Buttercup, Princess of the Springs
The biggest problem with not having a full-time home is having to buy the same things over and over again. Mrs. Meyer’s lavender hand soap. Maldon smoked sea salt. Colman’s dry mustard. Honey Vanilla Chamomile tea. Viva paper towels. Enough Cote-du-Rhones that if there’s a natural disaster, you’re good and covered.
When our daughter was born five months ago, my husband said we couldn’t keep moving around like this. Her name is Fox Buttercup. Her eyes are slate and when you look into them, you can see honest fairy tales. My husband says she’ll need constancy, to feel safe in her childhood, the way he didn’t in his.
We are in that glowy time, where all of a sudden everyone you know has just had a child. Everyone talks about swaddling and sleep regression and starting solid foods. I joke to my friends who have homes with whole rooms devoted to their new child, that I’m bringing Fox around to Pottery Barn Kids and photographing her in the crib there, in the model nursery with the pink and white lamp and the bright pops of peony feather flowers. That way when she’s older I can show her these pictures and say, And this was your room…
The reason we move around is my fault. I’m writing a book in the same way a dog owner walks a dog that is too large for her and the big dog yanks at the leash and the owner is jostled like a stick figure in a tornado and a passerby might rib,
Who’s walking who?
I am writing this book and shuttling my family across the country, stick figures whirling across the atmospheres of many different cities. We go where the book leads us. We know where the very best Whole Foods in America is.
Who’s writing who?
In the past three years we have lived in New York City, Indiana, Los Angeles, Martha’s Vineyard, and Washington D.C. Now we are here in East Hampton, down Three Mile Harbor in Springs, in the cool woods in a house we do not own but rent, and fill with all of our usual things. Maldon smoked sea salt can make even a muslin tent in Morocco feel like home. But now we have a small russet-haired Fox in our midst, and it’s harder to pretend you don’t need a home where the things are always in the same place. Where the mayonnaise can live for months. My husband begins most conversations, When your book is done… and ends them with …when we have our own home.
I don’t bring Fox around to Pottery Barns. What I do is I bring Fox around to breathing living rooms, I take pictures of her touching fluttery live peonies, and marbled sand, and the rich sunned grass in our rented yard, and the wood grain across the sauna that we don’t use because we have a baby but no baby monitor.
When you were four months old, I write in her journal, you lived in East Hampton, in a woodsy little enclave named Springs, down a winding shaded road that looped beside the glittery harbor with the boats, and the little farms with the woven baskets of white peaches and bursting tomatoes and you, my love, were the princess of Harbor View Lane.
When you were four months and five days old, we took you to Two Mile Hollow beach. We pitched a little tent and you nursed from the shade, while Mommy lay beside you in the sun and burned the backs of her legs. It was airless and orange that day, and we brought your feet to cool at the rushing water. On the way back, we bought corn-and-quinoa cakes from Round Swamp Farm for a picnic at home. We asked for twelve dollar’s worth of the sixty-dollar-a-pound lobster salad, and back at our rented home we spread a white blanket on the grass and ate at your ground level.
When you were four months and nine days old, we took you on a boat to Shelter Island. We strategized about who would unfasten you from the car seat in the event the leased car sunk into our rented ocean. Later that evening as the sun dropped into the water, we set you atop a blanket from India on the wooden tables outside the Pridwin. Steam rose off of clams swimming in grey broth on wobbling paper plates. All around you children much older ran and laughed, and we looked at you and each held a tiny hand, as we dreamed of your first crush someday chasing you around a cookout like this one.
When you were four months and thirteen days old, we brought you to Amagansett Square for a nighttime showing of the Princess Bride. We captured a picture of your face beside the face of Princess Buttercup on the screen, for whom you are middle-named. We ate popcorn and lost both our phones in the dark grass.
On Sundays we drive through Sagaponack, we get milky coffee from Levain and chocolate rolls and we read the New York Times with you on our laps. We get sandwiches from the Sagg Store and mushrooms from the mushroom man. We drive down Peter’s Pond Lane and look at the houses and talk about where we’d put your studio above the garage smackly in view of the beach, when we have our own home. We drive through Sag Harbor and the girls in Cavaniola’s say you are the prettiest thing they have ever seen. We drive through Greenport and eat oysters at Little Creek and take pictures of you in the line with the shucking gloves. In case you want to be a writer like your parents, we drive by the places where James Salter and E.L. Doctorow wrote. In case you want to be a doctor like your grandfather, we let you watch the dog get her shots at a vet that is not our regular vet, because nothing is our regular these days, nothing is our usual. The only constant is you.
And so when my husband says to me …When we have a home, and I’m feeling confident in the book, and confident in myself—probably I have just returned from yoga on a surfboard on dry land, and I feel my body coming back, and look at you and your eyes that are greater than any sea I’ll ever see, and when they smile the liquids inside them come crashing onto the shores of your fat rare cheeks—I say, This is our home, this is our daughter’s home at four months and fifteen days, where we first fed her mashed avocado from Balsam Farms after letting her tiny hand select among the deepest greens. This is our daughter’s home at four months and twenty-two days, where she laughed at the dog on the deck for twenty unbelievable seconds that I caught on film.
And though we rented a series of homes and did not own one, she had the most beautiful time, because we never left her side. We took her with us to work, and aren’t we, after all, very lucky for that?
When she is old enough to look at pictures, and to wonder what her early days were like, I will start with the picture of our daughter in her father’s arms at Shagwong Marina. Fox is lifted high in the air and I know by her smile that she feels safe. Beyond their bodies the sun is a bleeding apricot and the boats in the harbor are swishing a note more violent than gentle. A beach ball has fallen into the brothy water and is lapping up against the pier. Fox looks at this, then back at her father. To get here, to this moment with my daughter in the arms of the man I love, I had to own the early and sudden deaths of my parents, the miscarriage of our first child, and the last breaths of my first dog. I had to own a lot of sorrow, to rent a little peace. When my daughter is old enough to look at pictures, I will show her this one. I will tell her that she spent her first summer in a beautiful place where some people could afford many pounds of the lobster salad, and some only a few fork’s worth. Still others would never try it at all, but all around us, everywhere, we are surrounded by the democracy of water, by the bleeding sun and the swishing boats and back at home, the Maldon sea salt lives for a time in the lovely rented cupboard. I will say, When you were four months and twenty-four days old, you, my love, were the Princess of The Springs, and everywhere we went that summer, we were home.