We were three small girls, dressed in our Danskin finest, eagerly packed into the back seat of our parents’ shiny black Buick Wildcat, armed with Highlight books, puzzles and pixie sticks to keep us busy for our annual summer trip out east. I always knew we were getting closer when my father would roll down the windows and breathe in the first warm breeze, scented from the island potato fields. “Who’s better then us?” he would proudly ask and we could think of no one. He always came alive as we drove further and further east, the small boy returning. Southhold was our summer destination for many years, no trip complete without a visit to the Jamesport General store to pick up dollar memories of our lazy, salty North Fork days… small brown paper sacks brimming with Mary Janes, licorice laces and Sugar Daddys. Each night, three girls would emerge from the North Fork Motel in matching dresses, sun kissed and wet hair ready to try new special restaurants and return to Claudios and other old favorites. In the early morning, we would head out to the beach with our father and try new fishing spots, giggling as the warm waves danced in to meet our sandy toes. If lucky, our big catch would be a blowfish or two, which we always returned to the sea. Days were spent drifting out on waves as the hours slowly waned in the summer sun. Our tanned faces from probably too much sun and not enough screen. My dad, sporting a new swim ensemble that had been packed for him, complete with matching terry short sleeved jacket, would venture out for a few laps, usually having to retrieve at least one float that escaped our grip and teasingly drifted out to sea. As we explored the island and discovered new haunts, our trips expanded to stays at the stately Pridwin on Shelter Island and later, Sag Harbor …always sharing one room..two queen beds. My parents in one bed and two sisters in the other. Michelle, Maris and I took turns sleeping on the cot. No one ever minded though..it was always part of the charm and the adventure. Years later, I returned with my then husband and introduced him to all my childhood favorites. All his years living on Long Island, he had never experienced the east end. I was happy to bring him there and share my world. The cozy, Chianti-bottled Il Cappuccino was soon chosen as our special place. In the best of times, we celebrated many anniversaries in the glorious fall, returning to a beautiful chilly village. We shared early morning walks with only the local deer then lunch at The Barefoot Contessa and a stroll down Main Street in East Hampton. Children at summer camp ,we returned each year to soak in the simple magic the village offered. A playground of shops, scenery and peaceful afternoons. Eventually, our two young girls came to join our party and were inducted into our eastbound ritual. “In-House” vacations, we’d load up the car early in the morning, reluctantly coming home just in time for bed. Summers of bike rides ’round Montauk and slowly ridden horseback rides with Grandma Lucy on the beach ..it was on her bucket list, a list that still has “summer house in the Hamptons..she’s now in her 70s but my money is still on her . The east end will always be a special place for me where peace and beauty exist and time stands still. A lifetime of visits, still leaves me longing to go and steal a quiet moment at an off-season Cooper’s Beach with my two best girls.
My dad is no longer with us and memories always flood my mind as I roll down the windows anytime we get to steal a chance visit out to Greenport or Sag Harbor.
Who’s luckier than us,no one.