Monday, October 31, 2011

Frightful

I've never been a big fan of Halloween.

When I was young we always made our own costumes. I never had a store-bought one and never really cared to. In those days they were cheap plastic masks and simple body suits imprinted with whatever pattern necessary to look like the clown or superhero or skeleton - whatever the child wanted to be. So we kids would head into the attic at my parents and claw through the old trunks and find something to make us look like a princess or gypsy or whatever we decided to be. Children used old sheets to be ghosts or mummies and make-up to look like zombies.

But the pressure was huge. First of all, I was always a chubby kid who wasn't particularly cute, so I knew whatever I put on would not transform me enough to make me pass for a pretty woman of any kind. I may want to be a princess but no one was going to buy it and I knew that. But girls never dressed as ugly things in those days so I couldn't be a mummy or vampire. I never felt cute enough in anything I put together.

Then when my own children were small I had to make their costumes and that was an equal pressure-cooker. I felt so vindicated when my daughter won for best costume once in grade school! I had very little money then and bought about a yard of cheap red felt and and black marker and turned my girls into crayons. I was thrilled when she won an award over the kids whose parent's had spent so much more on their fancy costumes. But other than that year, I still did not enjoy the pressure of Halloween.

So - when I see adults all dressing for the day on Halloween these days, in stores working (that would NEVER have been done years ago!) or walking around the street, I am in no way tempted to join them. I figure my normal costume is enough to get me through. After all, if people saw what I actually look like when I get out of bed in the morning they'd never recognize me at all.

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Home again

Today we head home from our visit with the grand kids and it will be bitter sweet. I always miss my own house when we're gone - my nice deep bathtub and king-sized bed for instance - but I love all the quality time with my daughter and her family. If I had to choose I would gladly give up all the little pleasures of my own home to be with family, but still I enjoy getting back to them when I can. So I'm anxious to get on the road heading north east...but I know as soon as we pull out of the driveway I'll start missing the ones we're leaving behind. Life is full of such dilemmas!

I'm lucky in that I have other family to come home to. If I didn't, the leaving would be so much more difficult. But knowing I'll soon see the family left at home helps ease the sting of leaving and I'm grateful for that. It will be a sad/happy day.

Pennsylvania is lovely this time of year, but I'm looking forward to turning the corner of Woods Lane and Main Street and seeing that pond stretched out in front, welcoming me home. There just isn't a better welcoming committee anywhere than the swans and the windmills. It makes leaving part of my heart behind so much easier knowing what's waiting at the other end.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Leaves

Our fall has not been as spectacular as usual this year in the foliage department. Hurricane Irene did a great job of stripping a lot of the leaves back in August, and others were damaged by the salt spray. A couple of my own trees have had curled up, dead-looking leaves for months now, so they didn't turn a nice bright color and go out in splendor - they're just shedding their clothes slowly, a few dozen leaves every day.

My favorite falls are the ones where the colored leaves stay on forever and then suddenly, all in one day, everything drops to the ground forming a puddle of orange or red all around the base, not to disappear until a good stiff breeze sends them flying in every direction. It won't happen this year, and doesn't happen all that often because it needs the perfect weather to happen. But maybe next year.

Of course, life is all about the unexpected and I'm glad things don't always happen exactly the same way. Where would be the fun in that? And what would we have to look forward to?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friendship

This week we were able to connect with two couples who are old friends. One couple we've known forever, having attended school together in East Hampton and attending each others' weddings.

The other couple we've known for a much shorter time but there are still bonds that keep us in touch. It was a work relationship - he was my boss, but it was a small office and we were the only two people there most of the time. Working in a situation like that means you either like each other or you move on - there's no avoiding anyone! It also makes for relationships that last because we share the details of our lives in our day-to-day working hours. In this case I liked his wife too, so it was an easy relationship to follow even after they also moved away.

One of the best things about visiting my daughter is the close proximity it puts us to old friends. Because I miss the people who've come and gone from our lives. It seems so strange that you can spend so much time with someone for many years and yet when circumstances change, you're suddenly no longer in touch. So many memories follow a close relationship. It makes me think about people who are divorced - I can't even imagine what it would be like to be married to someone and then for whatever reason leave each other and not see each other again. I know it happens all the time but it seems incredible to me that you can share that kind of intimacy with someone and then - poof! - gone from your life! No doubt in some cases that's a great blessing and relationships are complicated. But  still....it must be odd for those involved.

Yes, life changes and we move on from one relationship to another, from one place to another, from one life to another. When you get to be my age you begin to see it all with a different perspective and some things really do stand out. Life truly is a puzzle but I'm not all that sure there is any solution. We just live it and take it as it comes....we don't actually have much choice!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Monsters

There are monsters among us. I'm sure everyone has noticed this trend, but for me, another one has recently reared its ugly head and shocked me.

A drive along the back roads from Bridgehampton to Southampton is all it takes to see this monster. It's being built practically next door to the old Wainscott Post Office. (The one in the photo is not the one I'm talking about, but it's about the same size! Imagine it tucked into a small piece of property next to stately farm houses...)  This monster is newly shingled and so out of context and overly huge that it looks like someone plucked it from an oceanfront estate and plopped it down along pretty little Wainscott Main Street. What a travesty.

Wainscott Main is a beautiful historic street of lovely, shingled two-story farm houses. There is a wonderful ebb and flow to the street, where for generations farmers have plowed their fields and raised their families in ample, lovely homes. They're not small houses - they're perfectly comfortable ones. But since someone has decided to build a monster in their midst they are dwarfed into submission, looking forlorn and lost in the shadows. It's such a shame.

I've always said I would never want to build a house that didn't fit into a neighborhood, but apparently not everyone feels that way. If they had wanted 5000 sq. ft. of living space perhaps they could have built something deeper or more rambling. But whomever these folks are, I suppose they want the attention. Perhaps the town needs to spend a little more time creating historic districts so that perfect little hamlets like Wainscott don't suddenly become mansion rows.  I'm still steaming...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Views

I saw a view I've probably seen thousands of times before and suddenly saw it for the very first time. I was coming out of Mill Hill Lane onto Main Street. How many times in my life have I done that? I imagine I'm usually too busy looking left and right once I get to the stop sign. But for some reason this day I looked straight ahead. There was a gentle slope up a small hill across the street and at the top was the South End Burial Ground. The old stones stood like sentries, announcing to the world that below them lay the hard-working, God-fearing men and women who discovered this beautiful place and made it into the wonderful town it became. The monument to the crew of the John Milton stood tall among the smaller stones, reminding me of the way this community took care of those men in the way they hoped their own men would be cared for if they were to meet the same fate, washing up on the shores of some distant land among strangers.

In a few short minutes - seconds really - all these thoughts flew through my mind as I gazed across at the cemetery set against the green grass and blue sky. It was an angle I don't usually get, although I see the cemetery every day from Main Street. This view was a little different and made me see it in a different light. I felt an undeniable connection to those people lying beneath the sod and sent a little "thank-you" up to their spirits, hoping they were still watching us from afar.

Sometimes it takes us a new view to see and appreciate things that are right in front of us all along.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nightfall

It's about 6:00 now when the sun goes down and in another week it will be an hour before that. We are moving quickly towards winter these days, with fall still bringing us some warm weather but leaves falling quickly and the fields being readied for the dormant season.

I'm looking forward to the sun earlier in the day, but know it will be short-lived as the nights get longer until the end of December. But since we rise pretty early in this house, the morning light will be welcomed with open arms and bright eyes. It will assist in waking for the day, just as the evening darkness will help me turn in earlier.

It's hard to deal with pitch black at 5pm though. And I'm not quite ready for the winter coat and gloves. But, as with everything in life, we adjust. For now, I'll be happy to turn on the gas fireplace and warm up my living room, climb under my nice faux fur throw, and make a big bowl of popcorn to eat in front of the tv. In the summer I'd never "waste time" doing that. Now - it's considered the perfect way to spend an evening...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Scoville Hall

Last week the community lost one of it's most significant buildings: Scoville Hall. It wasn't historically significant, or particularly beautiful. It certainly wasn't anything special in terms of the design or furnishings. But it was a place that held memories for almost everyone who grew up here on the East End. Those places are fewer and rarer than ever around here and now, another is gone.

I remember many occasions to visit Scoville Hall in my life: Girl Scout meetings, school events, church suppers, and Christmas sales just to name a few. It was a classic church fellowship hall, and since it had never been renovated it still had the prerequisite stage and assembly room upstairs as well as the kitchen and hall down. There were stairs all over the place - back stairs and front stairs, and little rooms around every corner for offices or storage. Like all churches do, it provided the heart and soul of the community it served. It is a loss we all feel.

But the wonderful thing about a small community is that we rally together when we need to, and we accomplish great things. Scoville Hall will rise again, probably in a better form and no doubt in a more modern one. It will continue to serve the community as it always has and will probably be designed in a way to do so more efficiently than the 1920s version was able to. I look forward to being part of the process - of buying tickets for fundraisers and lending a hand wherever I'm able. Because a community is only as good as its members and ours, I think, are the best.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I do love lucy

I noticed there are lots of "I Love Lucy" marathons going on lately - apparently because of a birthday - Lucille Ball's 100th I think. Anyway, there have been some retrospectives on various channels and also in the newspapers. I recorded some kind of tribute on PBS but haven't had a chance to watch it yet. Of all the ones scheduled I assumed PBS would produce the best. I'll get around to it one of these days.

In the meantime all the press has sparked alot of memories and I've enjoyed them all. I like thinking about where I was the first time I saw a certain episode, or remembering the dialogue from another. It - and she - was such a classic that it's worth revisiting over and over again and some things can never be topped. Others may duplicate the scene from the candy factory, but no one can imitate her wide-eyed scowl as she stuffed her mouth full of chocolates. Many may try, but none will equal the crazy way she reacted and the brilliant timing of her delivery. She really was one-of-a-kind. (Having a granddaughter named Lucy brings the "original" to mind all the more often now!)

There were so many classic television shows that were produced in the early days of tv. "The Honeymooners", "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show", and "The Ed Sullivan Show" come immediately to mind. They were smart and funny and stand the test of time better than any of the over-produced, slick spots that we see nowadays. It seems that will all the channels we have, there's less and less to watch. Honestly, if I could watch "I Love Lucy" every single night I probably would. And I'd enjoy it just as much now as I did every time I've seen it before. All of us owe Lucille Ball a debt of gratitude for sharing her unique gifts with the world. It's impossible to put a price on laughter...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pennsylvania

We're planning a trip to Pennsylvania soon to see the grand kids there and I'm excited about seeing the farms all decked out for the season. There are many farms near their house, including some Amish ones, and there's nothing like a farm in the autumn! The fields will be full of pumpkins and other fall vegetables, and there will be hay rides and ghost adventures advertised all along the roads. Its a great place for kids around Halloween and I'm sure her house is beautifully decorated for the holiday.

The only times I ever regret living on the East End are when I have to leave it. I HATE getting off Long Island. I detest the Belt Parkway, the Cross Bronx Expressway, and every bridge between here and the mainland. I can't stand dealing with the metropolitan traffic and can well imagine a time when any trip through the western end of the island will no longer be possible in our old age. It's impossible to gauge time and traffic and as hard as we try we never know what we'll find once we've left the boundaries of home. I would prefer heading north, across the Sound to Connecticut, but there's no changing where our children settle so it is what it is. I do love Pennsylvania. It's getting there that I'm not crazy about.

All that said, I'm looking forward to seeing the family that I haven't seen since July and I'm more than ready for some time with the kids. And I do like being there at this time of the year. Can't wait to get on the road...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ancestry.com

I was fascinated with a short-term television series that was on over the summer called "Who Do You Think You Are?". In it, famous people traced their ancestors and discovered wonderful things about their families. Of course, it wasn't much more than an elaborate advertisement for ancestry.com, but I ate it all up. In the cases of these celebrities, they were able to travel to various parts of the country - and even the world - to examine old records and find clues as to who and what their ancestors were all about. It was great fun to see the look on Vanessa William's face, for instance, when she discovered that one of her great, great, great (great?) grandfathers had arrived on these shores as a passenger on the Mayflower. And the raw emotional esponse by Lionel Richie as he stood at the grave of an early ancestor who had been freed from slavery and was buried in a pauper's grave. Every week was a moving, enlightening hour and I was hooked.

What I wish I could do is find a television show like that to do all my leg work for ME -  and send me back to England to find my 9th generation cousins there! I'd also love to do some work on my mother's side of the family, which I know little about, and find out where those ancestors came from. I have a cousin who has done extensive work on my father's side of the family and I'm so grateful for that. I spent some time on my computer one day trying to track down any cousins who are far flung from my great-great grandfather's sibling sister's branches, but so far no luck. It's much easier to follow the male branches than the female's, as names changed and people moved away from Long Island. One of the sister's, who would have been my great, great, great aunt, married the local Methodist minister in East Hampton and within two years they had left town for places unknown. Another married a man from Westhampton and I'm sure there must be relatives there, but I haven't been able to trace them yet. How amazing would it be to organize a reunion with all the generations that are still around who can trace their ancestry back to this very corner of East Hampton where I still live?

And my mother's side - well it would be so sweet to be able to trace those roots a few hundred years. Both my grandparents came from upstate New York but how did they get there and who were their parents? I know some ancestors on my grandmother's side (a great, great grandmother and great, great, great grandmother I believe) died in the Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania over 100 years ago, so obviously there are roots in that state too. So many questions yet unanswered.

Some day I hope to have the time to put into tracing more of my family roots and even finding some long-lost cousins in the process. I think its so important to know where we've come from. Ask Vanessa Williams. I'm sure the Mayflower Society never expected her!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Candles

I love candles. In fact, had I know years ago that I would be so obsessed, I would have bought stock in the Yankee Candle Company. Every year I buy dozens of small white votive candles and whenever I need ambiance for a dinner party or just because I'm in the mood, I have them everywhere. In the summer they're all around the deck and outdoor tables, and in the winter they cover nearly every surface.

Every fall I look for a nice autumnal scented candle to get me in the mood for the season. This year, I perused the Yankee Candle catalog, trying to decide which scent might be the perfect one. Sometimes its hard to tell from the clever names they give them, like "Red Apple Wreath" and "Red Berry and Cider", and I'm never sure until I get them whether I'll be happy with the choice. This year I really hit the jackpot with a candle called "Autumn Wreath". It's perfect. When I get in the house in the afternoon I light it up and in no time at all the house is filled with the most glorious aroma  that says "home sweet home" to me. It's just the way I want my house to smell when someone walks in the back door - like coming in to a home where there is love and good food in abundance! This one does the trick.

Fortunately, I went beyond my better judgement this year and I bought two of them. It's a risky thing to do because if I wasn't pleased with it I would have had to give the second one away, but now I know I'm set until the holidays. Who'd 'a tho't that t simple thing like a candle would bring so much joy anyway? Sometimes it truly is the simple things in life that mean the most.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Main Beach

Over the Columbus Day weekend we had unusually warm and sunny weather and it was fun to be out in the sun, working in the yard and enjoying a last gasp of summer. We even made a trip to the beach to see how the surf was, and lo and behold, it was busy there! Main Beach was being well-used with lots of umbrellas and bathing suits in sight as far as I could see. They were all down near the water though - no one was siting up near the pavilion (although there were people sitting on the pavilion!).

The entire scene reminded me of my childhood here and they way the beaches used to look. Main Beach was always busy, but never crowded. Two Mile Hollow was a favorite among families who didn't worry about lifeguards, and the other village beaches were sparsely populated on any weekend. My own family freuqented two beaches: Two Mile Hollow on the ocean side and Albert's Landing on the bay side. My mother, having grown up in the Buffalo area, was not a great swimmer, but the women she went with (Molly Cangiolosi and Grace Suscy) were, so she knew we were safely watched over. I remember being pulled out of the surf more than once by each of them!

There weren't many beaches that had lifeguards and Main is the only I can remember that did, although there were probably a couple in the town elsewhere. We just never went to town beaches unless it was the bay because we were closer to the village ones. So Main Beach, with its concession stand, lockers and lifeguards has always been popular. But back in the 50s, it looked more like it did last weekend than the way it does now on a busy Saturday in August.

Those were the golden years in East Hampton. The war was over, baby boomers were coming into the world at an alarming rate, and life was good. Optimism made the country a wonderful place to be (as long as you were straight, white, and male of course! But then that's another story!) For us growing up here in the late 50's and early 60's it really was a perfect life.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pink Ribbons

I can't let the month of October go by without mentioning all the pink ribbons around. I don't think I've ever told my whole story in this blog, although certainly there have been references over the past couple years. When I was going through it all I didn't put alot of it down - so here goes:

It was an ordinary day in January of 2009 when I went for my annual mammogram. I sat with a friend in the waiting room - he was there for blood work and we ran into each other by chance - and we passed the time of day. It was a day like any other. But then a few days later everything changed. I got the call. Not only did they want me to come back for another mammogram,  they wanted me to come to the hospital for it, and also scheduled me for a sonogram at the same time. I knew then it was what we all fear.

A week later I had gone through another mammo, a sono, and had spoken to the radiologist who confirmed my fears. I saw a breast surgeon a few days later. What I remember most from those days the fear. There's something about the unknown that is way more frightening than what we already know to be true. I spent the next weeks wondering if I would live another year, another 6 months, to my next birthday...there were so many questions. I hated the unknown. ((At least when I know what I'm dealing with I can work on a plan - formulate an action - mentally deal with it all.) But for awhile I had to wait. There were more tests - too many to remember - and I sometimes felt like a petri dish under a microscope. Those were difficult days.

It was March before I had some of the answers, and even later to find some of the others. I underwent an entire day in the operating room, having first a mastectomy and then a reconstruction done all at the same time. The lymph nodes were clean - a big answer! But still, they recommended chemotherapy and in May I began the regimen that would define my life for the following months. It was October before I began to feel good again and December before I could stop wearing wigs. It was another year before I felt like myself completely.

In January it will be three years since that initial mammogram, and this month, this breast cancer awareness month, I feel compelled to share my story and say this: please, please, please do not neglect yourself! Not only women, but 1% of breast cancer patients are men. Everyone please take a few minutes to do a self-exam, and women, without hesitation, I beg you to get a mammogram every year. My cancer would not have been found without that mammo because it could not be felt, and I would probably not be here today had I not had mine done.

I hated going through cancer treatment and I hate having cancer hanging over my head. But I love the new appreciation for life that my cancer has given to me. I feel as though in some ways I've lived more in the past two years than I had my entire life before. Every sunrise is more beautiful, every full moon more spectacular, every fire at the beach, and every hug from a loved one is more appreciated now than ever before. And I smile a lot more too. It's difficult to regret anything that brings that kind of joy to life.

But I don't wish cancer on anyone and hope anyone who reads this will either encourage the people they love, or make sure they themselves, schedule a mammogram. It could save your life too!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wall Street

The sit-ins on Wall Street these past few weeks are very reminiscent of the 1960s and watching it all on TV brings back a lot of memories. I am somewhat ambivalent about it all but cautious at the same time. I agree that its important for citizens to have the right to protest. But I also remember the contention that comes with these things. Anyone who lived through the 60s will know how protests quickly turned into riots and the fact that this movement is building is somewhat concerning. Hopefully we don't experience the things that we've been seeing oversees in the past few months.

I'd like the opportunity to sit with someone who knows and can help me understand exactly what is happening in this situation. I'm no expert on Wall Street or the issues that are being raised, but I'd like to learn. After all, if anyone is willing to camp out for weeks to make a point, I want to listen. Living through the 1960s did teach me that sometimes there is an important message in the whole mess.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Refreshing

I'm still working on the bedroom 'refreshing" which has resulted from my nephew's comment about my room being "messy". (Sometimes it takes a child's honestly to bring us back to reality!). Anyway, I found a beautiful Pottery Barn king quilt at a yard sale last week along with some king pillows and shams and a decorative pillow which coordinated. I paid all of $80 for the pile. That alone made a huge difference when I placed it all on the bed and it makes me smile now everytime I look at it. Since then I've been looking for a comfy upholstered chair for the corner but no luck yet. I've checked the yard sales, Pier 1, TJ Maxx, and a couple re-sale shops in town, but nothing quite fits the bill for the perfect combination of comfort and price. (I did find a nice faux fur throw at TJ for $19 which will look great on the chair as soon as I find it though.)

I have a nice sea chest which recently came home to roost. It was a gift from my husband-to-be for our first Christmas together and there's a great deal of sentimental value to it. I no longer had use for it here (it was stored in the attic) so my son had taken it to his apartment. When he didn't need it anymore and asked what to do with it I said to bring it back - I'm not ready to throw it out yet, despite its worn condition. That piece will find a place of honor in my bedroom after I put some padding on the top and cover it with fabric - a nice storage space that can double as an ottoman. The room isn't terribly big so it's going to be a pretty tight fit, but I'll finally have a place to read or watch TV other than my bed. I can't wait.

I still need a chair...and maybe a floor lamp. And then I just need to put it all together. Sometimes its the little things that make us the most content.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bridgehampton

I was at an event in Southampton recently and an elderly lady, obviously of means, was asking me where I was from. I told her "East Hampton" and she then said "There aren't many people out there this time of the year are there?" and I sort of chuckled and said that yes, there were still many people east of Southampton. Then she said something that completely floored me. She said "Well Bridgehampton is really just as summer place, isn't it?" BRIDGEHAMPTON??? Are you serious?

I actually laughed out loud. I assured her that Bridgehampton was very much a year-round community and there were plenty of people there after Labor Day. She said something about needing to learn more about the eastern end of the island and moved on to the next group of people. I think she must have sensed my incredulity and maybe was embarrassed - I'm not sure. I mean, how does someone "live" in Southampton even as a part-time resident for many years and know so little about the area?

She wasn't a bad person - we were at an event supporting an important institution and she wasn't there for any kind of prestige because it was a small event, not a fund-raiser. She ws a nice person who was well-meaning and certainly community minded. But as I drove away later I couldn't get that conversation out of my mind. I thought about the hard-working farmers who had made Bridgehampton the wonderful agricultural community it is - Babinskis and Halseys and Yastremskis to name a few. I thought about the migrant laborers who used to live in horrid conditions in labor camps every summer and who had, in many cases, become a permanent part of the East End, raising children here and becoming business people themselves. I thought about the school, and the state championships its basketball team has won, making a name for themselves far away from little Bridgehampton. And I thought how sad it is that this wonderful community should ever be thought of as a "summer place" for the rich and famous.

It's sometimes very frustrating to live on the East End. It reminds me that one of the reasons I became involved with the East Hampton Historical Society over twenty years ago is that the parents of my school-aged children had no idea of the history of this place where they now lived. When I asked one of them to meet me at Home Sweet Home to carpool she said "You mean the place on the highway?" (meaning the moving company). She had never heard of the museum on James Lane. That's when the light went off in my head and I knew I had to do what I could to keep our history alive and educate not only our children, but their parents as well. They need to know who we are and where we came from. I wish I had the energy to spend time educating this elderly lady as well but sadly, I don't. Hopefully some day she'll get the word. At least she now knows that it's more than just a "summer place".  And maybe she'll even visit Bridgehampton over the winter to see that it really is alive and well.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Redheads

I've noticed that redheads are very popular on television these days.

Actually, I've always wanted to be a redhead. To me they are the most exotic of creatures and I adore every shade, from deep auburn to bright red. Long before you could get red hair out of a bottle, I dreamed of having it. I wanted to be different, to be unique, and to stand out in a crowd. I never understood why people so blessed with such beautiful hair would resent being called "carrot top". To me that would have been a badge of honor. I would have welcomed it.

I've often thought it would be fun to change my hair color now at my age, but I think perhaps red is too drastic. As much as I'd love it, I'm not sure it would look good and its so expensive and so much trouble
to fool around with hair dye. I'm just not willing to risk a disaster.

So with all that as background, you can imagine how thrilled I am to see that redheads are suddenly very popular on the TV. There are gorgeous redheads on "Castle", "Bones", and the new show called "Unforgettable". I envy all of them. Of course part of the fantasy is that I'd look just like them if my hair was only red, and I live in reality enough to know that's not true. So what can you do? There are some things that are rare and exotic for a reason...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pumpkins

This year is, sadly, not a good year for pumpkins. There was too much rain after they were sitting in the field and many had to be plowed under with mold and rot. I understand many of the local farm stands have had to import them from points west so they are available to buy, but locally many of the fields are already gone. It's a shame because I love the look of the fields with big old pumpkins in uneven rows, growing every which way and paying no attention to the neat lines the farmers planted. The farm stands look beautiful but the fields are empty.

I was amazed to attend a wedding last year which featured pumpkins. It was autumn so was the perfect decor, especially wit a farmer-groom. But the amazing part to me with the different species of the vegetable that I learned about. Each table was given the name of a different type of pumpkin and I couldn't believe there were so many!

Now when I see them I wonder which type I'm looking at and admire the differences. I'm especially fond of the new white variety that you see everywhere. Totally non-traditional but fun to decorate with!

It may not be a good year for pumpkins but they are never far from mind in October. Soon enough they'll be transformed into art projects and Halloween jack-o-lanterns. I'm not a pumpkin eater like Peter in the nursery rhyme, but I do love to look at them!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Angel food

My mother-in-law made a chocolate angel food cake that was to-die-for. It was light and rich and felt both sinful and angelic at the same time. After all, angel food cake is good for you right? Somehow the chocolate whipped cream frosting somehow negated all that healthiness, but no one ever seemed to care. It was unbelievably delicious.

When we got married I knew that this was my husband's favorite dessert and my mother-in-law offered me the recipe but I declined. I felt that as long as his mother lived right here in the same town as we did, this cake should remain her special contribution on his birthday every year, as well as at other times of the year on special occasions. My thought was that there are some things that should remain sacred, and Mom's favorite cake should be one of them. I never made it as long as she was still well enough to do it herself.

When his mother slowly declined with Alzheimer's, I finally went online to ebay and bought the 1950 version of the Betty Crocker cookbook which I knew was the one she had used to make her chocolate angel food cake. Sure enough, there it was, and I was both sad and delighted to make it for the first time on my husband's birthday that year.

There are some things that just become legendary in families and this cake will forever be "Grandma's Chocolate Angel Food Cake" in our family. I may make it, but it will never be mine. Just as my own favorite chocolate cake recipe will forever be "Aunt Joan's Chocolate Cake". Because the people that are part of our lives should live on in our hearts and minds forever, and with a recipe that happens. I love my mother's lemon meringue pie, and my grandmother's molasses cookies. They are and always will be completely tied to the people who made them, putting all their love and joy into them along the way. I may make them, but they will always be theirs. And that's exactly the way it should be.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Glorious

Yesterday morning I got started a little later than usual - it was a holiday after all and my husband actually stayed in bed until nearly 7am. Unheard of in this house! But it was yet another beautiful day in a really perfect weather weekend.

I left the house about ten after seven for a walk and it was crisp but warm enough to wear a tee shirt. The air was chilly on my bare arms but I knew by the time I got to the top of the hill I'd warm up nicely as long as I walked fast enough to work up a sweat. The field across from my house was draped with a morning mist - not enough to be called fog, but a really lovely sight that filled the air about two feet over the ground. I never walk across the field because its too wet in the morning but its pretty to look at from the sidewalk.

As expected I warmed up quickly and enjoyed the other bonus of a holiday Monday - less traffic. It was lighter and quieter than usual along my route and I appreciated the calm of the early morning. As I walked down Newtown Lane I could smell the donuts frying - which made me immediately hungry for one. There was music playing which intrigued me, and I soon discovered the source: there were painters already at work on one of the village banks. They probably had to get the work done today since it was a holiday and must have been there as soon as dawn broke. I enjoyed having the music to walk to as far as I could hear it.

I had to cut my walk shorter than normal because one of my feet began to protest and with the problems I've been having this past year I've learned not to fight it when that happens. As soon as I have discomfort of any kind I turn for home. There is too high a price to pay otherwise and I missed my morning walks for so many months while nursing them back to health over the summer. So back down the hill I went, enjoying this lovely morning all the way. I had no idea what the rest of the day would hold but it had started out perfectly - a new day, a new week, a new blessing. Life is just too good not to enjoy.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unbelievable!

If anyone has any complaints about the weather on the East End this past weekend, they must be crazy. I cannot remember a more beautiful Columbus Day weekend, ever! Every day has been picture perfect, with warm temperatures and blue skies. How did this happen?

Most weekends in October are sweater weather: sunny, but cool and brisk. But these past few days have been in the high 70s - perfect summer weather only without the humidity and crowds! Even on a holiday weekend the traffic doesn't reach the August levels and this weekend was simply gorgeous. I'm not sure how much longer this will last, but I'll take it while its offered! The beaches were busy yesterday and thankfully the surf was calm, because there were no lifeguards on duty. We got lots of yard work done over the weekend and yard sales were also fun in the perfect weather. My only issue was that I had changed out my cotton pants for jeans and could have used something lighter weight to wear. Oh well! Within a few days it will no doubt be cool again and the jeans will be right.

It wasn't an Indian Summer because we haven't yet had the first frost of the season. But it was a real extension of the summer, only in a better way. I don't mind the heat without the humidity. And the sunshine was really, really nice.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday

Today is my daughter's birthday and anytime one of my children celebrates a birthday I celebrate as well. Because I look at those days as "my days" as much as theirs. Each one of those four days is etched in my memory like it was yesterday, with each moment and detail fresh in my mind - the kinds of things one would not normally retain after over 30 years. I remember the weather, I remember the feelings that overwhelmed me and the exact times that everything happened. They are among the most memorable days in my life. So...they are my special days.

This morning I'm already looking at the clock and thinking about this day 33 years ago. I remember the bed I woke up in and I remember getting up to get ready for the day, and how I suddenly realized it would not be a "normal" day. It happened to be Columbus Day and my husband was already outside working on his day off, puttering around the yard at the apartment we were renting. I opened the window and yelled to him. We needed to head for the hospital.

It's amazing how certain days will never be simply memories to us. We store them in special places in our hearts and they become part of who we are. Weddings, funerals, birthdays, graduation - days that mark the time and events in our lives and form the people that we are. With all the nonsense that clutters our brains its amazing that we can be so precise in our memories on very specific ones.

Well...it's time to give my daughter a call now and wish her a wonderful day. But I'll really be carrying her with me in my heart all day long, celebrating her very special life right along with her. Happy Birthday Sweetie!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Clean-up

This is "Fall Clean-up Day" at my house. We've been busy lately and suddenly it occurs to us that its time to put the summer deck furniture away and clean the yard up. We need to cut down the ornamental grasses, dump the summer flower pots and store them, and doing some general clean-up in the yard. There are still some branches in the back of the yard that came down during Hurricane Irene, and I noticed that there are some weedy vines coming up through a couple places in the hedges that need to be pulled.

I find as we get older we don't have the constitutions for a whole day of yard work, so we'll get started early - by 8am - and by noon or 1:00 we'll come in for lunch. Once we sit long enough to eat I can be sure we won't be getting up again any time soon. So afternoon jobs will need to be more along the line of paying bills and spiffing up the house.

The fall clean-up is always nostalgic for me. It reminds me of raking the yard with my grandfather down the road, and the smell of burning leaves in the metal tub he had behind the garage for that purpose. As I'm pulling weeds out of the hedges I'll think about him in his flannel shirt and hat, piling the leaves all over the yard and talking to me about the various plants and trees in his yard. I loved my grandfather.

I wish we could still burn leaves in the fall. There is something magical about that smell and I miss it every year. And I miss my grandfather too.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Alone

Last weekend my husband left me alone and went on his annual pilgrimage to Dover, Delaware for the NASCAR race there. He's been making this trip every fall for over ten years now so I'm used to it and have no problem with it at all - in fact I like to see him go off and do something with other men once in awhile.

What's interesting to me is the changes in behavior I see in myself when he's gone. First of all, I felt free to come and go without "checking in" with anyone and had a tendency to wander around shopping and doing other things with no thought of being home at a specific time. I also didn't plan ahead for meals, instead just letting things happen as the spirit moved me.

I enjoyed having the television to myself, I have to say. I liked being in command of the remote and not giving any thought to anyone else's opinion about what to watch. I loved stretching out on the couch and in my huge king-sized bed. I found I went to bed later and got up earlier, which surprised me.

What I didn't enjoy was not having him here to talk to. I missed having someone to discuss events and share my thoughts with. No one else would really care about my day so who else would I tell the details to? But all in all, I didn't mind being alone. There are advantages to being alone and being totally in charge of my comings and goings, but there was something unsettling about having him gone and it took me awhile to put my finger on it. I finally realized that it wasn't being alone that bothered me. It's mean, it's nice to be around people and I like having company. But what I really missed was HIM. And there's a huge difference.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Misinterpretations

I'm amazed at how easily mis-communication happens with email. In a way the entire internet communication system has done a great disservice to all of us in terms of how we interact with each other. Messages are very short, to the point of being "curt" when sent via texting, and email in general is not a terribly efficient way to talk to each other. We're becoming less and less involved on a personal level. There's nothing quite like hearing the voice of a loved one on the telephone - a written "I love you" just isn't the same!

But the thing that bothers me the most is how easily people misinterpret intent and tone on an email or Facebook posting. I can't even begin to imagine how dangerous Twitter is in this area! I've totally avoided it and I think I'm glad.

More than once I've gotten into trouble with family members for an unintentional offense based on an innocent post or email. And those are only the ones I know about. It's funny really because when I see something that seems to be harsh or unkind, I tend to write it off as a mis-read on my part. Surely they didn't mean it the way it sounds, right? I assume people who know me also know my heart and the intent of my expressions, which would never be to hurt or offend intentionally. But apparently that's not true, so I'm learning.

I love the convenience and efficiency of email and Facebook in terms of reaching other people quickly. But honestly, I think we'd all be better off if we simply picked up the phone more often and just spent a couple minutes in conversation. Does that make ne hopelessly out of touch?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Time

On days like today I wonder where the time has gone. It's my husband's birthday. His 60th birthday. That means he and I have celebrated nearly 40 of those birthday together. Amazing!

We knew each other from the time we were very young - everyone who grew up in East Hampton in the 1950s and 60s knew everyone else. I knew all the kids in three grades ahead and behind me, and once I was in Junior High I could tell you exactly who was dating who and which teacher lived where in town. Small towns are wonderful places to grow up because they provide a certain amount of accountability and for me that was a good thing. So I don't remember ever not "knowing" my husband.

But it wasn't until we were both out of school that we actually connected. We were both working in the village and there weren't all that many of us in our age bracket that were in town, so it was inevitable that we all hung out together. Were it not for those circumstances we would never have ended up married, but then that's how life works, right? The fact is, we've been a couple since about 1972, so I can hardly remember any birthdays we didn't share.

So then here we are, a young couple who suddenly wake up and find themselves in middle age - bordering on elderly if you go by the medical standards - and I'm in awe of the fact that I'm now married to a 60-year-old man. I always liked older men. I guess I just never thought I'd catch up to one.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Restorations

Last weekend I watched in fascination as the Hook Mill was slowly lowered back onto its base after almost two years of restoration. Whew! What a process!

As anyone who owns an old house knows, everything is more complicated than you think it will be when you start opening up walls and looking into structures. I can't tell you how many times we've ended up replacing pipes or electrical wires when we thought we were simply going to repair a wall. There is always something unseen and unexpected in renovations! It's even worse in restoration!

When the mill was opened  up to make some repairs, more and more rot was found. For a structure that was built in 1806 I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise, but still - each little task turned into a major process. That in conjunction with doing an authentic restoration as opposed to a renovation meant the entire project has taken forever. Work was done by a single craftsman, with authentic tools and following authentic processes. Each piece of wood that was added had to be the right kind and had to be cut with the right tools. Unless one has done real restoration work before its hard to understand. As someone who's experienced it a number of times in my work with the local historical society, I get it. But nevertheless, even my patience was tried more than once as months turned into years and still, our beloved mill was under wraps.

I'm thrilled that soon the mill will be once again the centerpiece of our town and village, reminding us that there were intelligent, industrious, talented people here in East Hampton long before any of us came with our technology and modern conveniences. No doubt it took less time to build the mills in the beginning, but I'm thrilled to have it done now and can't wait to have it opened to the public again so everyone can appreciate the craftsmanship of our ancestors.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fog

Isn't it EE Cummings who said that fog "creeps in on little cat's paws" or something like that (is it paws or feet?)? Well here on the East End it's not quite like that. Here its more like a tiger that pounces and smothers.

Last week I headed west for my usual volunteer day at the hospital and we were socked in at 7am. Traffic crawled along through Sagaponac and it took me some extra time to get to Southampton. By the time I was done with my shift the fog seemed to have lifted...until I went even further west along Montauk Highway to pick something up in Hampton Bays. It seemed the fog had pulled back over the water because although the roads were clear and I assumed the fog had lifted,  when I pulled around the bend where the view opens up to the bay, I could see that it had only left the land, not the sea. There was nothing but gray as far as I could see and the Ponquogue Bridge was nowhere to be seen. There was a small dock which stuck out into the bay from the road side, but it quickly faded into oblivion, gone in a cloud of mist.

The fog is a frequent visitor out here at this time of the year. Usually I see it across from my house as it swirls over land and hangs in above the open field. It was a treat to see it over the water - an interesting angle I'm not accustomed to. I imagine it would be lovely to live on the ocean and watch it come in slowly from afar.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Early lessons

When I was very young - perhaps six or seven - we had a gift exchange at school for Christmas. I don't remember what I bought or gave to the person I was assigned, but I still remember distinctly the gift that I received and I can envision it in my head if I close my eyes. There's a good reson for that.

I was disappointed when I opened the gift. I don't think I made that ovvious, but I know I didn't show any excitement or get worked up over it. It was a small metal bracelet with a yellow and orange plastic flower on the top - the kind of bracelet that's a fixed round shape with an opening to squeeze it over your wrist. Anyway, it just wasn't my type of thing and I was not terribly thrilled with it, I remember that.

But that's not the reason I remember this gift so well. The reason I remember it is that I learned an important life-lesson at a very young age because of that gift. Because a few days after I received it, my mother asked me about it. I hadn't even shown it to her because I just wasn't very happy about it and it didn't seem important to me. I told her it was in my room. She went on to tell me that she had been speaking to the boys mother (the boy who had given it to me) - they were family friends and I was very fond of the boy because we spent a lot of time together while our parents socializer - we were good friends. Anyway, her friend told her how her son had agonized over the choice of this gift, wanting to get just the right thing and worrying about whether or not I would like it, because we were friends and he cared about making me happy. Even at my young age I was totally guilt-ridden when I heard this story. I knew I hadn't been properly appreciative and I knew I should have made sure to hide any disappointment I may have felt when I saw it.

I've never forgotten that occasion in my life and I probably went way over the top when my own kids were young, stressing to them how important it was to look excited and show enthusiam for any gift they received because the people who had given the gift deserved that. I reminded them how hard they worked on choosing or making gifts for family members every Christmas, and how they wanted the recipient to be pleased with their choices. And I myself try hard to show my joy at every gift I receive, whether it fits or not.

Isn't it interesting how the lessons we learn at a young age seem to stay with us forever? I guess that's where good parenting comes in. Sometimes as parents we think we don't have all that much influence on our children. But perhaps we do.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pies

For some reason, October always makes me think about pies. I want to get out my pie plates and rolling pin and get to work. Which is weird because I don't even like autumn pies. I don't eat apple pie or pumpkin pie and I've never even tasted mince meat. I love pie, but my favorites are lemon meringue, chocolate cream, and strawberry. So I have no idea why I equate pie with autumn, but I do.

For most people, pumpkin pie is totally associated with Thanksgiving. Fortunately for me, my husband is not a huge pumpkin pie person and his mother always made a chocolate angel food cake with chocolate whipped cream icing on the holidays. I also love it so its my go-to dessert at Thanksgiving now. And Christmas has so many possibilities that pumpkin pie is easily replaced then too. If someone whose coming is set on pumpkin pie for dessert I ask the to bring one. And pecan is a good alternative as well.

Summer is fruit pie time but I don't make many pies then simply because its too hot to bake. So....we are entering pie time at my house. And the next time I have company, they're getting a lemon meringue...