The sun goes in and out and I am relaxing for the first time this summer.
It’s almost as if the giant, unsightly cold sore that appeared on my upper lip is a god send in that it has forced me to lay low – stay under the radar and stop running.
This was the summer I was finally going to spend the whole month of July out east – be mellow yellow and reconnect with my inner soul. Take yoga, go to the art barge, paint the huge canvases that sit untouched, waiting for my attention.
But as always, although I managed a magnificent week off after the 4th, July is over and done with. Because I rented the house in late August, I will be forced to pack up the house of all my personal items – my family pictures, my clothes that have collected in the closets , and the toiletries that are bewildering in their sheer magnitude. Managing the stuff of life is exhausting when you live in two homes.
Driving here on Fridays slays me and I always manage to get stuck in traffic because I stop on the way at exit 52 to visit my mom in the assisted living. No matter how hard I try I am always on the LIE, in late afternoon, in the thick of the weekend traffic. My husband and I usually drive in separate cars because a) he drives in a convertible and I can’t take the sun b) he doesn’t always want to stop by my mom c) I hate the music he plays d) I like to be independent. This week however, I don’t feel well, so we drive together in my truck. We had a chance to talk about things, how we only really use the house out east in July, how June is usually weddings and graduations and by August, the pressures of September begin seeping into our schedules. Sitting in traffic, discussing how everyone in the Hamptons, including us , is rushing to get here before the crowds, rushing to go somewhere before the crowds or rushing home before the crowds, we decide this is the year to sell the house. We agree – we are not getting our money’s worth – the season is so short, we have other obligations and it would be fun to try other summer destinations.
But then we arrive, and it’s so pretty and we get into a different mode and selling doesn’t seem like such a good idea any more. As I lay here in the back, it is quiet and still and it feels worth the trouble of getting here. My suit is wet from my swim, my muscles are worked from my walk and my mind is cleared from a quick visit to the beach. It is true what they say; the light is different out here – and despite the mobs that descend on the weekends, clogging the roads and making me crazy, the air is sweeter.
If I don’t try to grab it all in—tempted by all the great things to do and see, if I don’t get swayed by the glossy periodicals with the beautiful people and beautiful pictures and just sit for the afternoon, listening to the crickets and drinking iced tea, I can find a solace of sorts, a way to replenish and rejoice in the small things. I can sit and try to write for Dan’s Paper after procrastinating for weeks. I am on the mailing list and I am being asked for 1500 words and yet, until today, August 1st, a day where I am forced to be home bound and solitary, have not found a minute to myself.
Last weekend almost killed me. We had out of town, overnight guests, I participated in Super Saturday to benefit Ovarian Cancer Research (we sold out all our J/Slides and our booth was mobbed!), and my dearest friends came to visit that evening. It was great fun but exhausting.
This week, it is he and I and my daughter who just left to Montauk and the two dogs who are miraculously mellowed as well.
I keep baskets on hooks outside the entrance of the house a la Martha Stewart and baby birds were in a nest inside one of them. I could hear their squeaky cries as I came near and saw their mouths open wide waiting for their mom to bring them food. There was a cacophony of birds squawking as I peered into the basket — warning “Danger, Danger! Human in the Midst!”
I love gardening and I planted flowers and I “gassed” the mole holes in my lawn. “Danger, Danger! Human in the Midst!” I love getting my hands dirty and for me, it’s all about the nature. Gassing the mole holes as instructed by the man in the hardware store, felt morose and strange considering most of my relatives were gassed, shot, starved or worse in the war that took my family. “Danger, Danger! Nazis in the Midst!”
My summers as a child were spent upstate in the bungalow colony – surrounded by my parent’s “greena” friends – 35 or so survivor families from the concentration camps of Europe. It was a jolly bunch; card games were set up under the leafy trees, stories were traded on the adirondack chairs, fresh laundry hung from the clotheslines, the kids played spud in the grassy lawn, and homemade treats were shared. They had a makeshift “shul” in the casino (my father stored the torahs in our front closet), and they had dance parties every Saturday night with a hired accordionist or other musician playing songs from the “shtetl”. Everyone brought food and we all ate family style. It really was quite beautiful—
very “heimeshe” and warm and full of life.
When I visited as an adult I found the lack of privacy a nuisance as I felt I was constantly being eyed and measured up. “So Lilly, what are you dojng now?” the women in their house dresses would surround and question me in their European accents, plying with me cookies. “Lilly, come on over and see me. Tell me what’s new with you,” they would probe and I would stride across the great lawn and visit Yona and Freida and Lena and Jeannie. They always had treats for me, homemade mandel bread (jewish biscotti) or or a sour hard candy. Next door, adjoined to my bungalow were the Dresslers, Henik and Mirka, a family my family had summered with for years and years. And our cousins Jenny and Nathan, Carl and Brenda, were in the bungalow immediately across the way. My kids played spud on the same great lawn as I did.
Our bungalow was three rooms, railroad style and always smelled of mildew. Our towels were threadbare, leftovers from the laundromat we had owned and the mattresses were lumpy. But staying there was like visiting a giant extended family – a substitute for the family lost in the war. All these years later, everyone has either died or is suffering dementia or is sickly and the children of these survivors have lost touch. It’s so sad. My mom sits with her aide at the assisted living, day after day, waiting for family visitors. Soon she won’t remember my name but she will always know I am family.
My kids spent their summers in sleep away camp, (far different than the “camps” of their ancestors), up in the Pocono Mountains. There they developed their own summer rituals and families. These “families” have endured throughout the years, now that my daughters have entered adulthood.
Putting them on the bus summer after summer was bittersweet as we drove out to the Hamptons soon after.
My cold sore is mostly healed but not completely. I am forced to spend another glorious day in stillness, making do with whatever leftovers are around and only getting up for a cool swim. There is a soft breeze and in the shade, the air is heavenly. It’s one of those weekends where the sun is hot but there is no humidity. I never get in the car but to take my daughter to the train station. I take this time to connect the dots.
I met my husband in the Hamptons nearly thirty years ago when most of the stores in East were privately owned and had stuff you mostly didn’t see anywhere else. He owned a house and I had a summer quarter share with 24 others in the Amagansett Dunes. Yes, there were 24 of us that rotated in this tiny house with 12 beds (mostly doubles) and no one owned a car! If you did not get there early (I made this a priority) you were forced to share a double with whomever got there after and it was a coed house. It was my first summer share in the Hamptons and with no car, I found it burdensome to rely on my bicycle. I complained to my friend Susan who suggested I call her friend Jay. She said he had a car. He picked me up in his black BMW wearing dark sunglasses. The rest is family history.
As singles and newly marrieds, we had lots of parties in the house, with constant overnight guests, and then we had our children. Life took us in many different directions. Our friends Carol and Michael bought out east soon after. They are part of my new summer family.
My husband’s cousins, Karen and Kash bought a house across the way out here. It’s a far cry from the bungalow colony but it’s a start.