A Need to Remember
By Marie Cimaglia Years ago something happened in my life, a series of disappointing events both disastrous and heartbreaking. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure it saved me. You see, for a very long time I had come to have an appreciation of things not truly worthy of appreciation. I thought I was happy but had perhaps forgotten the feeling of true happiness. It’s funny how one can lose everything and, as a result, gain more than one’s lost.
When you lose everything, you start to see things differently. You start to look at the world with a fresh pair of eyes…the eyes of a child.
When I was a child, my parents took me and my two older sisters camping atHitherHillsState Parkin Montauk every year for our summer vacation. It wasn’t a five star resort, it was better.
The drive out to Montauk from Port Jefferson Station took almost two hours but it felt like four in the car. Driving through the Hamptons we would see beautiful windmills, quaint shops, expansive vineyards, small restaurants with the most unique of names, and acres and acres of farmland with charming farmstands where you could buy fresh fruits and vegetables or even pick your own.
As we got closer to the park, we would begin to see beach grass sprinkled about sandy dunes liningMontauk Highwayfor miles. Birds sailed across a cloudless sky without a care in the world. I couldn’t wait to get out of the car.
We usually arrived early and my dad parked the car on the side of the road next to Hither Hills. He would walk over to the reservations house to confirm our arrival. Then we would wait until we were allowed to enter the park.
As soon as we drove in, we located our campsite for the week. We had various campsites over the years, each one special in its own way, but I loved having a site near the general store. The general store was a place you could go to get ice cream, buy a newspaper, talk on one of the pay phones that are now a thing of the past, and more. Almost every night the general store would feature an outdoor movie. You would bring your beach chairs or towels and sit outside in the dark on the lawn along with other campers. My favorite movie was, of course, Jaws.
Once a week, there was square dancing in the parking lot outside of the general store. It’s curious how I despised square dancing in school but always wanted to square dance at Hither Hills. One year a few of my cousins were with us and when we went to the parking lot to dance everyone was standing in a big circle around a lone car parked in the middle of the lot. The announcer on the microphone was laughing, saying, “And they’re not even fromNew York!” We never forgot that night, as my cousins were fromMassachusetts… My dad moved the car and then took a bow.
When we arrived at our campsite, I grabbed my flip flops, pail, and shovel and headed for the beach. For anyone who hasn’t been to Hither Hills, campsites are a stone’s throw from the sand. Walking for hours on end, I would search for shells, beach glass, driftwood, mermaids’ purses, and seagull feathers to take home. The feathers were my favorite.
When I wasn’t collecting various items from the seashore, I was in the ocean surfing the waves on my boogie board. The distinct smell of salty ocean water and the magical sparkle of sunlight reflecting off it, the gentle feel of an ocean breeze on your skin, accidentally mistaking sunfish for sharks…these things are priceless.
My dad would buy me a kite each year and we would fly it on the beach. Running on the sand trying to get the kite into the air was as much fun as watching its colorful silhouette sail against a seemingly endless blue sky.
There was also a sandcastle contest every week. I loved to enter this contest and always treasured the certificate I received for participating. One year I even won first place. Sure, it was raining out and no one else entered, but does that matter to a kid?