorial Day so I guess the answer is "grin and bear it"!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lilacs

I can't help myself. Every year I must blog about certain things because every year they become so important to me. Like the lilacs that have been blooming in my yard this past week. Heaven! It seems that certain years are better for certain plants. Some years the hydrangeas are great, others they seem o lag. This year is a lilac year for sure.

I have a nice group of lilac bushes in my garden. I find that native flowers and bushes do the best and lilacs are a perfect example. They grow like weeds once you plant one - multiplying and filling out like crazy. The ones I have began as small twigs (which I pulled out from among my mother's lilac bushes). I planted them here in my yard quite some years ago now and they're had time to multiply and grow and now they're spectacular. The aroma is amazing and they're as pretty as any blooms known to man I think. They're only here for a short time - maybe two weeks if I'm lucky - so I cut a few branches every day and put them in a white pitcher on my dining room table so I can enjoy them both inside and out while they're here. I really can't get enough of them.

All the ones I have are purple and I wish I had at least one white bush. Mom had some white ones but now that she's no longer in that house I don't feel comfortable going over and pulling a few stalks out to transplant. One of these days I ought to just go buy a small bush at the nursery. It would be pretty with the purple ones. But of course it wouldn't have the same meaning as the others do and it wouldn't pull at my heartstrings quite the same way. When I'm cutting these I can hear my mother's voice, as clear as day. hI relive our conversations on the other side of my driveway as I cut lilacs from her bushes and she encourages me to take some saplings for myself. I'm so glad I finally did. Because my lilacs are hers. And I hope my children will take saplings from my plants some day - a gift from their grandmother.

Thanks Mom.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tulips

One of the best things about being able to walk outside in the warmer weather instead of going to the gym is that I get lots of great ideas for my garden. I walk by so many beautifully landscaped yards and businesses and see things all the time that I'd like to copy. The most recent is the tall pink tulips bordered by the pretty purple grape hyacinths.  They have those at both the Hedges and Huntting Inns and its such a pretty combination. Of course with the deer taking all the tulips I had this Spring I'm not sure its a great idea for me but if we ever decide to put fencing up, I'm going to remember it.

Mornings are getting warmer now and the walks more pleasant. Two weeks ago I noticed that the gloves which I needed to protect my hands from the early wind, were making my hands sweat, and this past week I left them off altogether. It's those little increments of temperature change that make a huge difference and I notice them the most on my morning walk. And now those pretty tulips are gone. Yet another sign.

At least the deer didn't get my irises. I'm looking forward to seeing them soon. Maybe I can come up with a nice pink border for those pretty tall lavender stalks. It can't be tulips.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tourists

I hear so many people here bemoaning the coming season and I know that the reason many natives pick up and leave is because they simply can't face the prospect of yet another August with the traffic and crowds that it brings. I prefer to think on the positives and overlook the negatives Here's what I'm looking forward to this season:

Beaches that are still pretty empty when compared with other places in the world. I visited Hawaii once and found Waikiki to be extremely disappointing! Even on the most crowded beach on the East End, one needs only to walk a short way to find plenty of room on the sand for privacy and peace.

Vistas that match no others are everywhere. From the ocean to the bays, to the north, south or east, there are beautiful places to spend time our here.

Outdoor living is the best. I love entertaining when we can be out on the deck and my house is suddenly not so small! Even a gaggle of kids does not deter me as they can run around the yard and play on the swings and the noise level is well dispersed. An outdoor shower even means less use of the bathrooms and less need for cleaning. Casual clothes are always acceptable and potato salad is so good. Ah yes, outdoor living is the best.

Fresh flowers are everywhere. I love having flowers on my table and all season long, from May through October, there are flowers to cut for free. I love bunches of lilacs, vases of rhododendrons, and single roses from the big rose bush by the back deck. So great!

I also love the fact that everyone wants to entertain in the warmer months and there is always something on the calendar to do. I enjoy the social life and I like keeping busy. In the nearly sixty years of life for me here on the East End, I've learned to navigate and plan around the traffic, to ignore the rude and selfish tourists, and to treasure the wonderful gifts around me. There's a price to pay to live in paradise and I gladly pay it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Grass

The grass is growing like crazy here on the East End and summer can't be far away now. The mowers are busy and the leaf blowers are out and the noises of summer are all around. My lilacs are blooming now and in a few weeks the irises will be out. I love this time of the year!

I usually say that autumn is my favorite season, and I do love it, but this year I'm really enjoying the spring. There's something about the optimism of spring that's contagious and everyone seems to be smiling and upbeat, despite the traffic that we can see building by the day now.  Fall is beautiful but its also the end of the summer and carries a bit of melancholy with it. But spring is all about new beginnings and as each bud or leaf appears it lifts the spirit and stirs the soul. Even the light is different in the spring and it seems more invigorating - it wakes me in the morning and pushes me out of bed, ready to start the day.

Yes, the grass is growing here on the East End and the season is upon us. It's a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wedding weather

This month is beginning to be beautiful weather-wise and I'm thinking its probably the best possible month for a wedding. My son is getting married in less than two weeks and I'm thrilled at how simple its been to plan what clothes to wear.

Each of my children have married in different months. Each has produced its own challenges. For instance, my eldest was married in December. We knew it would be cold and we planned for the worst possible weather. But what do you do for outerwear? You really don't want to wear a parka over a long dress, but it could be pretty frigid, with the possibility of snow. I think I probably wore my dress coat but that wasn't ideal because as every woman knows you should have a long coat to wear with a long dress. I'd already spent enough on the dress, I certainly wasn't going to buy a long coat.

My second daughter was married in July. No question July would be HOT. I am not a lover of the heat and don't do well in polyester or other synthetics. Good luck finding a long dress made out of cotton! It was an impossible task. In the end I bought some pretty linen and had an outfit made for the occasion. It was as comfortable as possible but I still found myself flushed with the heat at times during the festivities.

Next it was my youngest child to wed and he decided (or his bride did!) to use the month of June. This was a nice time of year as it was not yet hot and humid, and no coats were necessary. Since it was a more casual wedding, with the men wearing linen shirts and khakis instead of tuxes and the ceremony taking place outside at the Montauk Lighthouse, I opted for pants. I don't wear short skirts because, like Hillary Clinton, I don't have very good looking legs so I choose to spare the rest of the world from a look at them. If I can't wear a long dress, it has to be pants. But in order to make pants look dressy enough for a wedding, a nice jacket is necessary. I had trouble finding a nice linen one and wasn't really happy with it at the end of the day. I don't think it was terribly attractive.

But now we're in May, and this is ideal! This is a small wedding with immediate family only in attendance, so I can wear dressy slacks or a suit, with no worries about being too hot in a pretty blazer or suit jacket. The weather is ideal. I can't wait for the day to arrive!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Screens

This is the time of year when the temperatures swing from one side to the other and it's not easy to get comfortable. The heat is off and sometimes its pretty cool in the evenings. That can be solved by turning on the gas fireplace and warming up the living room. But the days can get pretty warm and the screens were finally put on the windows last weekend. I'm still waiting for the doors to get them but soon....

The temperature inches up in small increments. Yesterday was the first time I wore my lighter weight work-out clothes for my morning walk. No more gloves or ear coverings as the air is not as biting as it had been. Winter is not going to rear its ugly head again for a few months and we're all glad.

Our french doors are badly in need of new screens but I imagine the weather will end up dictating another summer of insects in the house because they haven't been repaired yet and I'm not sure they'll be done before its so hot they have to be installed or we'll be wilting along with the house plants. As I said, the screens on the front windows finally made their appearance and that has helped when it gets too warm. We tend to be reactionary around here rather than proactive. Not a good way to live but this is how life evolves, you know? When an organized person marries someone who flies by the seat of their pants, its a union that produces a certain amount of structure but an equal amount of chaos. I hate the chaos. The screens are part of it. Then again, I could always get them out and do them myself, couldn't I? I think I'll wait.

So the back door screens are still in the shed and the house is beginning to feel a bit stuffy. It must be May. I love it. The weather is perfection.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Front doors

Last week I started the process of painting our badly faded front door. Our house, with its natural shingles, needs a bit of a punch to make it really look good and I find the front door is essential for giving it a nice appearance. That along with the window boxes filled with red geraniums that we added a few years ago really helps to make it look nice. So the front door is a big deal to me.

Over the years I've painted various colors. It was white when we moved in, but I've made it yellow, red, and blue at various times, usually choosing a color on a whim. I like color and each of them pleased me in turn. I also like change so I could never bring myself to re-paint it the same color it was when the time comes to do it. This most recent color was painted ten years ago and I chose the color blue because it was a nice compliment for the color scheme of my daughter's wedding, which was going to be held in our back yard. Hydrangeas were going to grace the center of every table so it seemed a perfect way to tie it all together. But the blue is badly faded now and it's time for a change.

So for months I've been contemplating a new color. We always do red geraniums in the window boxes because they're the hardiest and do the best there, so it has to be something that will compliment nicely. I had finally decided on a nice soft green color, similar to one at a friend's home that I admire everytime I visit there. So, I headed to the paint store to buy everything I needed one recent morning. I stood at the paint chip section pulling greens and trying to find the perfect shade. The problem was, it was a rainy, gray day and I was badly in need of a pick-up and the greens just weren't doing it for me. It's amazing how the weather can affect our decisions, is it not?

The next time I paint the front door it IS going to GREEN! (Although I'm really liking the blue on the photo here!) But for now, my front door is a lovely, cheerful shade of yellow.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

I's been four years since my mother died and I keep waiting for things like Mother's Day to be less sad for me. It seems as though at some point I should be able to spend Mother's Day thinking more about happy memories and in gratitude for the blessing that she was rather than in grief and sadness. It hasn't happened yet.

Mother's Day brings up so much sadness. The past few years have been difficult without her. I've felt the need for her wisdom and counsel so many times, and I so needed her with me when I was going through chemotherapy and surgery. I was lucky enough to have family who stepped in and helped me through, but no one can replace a mother. Her absence was keenly felt.

Even now, two years since then, I wish I could ask her help at least once a week. I want to find out how she would handle an issue with one of my own children, or with my husband, because I know how well she dealt with those things herself. I wish I could share my happiest moments with her because no one would be as thrilled as she with anything good in my life.

Mother's Day this year will be bittersweet for me. I hope the tide will turn soon and the happy memories will be more prevalent than the grief. It just hasn't happened yet.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Two weeks



In two weeks the last of my four children will get married.

I can hardly believe I'm even saying that because it seems like only yesterday that I was planning my own wedding, but time has gone quickly and now, my last baby is officially moving on.

Well, hey. He is nearly thirty-years-old after all so this is no surprise. He hasn't lived at home for awhile now and he's certainly been considered an adult for some time, so what difference does a wedding make, right? It's a mental thing I guess. I suppose it's also a mother's contentment at seeing her children all settled down with wonderful mates, people I love and am thrilled to welcome into the family. It's almost a feeling of "OK - I can die happy now because my job is done! They're all grown and happy and they're not alone!"

This is someone I would have chosen for him myself. I think they are a great match. And I'm praying that when they say their vows in two weeks they'll defy the odds, just like my other three, and live happily ever after. Like their parents. Thank you God!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Catch-up

Going away for a week means playing catch-up for the following week, which is what I've been doing here the past few days. It's the worst part of going away and I always dread it.

First there are the phone messages. I sit by the phone with paper and pen writing names and phone numbers, often having to listen repeatedly to catch all the numbers and words. (Some people speak so quickly! Or they mumble, or they speak too quietly...)

Then there is the mail. Unfortunately, my husband (who was at home) chose not to do any sorting of the mail while I was gone so I had piles of junk mail to sort through and then make small piles of bills, invitations, etc. That took awhile.

And of course there were all the things that didn't get done over the week before so there were phone calls to make, emails to answer, and errands to run. We needed groceries, there was laundry to do, and bills needed paying.

Finally now I'm beginning to feel as though I'm totally back to normal, whatever that is. I had doctor's appointments and cleaning to pick up and I made myself lists for next week so I've got the correct jump on all of that. I'm feeling more organized already.

May is flying by. Before long the lilacs will be gone and I'll be looking forward to the hydrangeas. And so it goes in life around here...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cherry trees

I was so happy to get home last weekend and find that the cherry trees were just beginning to bloom here. I was afraid I might have missed them!

My Spring has been wonderfully extended now as the beautiful trees at my daughter's house were beginning to fade, and here at home they've just come into their own. The weeping cherry is gorgeous, my lilacs have barely grown their buds yet, and the daffodils are still out - at least the latest of the bloomers are still in my garden. This is a week of beauty here on the East End and I'm enjoying every minute of it. I'll be checking out my favorite spots and making sure I see it all before the blossoms drop and the trees fill out with green.

Easter week was the perfect time to visit Pennsylvania - it's made my Spring longer and brighter, and I needed that after the winter of our discontent!

It's May in East Hampton. And its a wonderful time to be alive.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cinderella

The fascination with the royal wedding has some people completely flummoxed, but I'm not sure why. It seems so obvious to me that seeing that wedding was like a fantasy for every woman who grew up in a household in the United States (with the possible exception of Amish girls!).

I remember seeing the Disney movie "Cinderella" when I was pretty young. I loved it. It seemed like a dream that every girl could hold on to - that some day, if she was sweet and pure enough, a prince would sweep in and save her from her difficult life and make her a princess who would live in luxury the forever. Sounds really good to me!

Of course, we all grow up to understand the difference between fantasy and reality and we enjoy our forays into the former but know the latter is our life. We embrace the lives we have, loving them for the love and joy they bring us, wherever we are and whatever our circumstances.But every young girl talks about being "Cinderella" on her wedding day, wanting to look like a princess (Just watch "Say Yes to the Dress" on TLC if you don't believe me!). And the royal wedding, where a commoner like us becomes a princess and looks every bit of one throughout it all, was the perfect example of the fulfillment of those fantasies - a real dream come true.

The other piece of that puzzle is that so many of us can trace our roots to England and identify with our ancestors who toiled under the royalty of years gone by, thus our other fascination with all things royal. Who wouldn't be interested in the story of Henry VIII and his many wives? Such power and corruption are an undeniable draw. So the history connected with the royal wedding (i.e. "the tiara worn by the Queen" and "the carriage used by Victoria") is another wonderful part of this royal wedding frenzy.

Last year we visited Disney World with our grandchildren and we attended a luncheon at Cinderella's castle. All the little girls dressed in their princess costumes - my grandson was dressed as Prince Philip. They were treated by royalty, and the fantasy continues...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Echos of the East End

Spending a week in PA allowed me to really contemplate the area around my daughter's home and draw some interesting comparisons to my own hometown here on the East End. Rural Pennsylvania is not all the different from the Eastern Long Island in that it is largely made up of farming communities. The silos, fields, and farm equipment encountered along the roads reminded me so much of growing up out here and I found myself being nostalgic more than once as I looked across fields and watched the tractors working. I miss seeing that along Route 27, which was all farmland not so long ago.

But also like the East End, the farms in Pennsylvania are being gobbled up by housing and strip malls and I see the future not all that different from what we know. My daughter's house is in a development that was a farm up until probably ten years ago, and one after another, what's left is disappearing. I've seen the changes in the ten years we've been visiting. It's sad, but its also reality everywhere and there isn't much anyone can do about it. Fortunately for Pennsylvania, the Amish are still holding onto their farms and I think it will be a long, long time before they disappear.

It's always nice to visit there and be reminded of my childhood here in East Hampton, where we saw as many cows as we did cars on any drive. Even the smells of the animals are welcome and I find it makes me smile as I remember our local herds of cows and horses. The sights and smells are all comforting to me. I wonder if my grandchildren who live there will feel the same way when they are my age and their farms have largely disappeared as well.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Salons

Years ago when hair salons became "unisex" there was some consternation in certain circles, worried that the refuges that are our hair salons would no longer be the places of sanctuary that we women have enjoyed for so long. And the men did come! In fact, there are far fewer barber shops than there used to be. When I was growing up there were at least three barbershops in the village alone. But now, many men do indeed go to the salons frequented by their wives. Somehow it barely warrants a head turn anymore and no one seems to care.

I think its because the men have never made the salon their own sanctuaries. They go in, get a quick cut, and often leave without even having their hair dried. Often they're in and out in thirty minutes. There is no deep conversation about relationships or family complications. The hairdresser does not need to turn off the hair dryer frequently to make points. It's not much of an "event" for the men.

But we women still embrace our time at the salon as special, pampering time. We relax and enjoy the shampoo, closing our eyes and maybe even taking a little nap during the head massage. Then when we sit in the chair with our confidant, our hairdresser whom we trust and have bonded with over the many years we've been frequenting their business, we open up about every part of our lives, sharing things we rarely share with anyone outside our immediate circle of friends and family. Because that's what they are. And very few people in our lives can make us feel as good about ourselves as they do when we walk out of their shops!

No, the men just don't get it. And its just as well.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May!!!

The long-awaited month of May has arrived and I'm so glad! This past winter was a long and cold one and the spring was cold and wet, so we are ready for some sunshine and blue skies, for sure. May is always one of my favorite months because its so bright and sunny and the days are warm and the nights cool. I find it perfect for sleeping and delightful for enjoying the long days and beautiful flowers. So May is welcome on the East End today!

I'm hoping that May turns out to be a beautiful month. It will be a wonderful time of celebration in my family as we celebrate a wedding. My son and his beautiful fiance are getting married in a few weeks and we're very excited about our fourth and final child settling down in a wonderful relationship. What a blessing that is for any parent, seeing their children with great people. In my case I want to see them all as happy as their father and I have been and I think they will be.

May is also busy for us because there's so much work to do in the yard and around the house. There's a home office that still needs renovating and I'm hoping to make some progress out there but with all the outdoor work to be done I have my doubts. There simply are not enough hours in the day during the month of May. It's one of those months when we could use an additional 10 or 12 hours, along with the energy to use them.

May is making a welcome appearance today and we're all glad to see it.