Montauk, who would have thought?
Montauk, who would have thought? By Gail Newman Ah summer in the 1960’s, can’t get any better for a ten year old. Schools out, staying up late to watch Johnny Carson, sleeping in. Running around until the street lights went on or someone whistled or called for you to come home. And most of all, looking forward to the yearly vacation with the family. I couldn’t wait. I was counting the days dreaming of what fun I would have in the Poconos. We went every year since I was five. Two weeks at a time the first few years but then down to one after my father had to change jobs. Then it happened, over dinner one night, my parents broached the subject of vacation. Not in the usual way though. This was not about what the plan was and when we were leaving and what we were going to do this year while we were there. No this was, well honey as you know you father has changed jobs and we can’t go to the Poconos this year. My mind was racing, I heard nothing after that. The words I did manage to process were beach, cousins, Montauk and something about an RV. I think I passed out after that. After that I didn’t ask any questions I didn’t want to believe it was real. Two weeks later I was in the car with my parents heading east from Seaford. Sure we did the day trips all over Long Island on the weekend, Freeport for lunch, Jones Beach for the day, Port Jeff, all great places with things to do. But Montauk? I was pretty sure that from what I had heard about Montauk, which wasn’t much, was, it was the end point of Long Island. That’s what its claim to fame was. But there we were pulling into Heckscher State Park. What the heck? Remember I wasn’t paying attention so I had no I idea what I was in for. Sure enough we pulled up in front of my mother’s cousin’s large RV that would be our home for the week. Okay, we are staying in a large tin can out in a large parking lot. We went in. The usual set up if you are familiar with an RV. I wasn’t, so, I was not thrilled with the whole bunk bed table combination. I really thought the whole bedroom/bathroom/shower was the real highlight. I was miserable. What would I do out here? Once everything was unloaded from the car we headed outside and made our way down to another RV. This one had an awning open and outdoor furniture set up, even a barbeque. My mother knocked on the door and out came her cousin and her husband. We were invited to sit down while they prepared some drinks and snacks. Great I thought, I get to hang around all week with adults. After sitting there for what seemed like an eternity drinking my lemonade, I heard this commotion. It sounded like a wild pack of wolves howling and coming at us. Dust kicked up from an unknown path also signaled their arrival. Once the dust cleared, there they were six boys and two girls ranging in age from seven to fourteen. Cousins I was to find out, cousins I didn’t know I had. We always spent the holidays with my mother’s brother’s family so I had no real idea about this bunch. But there they were a rag tag group of kids that just had trouble written all over them. After some quick introductions with names I was never going to remember I was off, running after them down the dusty path from which they had appeared. I had no idea where we were going, all I knew was I was running off on some kind of adventure. Finally they came to a sudden halt. When I caught up, someone put their hand up to stop me from going any further. I soon found out why as I gazed out over the ocean and more importantly down at the cliff below us. Trying to take this all in, as I realized I was this close to my first near death experience, I found myself being asked if I had ever been cliff sliding. Pretty sure that I had not, it was explained that we were going to sit on our butts and slide down the sand path to the beach below. Hello I don’t think so. Yes I go to the beach, but I lie in the sand and walk into the water. Before I knew it, there they went, one at a time hooping and hollowing as they slide down the cliff. There I was just me and one of the girls who was obviously concerned about me. After giving me some pointers, and swearing I would be fine and she would be right behind me, I sat down. I will never forget looking out over the ocean from that view. There is was, right in front of me huge waves like I had never seen before crashing down on these large boulders. No this wasn’t Jones Beach or Zach’s Bay this was some serious water. I had no choice, I could hear them calling to me from the beach. I had to do it. I turned around to look back at her and all I heard was, go for it! And I did, I pushed myself off like you do on a regular slide and I took off like a rocket. Wind and sand hitting my face, hair flying all over the place and before I knew it I screeched in for a landing. Screams of congratulations followed. Once I realized I was all in one piece I stood up, only to be knocked down by the cousin screeching in after me. Once we both got up and made sure we were alright we both started hysterically laughing. After that we all took off running down the beach and onto new adventures. Over the next week I did things I had never done before. We explored dunes, sat up in a tree house, had beach fires at night and sang songs. Went into the wonderful little town that held so much history I couldn’t get enough of it. My parents bought fish from the local fisherman right off the docks and chatted with them about their fishing boats. We went to the lighthouse where we learned of its history and where I truly realized we were at the end of this island that I loved. On the way home my parents asked if I had liked this trip better than going to the Poconos. I had to fess up that yes I had, it was the best time, Montauk, who would have thought?