A Family Tradition
Michal T. Winter
We have been going to Montauk since 1983. Back then my parents bought a week of timeshare at Gurney’sInnin February, coinciding with their anniversary. But being the parents they were, they didn’t need a romantic week to themselves, rather they always asked us to join them. The first year, my soon to be husband and I drove out in his tiny Datsun 210 during a raging snow storm. The road to the resort was dark, hilly and windy and I was sure we would never find it and they would find us the next morning frozen to death in the car. But we finally saw the illuminated sign through the darkness, and that sign has welcomed us and become a family tradition for 27 years and counting.
By 1985 my dad had purchased additional weeks, including Mother’s day, a great time of year because everything is being washed and painted for the new season. But also by 1985, my mom was sick and confined to the terrace of the room. She died later that year, but my dad made it his business to get us out there that week around Mother’s Day every spring thereafter. This included my sister, her husband, and 2 daughters, and my husband and children. My dad kept getting larger and larger units to accommodate our growing families.
We have had many wonderful milestones and memories at this resort. The first time my older daughter, Abigail was there, she was 2 months old. And a year later, I remember how she took her first steps in the dining room in front of the entire family. My dad would sit on the beach in the sun all day reading the New York Times, his Sephardic heritage allowing his skin to darken and never burn. Then in the afternoon he would go for a swim and a steam, he was in heaven! He loved being there and he loved being surrounded by his family even more.
One year, I was 9 months pregnant, a week from my due date, and my sister kept asking me if I felt anything. We were all so worried I would go into labor and have to be rushed to the hospital, thankfully, as much as my younger daughter loves this place she decided to wait to make her entrance at the hospital at home.
At around 3 years old, Abigail, and my sister’s younger daughter would spend these weeks in their own world, speaking a private language. Whether on the beach, in the dining room, or pool, they were inseparable, and exclusive of the adults around them.
These events continued for over ten years. Large wonderful family gatherings that yielded photos sprinkled throughout my home, which always make me smile. Last year my niece was married there, a wonderful memory we all cherish.
In 1997 my dad (who had been forgetful since I was a child) became quite forgetful. He needed to have us oversee him when he went out to make sure that everything was OK. By November of 1998 he was gone. While cleaning out his apartment my sister and I found that my dad had many weeks at this resort. Weeks in the summer and early fall, including the two weeks which surrounded the 4th of July and so my sister and I each kept one and for the past 14 years we have continued to make wonderful memories. Our unit is on the beach with the most spectacular view of the ocean. Sitting on the beach on a lounge, under an umbrella is my favorite place in the world, and my visualization while undergoing chemotherapy or a cat scan, or whenever I need to calm myself. My house is bursting with glass bowls overflowing with beautiful shells, and wonderful photos of my family on the beach throughout the years. And of course we have lots of funny stories we love to share when playing “remember when”.
In recent years I have noticed that another family comes during the week I am there. They are a large extended family, I like to refer to them as the “giant family”. There is a matriarch, patriarch, 3 sons and a daughter, and lots of grandchildren who range in age from what looks like college to a new baby. They have a table set up in the dining room (in the exact location where my daughter took her first steps) with over 20 chairs. And I watch every morning and marvel at how lucky those grandparents are as I remember my parents’ joy at being surrounded by family, and my joy as well.