A Homegrown Hampton’s Woman
There is a woman that I have known all of my life that I only recently began to truly understand. To someone that doesn’t know her story, she may seem crass and unforgiving. Truthfully, hidden beneath her tough exterior is a intricate human being that is not at all what she seems like from the outside.
This woman was born and raised on the East End of Long Island, a small unsuspecting area only two hours away from New York City. You may think being so close to a metropolis would have had some effect on how this little lady was brought up, but you would be wrong. If you asked her she would say she would rather sit in traffic on Route 27 on a Sunday evening than be brought up with city folk, or “the beautiful people” as she refers to them. She grew up around the locals. She worked at the Candy Kitchen in her younger years, collecting twenty five cent tips to save for her future. She ran her father’s oil company until it was ultimately given to the male heir of her family, an incident that she would always hold a grudge against. She loves to point out how much her village has evolved. The population density has skyrocketed, the price of an ice cream sundae has quadrupled, and the woods around her house have slowly been chopped down to build designer homes with loud neighbors. It almost seems like a movie, the story of a small town girl that stays put, settles down, and lives in her village until the day she dies. However, just like in any movie, her story wouldn’t be exciting if it didn’t have some twists to it.
This innocent story is quite different than what it seems. When you think of the average small town family, you may imagine the mother being a cheery, bright spirit. Maybe you imagine her in an apron with a cheeky saying like, “kiss the chef” baking an apple pie. This story is different. My subject wore her hair in long, black waves. Her skin was never a shade lighter then nutmeg from the hours she spent outside. Instead of passing her time chatting with her friendly neighbors, she shut the front blinds so they wouldn’t see that she was home (except to occasionally peer through the closed shades and spy, making sure to comment on any wrongdoings). She was never seen without a cigarette, feigning intolerance of addiction curbing medications when asked why she had yet to quit. She grew up longing for a cherry red corvette, and built it its own garage once she was finally able to purchase one herself. She never failed to have her family over for every holiday, yet if you asked her in confidence she would say she hated every minute of cooking. It wasn’t surprising that most of the food she served was from the frozen section of King Kullen, except for the juicy tomatoes and cucumbers she grew in her garden.
Members of her family called her stingy and selfish, claiming that she gave them grief when they needed help. However, what they weren’t seeing was that she knew what they said about her, and she was perfectly content with it. In fact, she urged her family to think that way because it was all a well thought out scheme to teach her closest companions a lesson. You see, she could tell that these people were struggling. She could see that the easy solution would be to write a check and tell them to forget about their problems. Except that wasn’t how she was raised. From the time she got that first job at the Candy Kitchen she saved her money. She bought her own house, and never asked anyone for anything. What other people viewed as cruel and unusual punishment was actually her way of teaching them to work for what they wanted. These lessons in perseverance would go by unexpected, but years later the person would realize what she had done.
Her children were extremely jealous of each other. They believed that she picked favorites. Each one thought that the other was entirely unworthy of her attention. To the outsider it wouldn’t be impossible to imagine that she did place one on a pedestal. It is also important to be noted that she usually favored the person that wasn’t necessarily the most successful, or the person worth the most material wealth. She instead put her energy into praising the person that reminded her most of herself. The person that put the three basic necessities first, food, water, and shelter. The person with a stable job, and an appreciation for their village. She saw herself in this person. She saw how they worked so hard to add to their bank account. She saw how they never over extended themselves, or pretended they were something they were not. Her favorite person was the small town girl that would grow up to be very similar to herself. They would make the same mistakes, and eventually find the same successes. She’s was proud of her other children too, but she didn’t know how to relate to them because they had left the safety of the small town. They had chosen the unknown path, and that is something she couldn’t quite understand.
The women I came to understand was one with few friends and an enemy list of unknown length. She grew up in the same village she still lives in today. The East End shaped her into the woman she is, someone that can fend for herself. This woman has known me for my entire life. She has raised me and praised me. She may be vulgar, and unfiltered, but she is a woman that used her street smarts to make a life for herself. She went to the college of hard knocks and had to learn every lesson from experience.