Perfect 11

I am peddling faster because the “cat ladies’” house is approaching and I don’t want them to come out and kidnap me, hiding me forever behind the green ivy that covers their home. It winds its’ way through their bushes, and trees. Ivy that shelters their home from prying eyes, from curious 11 year old girls like me.I raise up out of my seat, legs pumping at the correct pace to sail past without incident. As I do this, I imagine their dark, dusty house with the one hundred cats and I shiver. I think I see just the hint of a house dress through the ivy and my heart begins to pound wildly. Still, every time I ride my bicycle past here on my way towards Georgica Beach, I imagine that the ladies and I will one day become friends. You see, I had this dream. In it, I am brave enough to walk up to their door. They invite me in for tea. The inside of their home is much prettier than I imagined, and truly, they are not scary at all. The “cat ladies” are related to Jaqueline Kennedy but I don’t know how. Mrs. Kennedy is the mother of John John, the boy I like . I know he likes me too, because we keep running into one another. I met him in Central Park through one of his cousins. A few months later we were on the same plane, although he was in first class and I was not. I walked right up to him. I reminded him that he knew me from Central Park, and he smiled, saying,“hi!” I felt a lightening bolt go through me. I think he might like me a whole lot. It makes me very happy and it places more importance on my becoming friends with the “cat ladies”. But today, I am not feeling brave, so, I continue on towards the beach. My breathing steadies. “Sister Golden Hair” is playing on my transistor radio, which lies in my white wicker basket. I sing with abandon: “And I keep on thinkin’ bout you sister golden hair surprise, and I just can’t live without you, can’t you see it in my eyes?”

Arriving at Georgica, I park my bike, kick off my flip-flops. I reach into the basket, bringing out one of my father’s peaches. I bite ,unable to stop its’ sweet juice from dripping down my arm and through my fingers. It’s fuzzy skin is warm from the sun, the juice slightly cooler. When I finish, I throw the pit, then run at full speed down the sharp incline of the dunes toward the water. Fearlessly, I dive underneath an enormous wave about to break.They say you should never swim after eating a pitted fruit but I do. Except for a few sun bathers, I am the only one here . As I swim, a feeling comes over me. It is an overwhelming sense of happiness . I am 11. I need nothing else except this day at Georgica Beach.

*****************************

It is chilly and damp, a typical March day. It might as well be November. The sky in Southampton is the color of steel. I see the wind searing through the light weight jackets of a couple walking on Main Street. I know that they were hopeful about the weather, enough to have discarded their winter attire for spring. But after three decades on the East End, I do not make that mistake. I am just beginning to feel my fingers on the steering wheel, the heat finally kicking in from the dash. I drive towards Little Plains beach, taking the long way up Main. I am deliriously happy. I need to walk , expend some of this energy. My entire life has changed, as of a few days ago because of a phone call from my adoption lawyer. “ Your profile has been picked by a young woman who lives in Florida.” She cheerfully says. It is here, the day that I have prayed for. I am stunned. “Really?” “Yes, really!” When people ask me, “How long did it take to adopt?” My response is “Ten years and a day.” It had been seven months since signing with my attorney. Four months in, having heard nothing, I called her frustrated. No one was choosing me . “Older and single is not what these young women are looking for. They are looking for what they did not have”, my lawyer explains. I want to strangle her. I begin praying as I never have. I ask God to grant this wish because I cannot imagine my life without experiencing motherhood. There have been countless attempts, none of which have been fruitful. One day I wake up knowing that if I want a child in my life, I cannot accept “No” as an answer. And, just in case my pleadings are not getting to God ( or He simply has taken the God phone off the hook), I also retain a surrogate lawyer. My days are suddenly filled with a million different things to do. I meet the birth mother. Sign contracts. I do research. I begin making lists of what my little girl will need. I am superstitious so I buy nothing. I also continue on the surrogate track to ensure that if the birth mother changes her mind, I am prepared with a back up plan.Then, everything slows to an unbearable pace. On this chilly day in early March, all I have to do is wait for the baby to be born, which is two months away. But I am having trouble sitting still, which is why I am on my way to the beach. My dogs; Bubba and Colette are restless in the back seat of the car. Especially frenetic is my oldest, Bubba. He whimpers, all 80 pounds of him shaking like jello. And in stark contrast, my younger, smaller dog, responds to his whimpers with the quietness of a turnip. Eventually, she sighs, a long dramatic exhale. I reach my arm backwards and pat her head. I smell the salty brine in the air just as Bubba sticks his big head out of the crack in the window as far as it will go. “Snuffle, snuffle snuffle, SNUFF!” He has twisted his head sideways to ensure a good enough whiff. I laugh. I park, let the dogs free, and shove my gloveless hands deep into the pockets of my shearling coat.There is something haunting yet satisfying about walking a winter beach. The ocean is silver , the sand encrusted with frost. My hounds rush down to the water. I on the other hand, mosey. I feel absolutely surreal. I am going to be a mother.

Then,the wind hits me with a unrelenting blast full in the face, leaving me breathless. I change direction, whistling to the dogs to follow. Naturally, they cannot hear me, as the whistle is swept by the wind out of earshot. Eventually they realize they must circle back to catch up with me. I walk. And walk.The dogs run up towards the estates, then down to the ocean. Icicles are forming underneath Bubba. Colette races with an energy I rarely get to see. Usually she is inside, curled up on the couch, while Bubba’s preference is to be out. We change direction, and head back. I keep my my chin tucked to my chest, breathing through my mouth, into my scarf.

To take my mind off of how cold it is, I start saying baby names aloud. ‘Isabella’. My great grandmother’s name. No, too popular. Violette? Beautiful. Romantic. But no one will call her that. What about…’Fin’? Hmmmm- maybe. Fiona? No. Immediately after thinking it, I see the animated, green princess in Shrek. Did I mention that I love walking a winter beach? I only wish now to be propelled through the air with dogs in tow, softly landing inside a pre-heated car. Each year I do this, it is colder than I remember. Mercifully, we get to the car and tumble in. I turn the heat up full blast. In a few moments, the dogs’ sweaty, wet smell permeates the interior. We are all satiated. I turn the car around and as we begin to pass the high hedges still stripped naked of their summer greenery, my daughter’s name comes to me as if whispered. Of Course. It is the perfect name for her. “Georgica”. I don’t connect the name to builders or to restaurants. For me, “Georgica” will always embody an endlessly hopeful, happy summer’s day. Where there is nothing more perfect than me being age 11, lazily riding my bicycle towards Georgica Beach.