I made a plan that i almost forgot about. I was going to live at Westhampton during the summer and that was going to be a place where I could write.
After several days at 757 and facing the ocean with totally blank time in front of me; I noticed my laptop unopened in its case on the nightstand. I began to write. Thoughts and ideas about living at the Hamptons kept coming to me and tangled into a story. The story gradually morphed into this essay.
The Hamptons, conjures up many different images. So, to create the background for my Hamptons , I want to move to an interactive essay question. This is a singular question, with no right or wrong answer.
The term the Hamptons translates to:
a) a vacation spot; that can be associated with beauty and excess
b) your family vacation home
c) the ocean is great!
- both a and c
- both b and c
- c alone is correct
For me the Hamptons is my family vacation home and the ocean is great (choice 2. both b and c).
For close to 50 years, at one location or another, the Hamptons has been my family’s vacation home. It is a totally magical place— the vast unobstructed space— and the ocean is completely enchanting.
When I mention that I spend summers going to “the Hamptons” I usually add the qualifier “ the poor Hamptons”, meaning Westhampton. I do not know the rich and famous. However, along with my daughter Becky and son Evan I have had a solid celebrity sighting. It was of Anderson Cooper , who was heading to his car which was parked in front of mine at the supermarket. I noticed him first. We played it cool and did not say hello and that we enjoy you. But we did carry our story of seeing Anderson throughout the summer, When we biked along Dune Road into Quoque, Becky and I talked abut stopping by to have a bite with our friend Anderson, and then we rode on, never truly knowing which was his house.
Our own “house” is at 757, in a row of two-floor condos on the beach, overlooking the ocean and the bay. These days it’s rare for a unit at 757 to find its way to the open market. Units move to family, or get sold to friends of friends.
In the early1970s my parents choose to have a summer home in the Hamptpns. Other families whom I knew in Ardsley, were we lived year around, went to Martha’s Vineyard during the summer months. Our first summer home was a house on Tiana Bay in Hampton Bays. Bay living and ocean living are quit different. The bay has a more countryfied feel, along with a defined limit to ownership and property. The activities of one’s backyard are also different. You cannot get mussels in the ocean and you cannot walk along the bay for a great ocean view.
Back to my parents in 1974, on a drive along Dune Road my mom noticed the construction of homes. The ocean beckoned to her and my parents purchased, prior to being built, a unit at 757.
When we first moved to 757 I was not interested in being there. My parents encouraged me to come out to join them at the ocean, but I refereed to the uniform row of condos as “the barracks”.
Within weeks, the empty brand new units were being filled with people. Now, everyone had a bunch of new neighbors. My family came and went over the summer months ,we have never been a family that moves for the entirety of the summer. While I was doing a Family Medicine residency program at Stony Brook University Hospital, I lived at 757 for 6-8 weeks, commuting nearly an hour each way every morning and night. And in those weeks, I experienced my Hamptons love story of 1981.
I was on a week of vacation from my residency program and I wanted to play tennis. Naturally, I wanted to hit with someone better than myself. So, I biked to the nearby courts, and looked around for an instructor. That’s when I met Jon, an assistant tennis pro—which translates to a young man who played tennis on his college team and was making money during the summer months by teaching tennis at a Westhampton Beach club
Every day I biked to the court, and every day I left energized from hitting balls back and forth. I had the sensation of being on a court that was anchored by the bay. It was enchanting, magical.
I was at the end of a relationship with someone who was not a nice person. He was also out at the Hamptons, part of a group renting a large house with boat access across the bay, and it wasn’t good for me to be around him.
So I started to spend more time at the courts, with Jon. When he finished his lessons for the day, I would ride my bike right back over to the courts, and we would hit together. It was the most fun tennis has ever been. Then we started to see each other away from the courts. There was lunch at the Post Stop, and many walks on the beach. That was a summer when there were large boulders, courtesy of the Marine Corps Engineers, going out into the ocean. Jon ran and jumped the rocks with a poise I have not seen since.
As fate would have it he was going to be entering his senior undergraduate year at Stony Brook University. The relationship was much harder when I moved from the Hamptons into resident housing at Stony Brooke. I was unhappy. My work was not important to me. I wanted a romance to solve my stress, and make me feel comfortable. Jon was nice, and he was trying to find his way in life. I wanted commitment and marriage. It was not meant for be—
Over 40 years, while there have always been 41 units, 36 of them have had more than one owner. There have been many stories, rumors, and dramas; though, without a doubt, the most unsettling event to hit 757 was the alleged murder-suicide of Betty, her daughters Stephanie and Catherine, and her husband, William. The case closed quickly, the verdict being that the women were stabbed and killed by William, who then killed himself. The incident occurred in a hotel in a suburb of Baltimore, near my year-round residence. I don’t think that William was capable of that crime. He adored his wife and the the girls. Around 40 years ago I was at a winter party in Manhattan hosted by William’s uncle, who then lived at 757. There was subtle encouragement for William and I to get acquainted. I recall him as having no interest in me, but he was not a mean person.
Perhaps the strangest event in our family’s 40+ years at 757 was the summer when my brother and his wife rented unit 11. They wanted to give ocean life with their infant son a try. My brother’s wife at the time, went out one day to buy batteries in town, she called later to report that she took their one year old son and was departing the marriage and had moved into her own NYC apartment, That was the prelude to an ugly divorce, which was followed by a messed up battle for custody.
During the past several summers, I’ve found a rhythm that I enjoy. I start the day with a bike ride along Dune Road, a long, flat, stretch without hills or turns. I frequently ride with a friend and neighbor, and we get to chit chat while getting air and exercise.
There’s no better place to read books than on the deck, overlooking the ocean, when no one else is about. It is so amazingly peaceful, and it allows me to keep finding a place of calm. What an incredible luxury to be able to sit in a beautiful surrounding and escape the upsetting realities of life.
When my parents first lived in the barracks, the new surroundings and not the ocean was the focus. After 40+ years of being here, my focus has definitely shifted to the ocean. 757 is a place that has peace, beauty and the ocean.