My Day with Mom in the Hamptons
When I started working in the Hamptons in 2011, I was surprised how much the south fork had changed. My first time working out there was in the summer of 1977. I was fresh out of high school and working on the Treescape condominium project.
The first notable change was the absence of the Henry Austin Clark Jr. Automobile Museum. To me, that was symbolic of finally being in Southampton after the long drive through the Pine Barrens. The other noticeable change was there were four lanes where the express lanes ended. It was always two lanes as I remembered it. From there it was a snail’s crawl to points east, now dubbed “the trade parade”.
In the late eighties, I worked for a turf equipment company that serviced many of the golf courses, and some estates on the south fork. By then, the traffic in the summer was something we tried to avoid as the area was undergoing a building boom at the time. The Hamptons had always struck me as quaint sleepy little towns with a stereotypical main street. In spite of my exposure to the south fork, I didn’t know the area as well as I do now.
When I was first hired, I was trained by the person I was to replace as he was retiring. On a trip to Montauk, I mentioned that I didn’t know that area too well.
He said “Then I’ll have to show you” as he cut the wheel and drove down Dunemere Lane.
He took me on a grand tour travelling down past the Maidstone golf course, and then down Further Lane. He pointed out some estates and gave me a little background on each. All I could see were hedges and rooftops. Even at that, it was impressive. We then travelled down Bluff Road in Amagansett with him pointing out some notable homes there as well as he reminisced about the past. It was a memorable day driving through estate lined streets. Not one I will soon forget, but it pales in comparison to the day I took my mom on a tour about a year later.
My mom was totally devoted to her family her entire life. A great-grandmother by this time, and a cancer survivor, she never asked for much. Raised in Rego Park, she was a New York girl through and through. She was as tough as nails but was a compassionate person who always rooted for the underdog. After my father had died, she wound up living with me as I was the only single child. I didn’t see it as a burden, but rather a repayment of gratitude. I had also made a promise to my father on his death bed not to worry about her, that she would be well taken care of, which she was.
I kept telling her I wanted to take her out to the Hamptons, so she could see some of the beautiful places I have seen. The wide tree lined streets of East Hampton Village. The secluded estates in Sagaponack. The wide open farm fields, and farm stands, and also where I worked. I didn’t want it to be something that was always talked about but never came to fruition. Sometimes life has a way of getting in the way of the best-made plans. I asked some of the drivers what were good places to go, to show her the best of the best. They each had their favorite spots, but there some places a few had mentioned.
I finally nailed down a Saturday in June, and we were off. Being a Saturday, I avoided as much traffic as possible. I took her down David Whites Lane making my way to Scuttle Hole Road. As we traveled through the area, some horse farms came into view and The Atlantic Golf Course. She was impressed, to say the least. What she seemed most impressed by were the hydrangeas that marked many of the driveways we passed by. They were in full bloom, and the deep blue and purple flowers were like huge snowballs hanging from the bushes. She couldn’t get over how beautiful they were.
We made our way down Mitchel Lane and then south to Halsey la and east on Sagaponack Road. From there we went south on Sagg Main Street to Gibson Lane. I pointed out the house where Roy Schnieder had lived, and another colossal house under construction. She couldn’t get over the size of it. From there we went down Daniels Lane. Now we were in Sagaponack. The most expensive zip code in America. There are no driveways there. Just long hedge lined private roads. The homes there are not visible from the road for the most part, but the length of the private roads conjure up in the imagination what might lay beyond. I have been privileged to go down some of these roads and see what lays beyond. I then took her up Townline Road to Parsonage Lane and then back down Hedges Lane returning to Townline Road.
I said to her “That was Sagaponack. What do you think?”
“Just beautiful. I can’t get over the flowers. I’ve never been to the Hamptons before.”
“Yes really. I’ve never been out here.”
“Well then, we’ll have to go to East Hampton. That’s my favorite out of all the Hamptons.” I told her.
I continued down Wainscott Main Street lined with old houses and farm fields, and then up Sayre’s Path to Montauk Hwy. I was on that for a short time, and jumped off at Jericho road, and went down into East Hampton by the water. We travelled down Georgica Road to Apaquogue Road to Lee Avenue, and Lilly Pond Lane Where the streets seemed like triple wide and lined with huge trees and stately homes, again, hidden behind large walls and hedges. We could only see rooftops, but it gave an idea as to the size of the houses. She was awestruck. Truthfully, I was too. I had never been down in that part of East Hampton. We made our way up past the pond and the historic cemetery to the stereotypical main street of East Hampton that I love. I continued from that point on the path my predecessor took me on, passing Maidstone Golf Club and on to Further Lane. We came upon a home with a curved hedge. She was quite impressed by it. It was quite unique. We continued our way to Indian Wells Highway in Amagansett and headed for Main Street.
By now we were in the car for a few hours. I wanted to go to Montauk, but I think the ride would have been too much for her. I asked her if she was hungry and she said she was. I went into the parking lot behind the library, and we stopped for lunch at Indian Wells Tavern. We were seated and handed menus. I told her the burgers were very good. She put the menu down and said to me very low
“The Burgers are $12.00.”
“That’s a lot of money.”
“Not really. You wouldn’t get out of a national burger chain restaurant for less than $8.00. This blows that away, and the fries are included, plus we’ll be served.”
She paused, and then asked “Can you afford it?”
“Yeah mom, I have it covered. You have to live it up once in a while.”
She finally conceded and ordered a cheeseburger. We had quite the enjoyable lunch. Now looking back, it was worth more than any amount of money.
Suspecting she was getting a little tired, I started heading west after lunch. I stayed on the main road so she could see the main streets of each town we had avoided. It was early enough that traffic wasn’t an issue yet. When we got to Bridgehampton, I saw people sitting outside Pierre’s eating ice cream. I said “Let’s get some ice cream. We can rub elbows with the upper crust, and eat at the sidewalk cafe.” She laughed. My mother had the eternal sweet tooth. I got no argument from her. I found a parking spot right in front on the street too. We went inside and got a small dish of gelato, not ice cream. It tasted home made too. We sat at a table on the sidewalk enjoying our gelato taking in the sights. It was a perfect end to a special day.
Once we were home, I asked her what she thought of the Hamptons. I thought she would say the size of the houses, the wide open spaces, or the privacy of the estates. No. What impressed her the most were the flowers. Mainly the hydrangeas.
Mom’s been gone for a little over two years now. I will remember that day for the rest of my life, and every time I see a hydrangea in bloom.