My Sag Sisters

Written By: Suzan Cook


It’s starts around April. In the supermarket, at a party, on the subway, you spot a sister from Sag Harbor, and the only question is: “When are you going out East? “ I came out on Easter this year, a beautiful 80 degree day, where I experienced my first Easter sunrise service on the beach. And I took in a deep , deep breath, and got a good dose of what I call “sand between my toes”. I needed it, my Sag Harbor, and my Sag sisters.

From Memorial Day through Labor day, the 90 days in between, become magical. Exhausted from the hustle and bustle of the city we emerge, converge, gather with kids and belongings in tow. We pack the cars to capacity and drive along the service road, or on 495 LIE, to exit 70, or Southern Parkway, or Northern Parkway. As the songwriter says, “I don’t care how you get here, just get here when you can”.. By the time we hit Manorville, our bodies exhale. One can see and feel the physiological changes. The pony tails come down, and the shorts go on, and exit by exit on 27 East we start stripping—off the clothes, the baggage, any semblances of the city.

And then we hit Main Street. “Girl, how’ve you been?. I hear your baby girl’s getting married”. “Your son finished Princeton? Tell him his “aunties want to celebrate him. He barbecued for us last year. We’re going to barbecue for him this year” , “and give him a check”, Leona chimes in”. Oh yeah, he’s our boy. We’ve seen him grow up”.

“So when are we playing cards? or Scattegories”? “Gurlll, we’re coming over your house for the pool—after the beach”. “I’ll bring the wine, Betty chimes in. “And I’ll bring some cheese and crackers”. OK, just bring your lawn chair and towel, and it’s ON!!!

Who are these women? My Sag sisters. Cocoa, chocolate, olive, caramel, golden skin—women of all hues and backgrounds—have been gathering for YEARS. We live, love, listen, laugh and learn from one another, while sitting at the feet of the elder women and men of the Village of Sag Harbor, or on Ladies’ night at a local restaurant.. 60 years ago, when Black families were not welcomed at many East coast resorts, 3 Women bought land, off Route 114, and named these historically African American sections, Ninevah, Sag Harbor Hills and Azurest, as they and their descendants built houses, even before roads were built. And now, we have a Village of men, women, and children, of African ancestry, who are in third and fourth generational relationships. Historically, many of the men worked through the week, as the women brought the children out, and then they’d join us on weekends.

These are the women, my Sag sisters, 68 of them who gathered at B Smiths, five years ago, to “Send me off” to my Senate Confirmation Hearings as I was nominated as the first African American and first woman to serve as the US Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, and came , with their families, by the busloads, train loads, to the swearing in by Hillary Clinton, and later dedicated a bench for me on Main Street in front of Lee Jewelers, as the first US Ambassador from this region.

These are my sisters. We laugh and learn when the Elders of the village reminisce and share stories of womanhood and life lessons. We share losses, love, literature, as we have beach book cubs, and resources—how to help one of our teenagers achieve their dream, or “ Love up” on one of our teenagers who may have not have made the best decision.

For twenty years, my family has been blessed enough to have a home in Azurest, where our sons have had great friends, families, and where they’ve seen their mother hang out “ with the Sag sisters.

We always toast at the end of the summer, a toast on Labor day, to last until the next time, the next April when we meet at Jimbo’s in Harlem, and ask, “Girl, when are you going out? And we all know what that means…that summer and sunsets in Sag are on their way. It’s my SELAH place, my safe space, where as the Judaeo, Christian tradition says a place to “pause” after you’ve done something busy, and pause before you take your next step. But it’s so much fun to share my SELAH, with my Sag sisters, watching the new kids take sailing lessons at the Yacht club, or grabbing a sangria at Superica, or putting a song on and doing the Salsa, the electric slide or going way back” to the Motown era, and doing a soul train line.

Three more weeks, and it will be time for our toast. Seems like I just caught up on the newest kids in town; seems like just yesterday the little girls were learning to ride their bikes, and now, ages l6 and l7 their dads are teaching them to drive.
Now, we are the story tellers, as the college grads and our now young adult children, the millennials, come back summer after summer. They sometimes sit at out feet, as we circle and sit close to one another on the beach, And they watch us, as we watched the women and men before us, and drive us, as we drove them to Splish Splash, Sagg main or to the bay.
And we think about how, collectively, we’ve done a good job in Mothering and not smothering. We hope and pray their dreams will come true—as ours did. “Girl, tell Sam to hurry up and finish med school. He wants to be an orthopedic surgeon? He gonna have all of us to work on.
“So, girl, when you going back? Hope to see you at the Labor Day party and the races for the kids”. And girl, “Don’t forget we have our toast” You bring the Proseco, I’ll bring the glasses and Orange juice. Can’t have good proseco and drink out of a plastic cup”. Thats right, We’re sisters. yes, Sag Sisters. “What time you going to the beach tomorrow?


The end of summer toast is coming. But until then, I’m going to enjoy every minute of my Sag sisters.