E.B. Whites House And All That
By Ellen Fass Greenspan
There are four things that immediately come to mind as I muse over trips made to the eastern end of Long Island as a child; an airplane that appeared to have crashed into the roof of a building and was left there, a larger than life pirate statue in a parking lot, the way my stomach felt from the ups and downs of old Montauk highway and the concept of the Atlantic ocean at my fingertips.
Later on, of course, I found out the airplane was just a gimmick to draw attention to a dance club and the pirate made one notice the restaurant it drew attention to. But my stomach still delights in the old highway and the proximity of the ocean always soothes.
Enter my father’s success in business when I was twelve. It is directly responsible for my family’s first trip to Montauk for a vacation. As we made a right turn into the driveway of the Driftwood Motel on the ocean with it’s “No Vacancy” sign proudly lit, I was embarking on experiences that would imprint my sensibilities forever.
At the Driftwood, we had a kitchenette, which made the room a home away from home. There was nothing like getting snacks out of the cupboard or eating a bowl of cereal early in the morning at our own little table. Jalousie blinds in the windows and doors let in the sounds of the ocean. And, the pathway down to the beach, available at the slightest urge, opened up the vista of the Atlantic and the sweet, restorative ocean air.
The beach provided other joys. An innocent hike one early morning revealed a sand dollar lying right there on the wet sand, a discovery that sparked the beginning of a lifelong ritual of looking for this magical gift from the sea. Sand dunes, forbidden places, beckoned with promises of quiet escape amongst the grasses.
Although the Driftwood Motel was the first place we ever stayed, there were other places to follow. My parents selected the Panoramic View one year, a place where the view from way up high on the road of the crashing blue Atlantic is unforgettable. In our room, with it’s balcony facing the water, morning coffee or reading a good book was an experience to savor.
One year in my early twenties I stayed solo at the White Sands Motel and in a gesture meant to “return the favor” I invited my parents to come out for the day and enjoy the beach.
Marriage brought me to the “Wavecrest Hotel”, divorce brought me to Gurney’s Inn for one lonely, New Years Eve weekend, and single motherhood brought my son and I to Sepps’ Cottages on Ditch Plains Road for a healing three week stay. Along with another single mother and her son, we barbequed, watched fireworks on Gin Beach, fished off of the jetty and even saved a seagull!
In the years that followed, my family and I have stayed at several other places. And today my sister-in-law has fulfilled a dream my father had many years ago; she owns a place in Montauk. Every year we all share a weekend together at the beginning of August to build fires on the beach, visit Fudge and Stuff, buy odds and ends at Whites Department Store, sit together on the beach to relax and, of course, walk to the bakery for morning coffee.
The East End is in my blood, a gift given to my brother and I by my parents. And, for the second year in a row, my son is taking his girlfriend to Montauk to spend the day. Will his children know the pleasures of the East End as well? I don’t doubt it for a second.