“The Value of Hard Work”
By Elizabeth Kennedy Got a call from an old friend; we used to be real close.
When we reach Grace’s, we are half way there. I can hardly stand the anticipation.
Said he couldn’t go on the American way.
I can hear the click-click of the blinker, as we exit the LIE. The boring part of the trip is over, and now I can look forward to revisiting all of the landmarks I have come to adore: the regal Hampton mansions, the signs indicating the number of miles to Montauk, the strange sculpture of a deer eating a piece of grain, which took me years to actually decipher.
Closed the shop, sold the house, bought a ticket to the West Coast. Now he gives them a stand-up routine inL.A.
I have come to associate Billy Joel songs with my childhood trips to Montauk, as my father would play his Greatest Hits cassette tapes. I not only sang along to these tunes on our three hour adventure to the tip ofLong Island, but they educated me. I learned the meaning of the word honesty, I understood the pride one feels toward living inNew YorkState, and I sensed the emotion and brotherhood in “Goodnight Saigon,” though it took me until adulthood to fully grasp the complexities of that song. Little did I know that as I listened and mulled over these tunes, my brain was beginning to connect and associate the songs with my trip, and I was building piece by piece, lyric by lyric, landmark by landmark lasting memories of arguably the best years of my life.
Every summer since I can remember, my family and I have vacationed in Montauk. Although a long trip, it was always well worth it, especially when I could roll down the window and smell the ocean air. And as soon as I heard the crunch, crunch, crunch of our car tires rolling over our pebble driveway, whether I was awake or asleep at that point, I sprung to life, unbuckled my seat belt, and jumped out of the car, teeming with exciting plans for the week: eating ice cream from John’s; walking at Gosman’s where I could pet a stray dog or two and illegally feed French fries to the seagulls; facing my fears as I traveled the sharp rocks of the jetty, my dad patiently taking my hand and reassuring my safety; browsing the merchandise in the stores in town and buying our umpteenth kite from White’s Department Store; dining out for fried clam strips and wondering what antics my brothers had up their sleeves; and probably most memorable, hauling all of our family’s gear to the beach (being the youngest of four, my only contribution was pulling a boogie board) and spending countless hours jumping waves, sitting on the shore making “pancakes” out of sand, digging holes and getting buried in holes, and taking walks along the shore, stepping in my father’s footprints.
Little did I know then how valuable my father’s footsteps really are. My father, now retired from the bustle and long hours of running his own business, has no idea of the gifts he has given me. The memories from my childhood vacations in Montauk have shaped me: I can look to the ocean for peace and perspective, I can appreciate the small wonders of this unique village, for they are just as exciting now as they were when I was a kid, and when I am relaxing on the porch of our Montauk home, I can recognize the value of years of hard work.
I, too, am now a parent- a mother to my eight month old son. This year as I make my annual trip to Montauk, I know it will be different than past years. My focus, as it has been for the past eight months, will be on my son, and not dining at the Harvest, getting drinks at the Topside, or taking naps on the beach. And although there is a part of me that already feels nostalgic for the years where I could truly relax on vacation, I recognize that with parenting comes the joy of watching your son make his own memories, just as my father did with us over the years.