By Susan Worley Kaufman
The end of summer hung heavy on the trees. I watched the leaves outside my window rise up, exhale the green, turn to brown and yellow and fall with final gasps of the season. On Main Street inWesthampton Beach, once coveted parking spaces occupied by red Ferraris and endless rows of German cars and long slender tanned legs toting boutique shopping bags were now host to Haggan Das Ice Cream cone wrappers and empty Beach Bakery coffee cups. Lynne’s Card Shop, where one could always find a decent card even at Christmas and Magic’s Pub with the smoke and sound of charred burgers would survive the winter, but not much else.
Fall was here. School was starting. The kids would be walking to Country Heros or the German Deli for lunch and soon it would be the annualWesthamptonBeachHigh School’s annual Homecoming Parade. This year’s theme was “New York,” and the seniors designed the “Broadway” float where my son was Frank Sinatra singing “New York,New York” with two ladies at his side, little rockets kicking their legs to the beat, beat, beat and WLING’s play by play local details of the event. Beat, beat, beat went my heart as well. This is was the last one, the last parade for my son. High School also meant teaching him how to drive a manual in the Immaculate Conception Church parking lot and coming home to find the old car gone as my son and his Varsity Hurricane tennis mates were secretly practicing their driving skills on Dune Road where the summer houses were empty and the local police no where to be found.
Then came Halloween, bumper to bumper traffic on Route 25 and Sound Ave. of the North Fork to go pumpkin picking in the vast patches of agricultural land still left on the east end. Christmas Eve was often at the Presbyterian Church of Bridgehampton, founded in 1670 by Calvinists, to attend the annual Christmas Pageant where children walked down the aisles with candles of white light. The count down on New Year’s Eve came and went and officially ushered in winter. Most of the stores were now closed and the only spots occupied regularly were at Rite Aid and the Post Office. Main Streetwas in a state of hibernation.
Weekends in the winter meant Ice Skating on the Town Pond in East Hampton, strewn with lights to brighten the nights and always trips to Sag Harbor for little gifts at The Wharf Shop and maybe a foreign film at the Sag Harbor Cinema, which smelled of musty wood and urine….a pure delight to those of us film buffs. But it was also a time to perform for college applications, deciding where to go, what was a reach, what was a safety, writing the personal essays, each one being different from the others and the anticipation but trepidation of Spring, when the letters came back.
Spring came. The Westhampton Beach High School Varsity Hurricane Tennis Team traveled from one end of the fork to the other, east and west, north and south to victory after victory arriving home to find their waiting college letters. It would beBostonUniversityfor my son. Green and white Hurricane colors would be replaced by the red and white Terriers.
And then it came, that last summer in theHamptonsbefore he went away to college. He was a junior tennis pro at the Quogue Racquet Club, forever optimistic inspired by his holistic coach Happy Balla. He was usually out every night at Casey’s, the Drift or to Madame Tongs inSouthamptonunless he was working as a limo driver, picking up and dropping off financial titans from Wall Street toFurther Lane. Summers in theHamptonsmeant gorgeous days at the beach, fresh produce, local fish and long lines at the German Deli where one could get a refill for their iced tea all day with the same cup. Summer was sweet, except this was the last before he would go away to school and tasted bitter.
I had heard all of the stories, all of the personal accounts by those who had already said goodbye to their children. Everyone had his or her own version. “You spend every second with this child for 18 years, sharing pain and heartaches and triumphs and in ten minutes it’s gone. It all culminates in a parking lot in front of a dorm where you say goodbye. It’s all over in ten minutes,” was one version.