Southold, The summer of ’88

Written By: Jeanette  Marinese

Southold the Summer of ’88 by Jeanette Marinese The first exciting thing that happened that first summer in our summer ranch house on Grange Road, Southold, 1988 was that our neighbor’s son shot out the cellar window with a BB gun and for a brief moment took possession of our cellar. We weren’t there but found out about the invasion the following weekend when my then Nassau County police officer husband determined that nothing was taken or amiss. Of course we didn’t have anything of value in the house anyway in spite of a newly installed alarm system which was supposed to tell us if the pipes were frozen. A side benefit of the pipe freezing alarm was a phone ring to our Huntington home to let us know if someone was in the house when we weren’t there. I think we did get a ring, but we ignored it as we had forgotten about the system. The excitement wasn’t that we had a break in; we were excited about why someone would want to get into the cellar. Then we tried to figure out who it might be and when we discovered it was the next door neighbor’s kid who was just having fun, it was a disappointment. Here we were in a new place and it was the same kind of mischief we might have encountered back home. I don’t know what we expected from that first Southold summer and how different it would be from our hour and fifteen minutes away house in Huntington, except my husband reminisced about back in the day when he was eighteen and spent the summer with local lifeguards, beautiful ex-girlfriends and, “You could lie down on the main road and no one would run you over because there were no vehicles on the road.” His most precious memory was of sitting in the country kitchen of Danny Reiter’s mom who baked delicious pies; there just weren’t pies like that back in the Bronx. Captain Reiter was a big man who, rumor had it, still had bullet holes in his body from speakeasy days. The Reiters were the force behind The Barge; people would come to the North Fork just to eat there. My two girls who were eleven and nine that year were bored by the stories, not excited about spending summers away from their friends back home, were lobbying for either having their friends stay with us or limit the time we spent at the house. So my husband wrapped in his youthful memories enjoyed his retreat to the past. I think I just wanted peace and quiet and the tranquility you get from being away from everyday responsibility. Instead, it was looking more like a makeshift summer camp and dinner conversation that always began with, “When I was a kid we…..” It didn’t exactly go as I had envisioned. Family, guests from home, both ours and the girls’ kept me busy with cooking, cleaning, and beach duty. We hadn’t yet figured out how to entertain without submerging ourselves in the process. I began to dread this new life which bore a shadow resemblance to the one I had tried to escape. It was pretty early in the morning when what sounded like a steady barrage of bombs started me awake. I later found out it was a booming sound that farmers use to frighten the birds away. No problem; it is agricultural country and stuff needs to be done. One evening, while preparing dinner, there was the relentless practice of a marching band. The Church of the Open Door was right behind our house so we would sit on the deck and watch the practice. However, between the band and the activities and services, things were definitely not quiet. My husband and my father began planting a row of trees that would serve as a barrier from the parking lot of the Church as the crunch of car tires coming and going needed to be muted. We also craved some privacy and couldn’t wait for the trees to grow. They are now tall, and thick. The current barrier of evergreens bears no resemblance to the barren landscape of that year. My mother died on her birthday in June of l988. She watched the house being built and walked back and forth on Grange Road. It reminded her of the country roads she once walked on in another land when she was a girl. She loved the house but more than that she loved to look at the adjacent farm land and smell the soil of Long Island. After her death, my father stayed with us and it helped him forget that his life had changed irrevocably when he dug the land to put in the trees, when he went clamming in the sound with my husband and when he watched my youngest daughter sneak her lunch into a napkin so she could feed our neighbors’ cat. My husband and father would leave early in the day to go clamming. There were still spots rich with clams. When they got back to the house they decided it was really too much trouble to open the clams with a knife and instead put them in the microwave. When it came to inventing ways to minimize effort, these two excelled. The “effort” instead went to me because cleaning up after this experiment was a task. There were so many memories from that summer: Miniature golf at Drossos, walking to town for ice cream, art lessons at the Custer Institute. I took my daughter, Jackie’s work for granted, but George McAdams across the street went to where her work was exhibited and gave me photos which I have to this day. There were days at Founder’s Landing, sitting in the shade of a large tree while the girls practiced their swimming. That tree now gone, felled by a Long Island storm. Their swimming lessons were early in the day because the warmer water of later would bring jellyfish. There were runs for basil from Farmer Mike, corn and spinach acquisitions from “pay on your honor” farm stands, and local tomatoes that tasted like tomatoes. Only people who shop in super markets for produce will understand how incredible that is. There were riding lessons on the back road and the new friendships we made that year. Marylou and Charlie Cain with whom we have spent countless dinners with since. Together we have watched our children become accomplished adults. There were chicken dinners at Founder’s Landing and talk that one day vineyards would replace potato farms, Wickham apples, the unmistakable prelude to fall and sunsets sinking into a new season. So many people wondered why we chose to go back to the same house the following year, why we bought a house to begin with; it was a commitment to the same place year after year. It really wasn’t that far from Huntington, the west end of the same county. We could have travelled to so many other experiences with the money we devoted to that house. All of this is true, but we found emotional sustenance in the confluence of people, earth, air and sea that is the North Fork. It is, for us, more beautiful than any cathedral or cruise ship. This strip of land jutting out from the mainland, defiantly not the South Fork, it is not quite New England and yet similar, not quite Greece and yet a reminder of, not quite sophisticated and yet there are moments when it is very much so, not quite avant garde and yet it is that as well, has reinforced in us the recognition that in the simplicity of everyday things, in this place, it is somehow better than anywhere else. Jeanette Marinese 56 Caleb’s Way Greenport, NY 11944 Cell: 631 4273630