Mom, Memories, and Me
Mom, Memories, and Me By Stacy Hoff Ever since I was old enough to say the word “beach” my mother tugged me along to the Hamptons. I was a City kid back then. Long Island’s East End filled me with wide-eyed wonder. The front door of the small Montauk cabin my mom rented was a gateway to new experiences. A threshold to a better life. For one precious week, we had a backyard. We walked on sandy trails, not concrete. We could actually see stars in the night sky. I grew up in Manhattan in the Seventies. It was not nearly as glamorous as people might think. Especially during the summer. Back then, New York City offered nothing for children to do. So when I wasn’t at camp, I trudged around on sidewalks so hot I wondered if my sneakers would melt. Central Park was basically barren; the conservatory hadn’t happened yet. Very few playgrounds existed and only one had a working sprinkler. When I was a child, no one seemed to live in Manhattan during the summer anyway. The streets were empty. Park Avenue a deserted canyon. At least Fifth Avenue had tourists, their bulky cameras a dead give-away. Where did all the locals go? To the Hamptons, I was often told. The same place where I went—for one magical week a year. I tried to be patient. Begging my mother wasn’t going to do anything other than pressure her. A single parent, she was already doing the best she could. So I waited for the calendar to come around. Confident time would move forward. That I, too, would have my place in the sun. When our vacation week finally arrived, I relished it. The tiny cabin, though not our own, was precious to me. I knew its true cost. Not only in dollars, but in terms of the hard work it took to save up. The gift of the Montauk week was not taken for granted; we appreciated each day. I burnt into my memory every moment I could. One of these memories is my childhood favorite. I told my mother I wanted to eat blueberries. I figured we’d buy some at a supermarket. After all, where else did blueberries come from? She surprised me when she asked the cabin’s owner for a place where we could pick them. I was stunned. You mean, you can actually pick and eat them? God knew picking and eating anything that grew in Central Park was not a good idea. The landlord gave us a general description of where we could find a cluster of wild blueberry bushes. I was beyond excited—until we got there. “Where are they all?” I asked, disappointed by the barren field. Maybe I was right, I thought, maybe you can get them only in supermarkets. My mom, however, surprised me yet again. “I’m going to find the patch. It’s around here, somewhere. I wasn’t a Girl Scout for nothing.” She did it, finding the secret patch. We came back to the cabin with a bushel-full of the tastiest berries I’d ever eaten. Even sweeter for all the effort we’d put in. My mom’s revelation, however, was an even greater prize for me to bring home. I now knew she had been a Girl Scout. One who knew how to find wild, hidden, blueberry bushes. Despite the fact she grew up in Brooklyn. I wasn’t just learning about country life, I was learning about my mother. A City child too, she grew up valuing her time in the country. Despite being a generation apart, she and I were exactly the same. Ten years ago, my mother was finally able to buy her own Hamptons home. It took years of saving money and lots of hard work. Her house is not too far from the tiny cabin we rented long ago. As for me, I live in Connecticut now. In a house with the backyard I always longed for. But I visit my mother every chance I get. And, just like my mother, I tug the kids along. My young boys love Long Island’s East End. Almost as much as I do. But they’ll never understand the time and effort it cost Grandma to get here. I try to teach them her values, so they know the rewards of hard work. Next time, I think I’ll take them blueberry picking.