The Georgica Rental and the Snake

Written By: Suzanne Cogan

THE GEORGICA RENTAL AND THE SNAKE Some women will pay any price to enjoy a summer rental in the Hamptons, but there are limits. Or are there? Many years ago I spent the summer in East Hampton with my weekender husband and three-year old son. I enrolled him in a half-day program where he could play with other children. One of his new friends was a little girl whose mother, an attractive thirty-something blonde, invited us to their Georgica rental for lunch. She had an older child, a five-year old boy, who was already at home. The house, as I expected, was beautiful. It had landscaped grounds, a floor-to-ceiling glass wall facing a patio and sparkling pool, and a living room with a cathedral ceiling and a visible sleep loft. I sank into a cushiony white sofa, sipping a glass of chilled Chardonnay. “Does someone sleep up there?” I asked my hostess (I’ll call her ‘Jane’). “The au pair and her—pet,” Jane said. “Does she have a dog?” I asked. “Or a cat?” “Not exactly,” said Jane. “She has—um—a snake.” “A snake?” I nearly shrieked, but caught myself. “It’s only a boa constrictor,” Jane said. “It’s harmless.” “What’s your au pair doing with a boa constrictor?” I asked, horrified. Was this her idea of a joke? “Have some more wine,” Jane responded, refilling my glass. I wondered if she was trying to get me drunk. “I had a problem with my first au pair,” Jane said, sipping her wine. “You don’t need to know the gory details, but she didn’t work out.” I didn’t know what to say, so I remained silent. “Anyway,” Jane said, “I called the agency in the city. The one I get all my help from. I was desperate. I mean, here I was already with NO ONE TO TAKE CARE OF MY KIDS!” She looked distressed, as if World War III had been declared. “So what happened?” I asked. “I needed someone with a driver’s license to chauffeur the kids,” she said. “And to cook and clean up after them, of course. I have to be able to—you know—have some time for myself.” She looked at me expectantly, as if wanting corroboration. “I understand,” I said dutifully. Actually, I didn’t. I took care of my kid myself, drove him to activities and friends’ houses, cooked, cleaned, sometimes planted flowers and weeded the garden. And I even found time to read a chapter or two of a book. “So, as I was saying,” Jane said, “I called the agency and said to send me absolutely ANYBODY with a driver’s license. When I picked up Anna at the train station she had a suitcase in one hand and a large straw basket in the other.” She paused. “Guess what she was carrying in the basket,” she said. “A boa constrictor?” I asked, not wanting to hear the answer. “You got it,” Jane said. “It’s really not so bad. It stays up there in the loft with Anna. Sleeps most of the day. Only eats once a week.” “Are you sure it doesn’t sneak downstairs,” I asked nervously, staring at the sleep loft. “So far it hasn’t,” she said. “Anna goes to a local pet shop for its food, so I don’t have to bother.” “Pet shop?” I echoed. “What does it eat?” Jane looked uncomfortable. “It only eats animals when they’re alive,” she said. “Mice, mostly.” “You’re telling me that snake upstairs eats live mice?” I asked, beginning to feel nauseous. “It’s only once a week,” Jane said. “Besides, the kids love to watch it eat the mouse. I think it’s educational for them, don’t you?” I couldn’t wait to leave. Needless to say, that was the one and only visit to her Georgica rental. I remained puzzled about her desperate need for an au pair, even with a pet snake, until I ran into Jane a few months later. She looked radiant. “I’m getting divorced,” she said excitedly. “I’m sorry,” I said. “Oh, no,” Jane said. “It’s wonderful. My boyfriend is just the greatest!” She leaned in closer. “We were seeing each other last summer,” she confided. “You know, when I rented that house in the Hamptons.” “Congratulations,” I said. I wondered if her kids had dreams about the snake and its feeding habits. Luckily it didn’t concern me any longer. The summer was over. By: Suzanne Cogan East Hampton