As Time Goes By
A treasured family tradition on our annual “first drive of the year” out to Amagansett, is to discover what’s changed, what’s new, and what’s gone. It is a ritual with which we mark the passage of time for our two daughters as they have grown from toddlers to young adults. Every year, the girls announce changes with varying degrees of elation or dismay. “When is the windmill going to be fixed?, ” or “The front of the IGA is completely different.” Our girls have always treated this trip as the beginning a new summer as they point out this year’s new luxury storefront inEast Hampton. For them, on each trip, there is something new, something to be explored, while for me and my wife, the years tend to blend together .
Every so often, there is a change so traumatic to the girls, it precipitates a great wailing and gnashing of teeth from the backseat when we pass by the ruined location. The children view the destruction of their summertime institutions as personal insults and remind us of their distress every time we pass it by. When Snowflake closed, it was as far as they knew, the only source of ice cream east of Riverhead until John’s in Montauk. To this day, we have to sneak out to Bostwick’s to eat there for fear of incurring our children’s’ wrath. “How could you eat there? They closed Snowflake!!!!, How?????” “Well that’s not exactly how it happened….”, we would try to explain to no avail. It was a betrayal and nothing less.
My wife has been part of this tradition since the 70’s when she began coming to Amagansett with her father, stepmother and two siblings. In her childhood years, they would mostly notice what was new as there was not that much out here and places were opening all the time. She does remember when the Stern’s closed, because their empty parking lot was perfect for learning how to drive. It even stretches back to when her Aunt and Uncle would come out to their house in the dunes, one of the first, and notice which were the new houses near their “half-acre of sand.” Even this year, we had dinner with my wife’s Aunt and Uncle and the most important topics of discussion were not the global economy, presidential election, or the situation in the middle east, but of course the disappearance of the former “Pacific East” building, the changes to the IGA parking lot, and what happened to Pumpernickel?
As we drove out this summer and I was bemoaning in my own head how grown up my children had become in such a short time, I wondered if they were too mature now or too mired in their various electronic gadgets to participate in our family fun. My doubts were swiftly erased as we drove betweenEast Hamptonand Amagansett and a massive shriek erupted from the backseat. “It’s gone!!!! What the hell? Turtle Crossing is gone!!!! How could they do this to us?” Another family tradition had been to call Turtle Crossing as soon as we reached Bridgehampton, and place our order. We could count on it being ready by the time we reached Pantigo road. Quesadillas, roasted corn, zucchini chips, they were all no longer a phone call away. Our children were inconsolable. “Turtle Crossing has been there forever, why doesn’t anything stay?” I was about to correct them that actually Turtle Crossing was relatively new when it occurred to me that, to them, Turtle Crossing had been around forever. To have your sense of permanence, not to mention your source of amazing cornbread, eliminated without warning would be traumatic to anyone.
Just a few years prior, my wife and I suffered our own traumatic discovery. We had been planning for years to one day eat at Gordon’s in Amagansett when we felt we were mature enough. To my wife, Gordon’s had always been the place “where grownups ate.” We kept putting it off, year after year, always trusting that we would be “serious enough” to go next year. Seeing the darkness of Gordon’s streetfront windows when we arrived that summer, our world crumbled a little and we mourned the loss of an old friend who we never really new.