A Mental Picture
My mother adored going to the Hamptons.
She is a lawyer. When I was little, I would tell my friends that my mom got to meet scary criminals all day long. I was eight when I realized she was, in fact, not a criminal defense lawyer but a family lawyer and her job was much lamer than I would have liked. But her job caused her a decent amount of stress and so vacations were always greatly appreciated on her behalf. My father is in advertising, but his job is less strenuous than my mother’s considering he sits around all day and fiddles around with his laptop.
My parents had a fairly happy and easy relationship but my mother was always a bit of a pushover when it came to my father. She wasn’t easily manipulated but she gave up on arguments much too quickly for my liking. I think it secretly aggravated my father as well that his arguments with his wife lasted thirty seconds at most. I always thought it strange that my mother is a fantastic lawyer yet did not put any effort into her fights with my father.
My mother grew up in New Rochelle, her small Jewish suburb providing her with just enough hardship to grow thick enough skin to move to the city to attend law school. She passed the bar exam on her first try, and credited that completely to her neon flashcards and self-discipline.
She was a hurricane, a mile-a-minute, get the job done type, but every time she was able to vacation, she accepted it gratefully. She loved any vacation, but the Hamptons had a special place in her heart.
She adored going to the Hamptons.
Weeks before we were set to go, she would start the packing process, lists and piles stacked on the foot of her bed. She would curl her legs up when she went to bed as not to disturb the clothing she had laid out for us. She always denied our requests for one extra sweatshirt or pair of jean shorts, claiming that we would not need them and they unnecessarily would take up space.
The day before we were set to go she was a bundle of excitement and nerves, double checking everything from a bottle of Tylenol to sunscreen, baseball caps to bathing suits.
The ride to the Hamptons was always fun, car games like spot-the-license-plate taking up most of the three-hour drive. When we’d pull into the driveway of the house we would rent, she’d run out back to the yard, eyes darting excitedly to take in the water once again.
She loved the water.
At dawn, when she would wake up to walk our dog, she would admire the juxtaposition of the water against the sky.
During the day, when my siblings and I would swim and boogie board, she would sit on the beach and just watch. She wasn’t a huge fan of swimming – she was always cold – but she was mesmerized by staring at the water, preferably with a bowl of fruit by her side.
At dusk, while my father barbecued and my brother and me would play soccer, she would stare at the water. I had asked why she never took a picture, and she responded by saying she’d rather have the mental picture than some grainy collection of pixels on a phone.
We don’t rent that house anymore. We got too busy with sports practices and studying, too busy to abandon our lives for a week. My mother seldom brings up the house in the Hamptons, but I know that her mental picture of the water is engraved in her mind forever.