The Magician’s Son
As I step out onto my porch early in the morning, before most people are up and about, I sip on my freshly brewed coffee which is still too hot to drink. I am reminded of this as the heat sears ever so lightly the top of my lip. I grasp the cup with both hands and slowly inhale the aroma of the coffee. It satisfies my need briefly, but allows me a moment to take in the view from my family farm house from the 1850’s. This venerable old place was once a sea captain’s home by the name of Josiah Foster and was built in 1857, for his family. My ancestors bought it, in the 1880’s, and it has been in our family, ever since, in the hamlet of East Quogue. If only this house could talk what tales it would tell of all the people who have lived here and called this place their home. I think back to the many families who, in the past 160 years, may have congregated on this very porch to enjoy the sultry summer days and share a conversation and perhaps a glass of lemonade. I pause again, in that thought, to enjoy this moment of reflection as I think back to memories of my own childhood. Many memories now flood my mind of happy family times spent in this house and growing up in this quaint, little hamlet, nestled unnoticed and untouched, in time, in the Hamptons. I do not think I truly appreciated how innocent and pastoral my childhood was growing up, in East Quogue, until one day it all changed. In thinking back to my childhood my thoughts paint a picture of mylife, in our small town, in the 1950’s and 60’s. There are many people from my hometown I remember, who touched my life and shaped it, but I would be remiss if I did not mention one person in particular, my best friend Scooter. Actually, I had to share Scooter with my brother and his friends, but they would all let me tag along, as the token girl. Scooter was the only child of a mom and pop business in our hamlet. Their store was a cross between a stationary store and country store, with comics, incredible candy selections, soda, newspapers and other sundryitems. It was a child’s delight to have a nickel and be able to select the biggest candy bar and savor it’s taste on our front porch while playing a card game of, “Go Fish.” Scooter was the brightest boy in East Quogue and at a young age he knew he was destined to become a doctor. He had that something about him that made him stand out above all the other children; that, “Je ne sais quoi”. It was his intensity of purpose, that made all who knew him, know he would one day do great things. Our summers seemed as though they would go on forever as we spent hours looking for four leaf clovers, or doing hand stands, or walking barefoot through the grass, and sometimes running through the lawn reckless, and wild, while playing tag. Living in a bayside community, Scooter and I would go with our friends to the town dock and fish or set up our crab nets and sometimes rake and dive for clams. Some of my most vivid memories, of my childhood, are bringing home our catch of the day and having a seafood feast with our family.Of all the birthday parties I attended, as a child, Scooter’s were the best! All the children in our small hamlet were invited. His father had been a magician prior to owning the town stationary store, so every year, on Scooter’s special day, he would dust off his magician’s hat and wand and transform into his stage name, “The Great Livingston.” As he pulled pennies from behind our ears, and the proverbial rabbit from his magic hat, we were all in wonder and awe. We relished the mystery and mayhem in the air of his magical birthday parties. Back then, the Hamptons were quite a place for summer rentals and elaborate parties, but despite the summer frenzy and influx of, “summer folks” life in our small community seemed secure and safe. It was predictable, but embracing. Yet, even with all these wonderful memories of my childhood, woven through my mind, I cannot help also recalling another memory, one that changed my life forever; the sudden loss of my very best friend. It was April 1st, 1963, and I was playing in the school yard at recess time. I was ten years old. An ominous murmur rippled, through the crowd of children playing around me, that Scooter had died that morning. We all wondered who would start such a rumor and terrible April Fool’s Joke. But, it was not a joke. Scooter had a persistent cold for several days. Then on this fateful day he had developed difficulty breathing. The local fire department and police officers, who first arrived at his house, tried to revive him. They were not successful, and so poor Scooter, died at the young age of 13. Later, it was determined he had died of bacterial meningitis. This day, April 1st,1963, was the day that my sense of childhood security vanished. Just as we all remember our first love, also we never forget our first awareness of the death of a loved one, and that stark reminder of our mortality, that we are born, but also must die. Sometimes the dying is too soon. Often, people pass through their life’s time, in relative obscurity, of who they were and how they lived, and are lost and forgotten within the vast collective consciousness of time. But not my friend Scooter, he had a sense of purpose and belonging to this earth, not because he would pass from this world too soon, at the age of 13, but that he truly believed he would live a long life and contribute something good to mankind. Our community for a time cloaked itself into a shared grief and sadness. His parents never recovered from the loss of their son. The father’s heart wrenching cries, at his son’s funeral, reverberated off the ceiling of the church and pierced our hearts with his inconsolable sorrow. From that time forward, I always saw tears in his mother’s eyes. In the years that followed, his father would buffer his sadness with alcohol, and died several years later. I believe from a broken heart. That summer of 1963, I would sit on the grass with my mother and look at the vast constellation of stars in the dark evening sky. Some stars seemed to resonate a brilliance more than others. I would ask my mother where is heaven? It was my hope that Scooter was still somewhere in some heavenly dimension safe and protected. We children, of that time and place, grew up. Life’s duties and demands distracted us from painful memories. Many of us went to college, married, began careers, and had families of our own. I became a nurse, and I, too, would, one day lose my son at the age of 15, and only then fully understand a parent’s sorrow. In my lifetime I have been fortunate to travel to so many countries in the world, and seen such beauty, more than I would have ever dreamed of, as a child. Yet, wherever I have gone, I have never forgotten those I have loved and lost; or this place where I live and call my home. They are intimately entwined in my heart. Now, my reverie is over and here I am, the grandmother of my childhood self, once again standing on my front porch. The soft summer breeze from the bay gently caresses my face. The birds are beginning to chirp and call out their cryptic messages. The faint aroma of lavender from my garden fills me, with nostalgia. It’s scent reminiscent of times from long ago. The coffee I was sipping, before, that was so searing hot, at the beginning of my tale, is now cold. It’s once pungent aroma fading. In the solitude, of the early morning, I reaffirm my promise to myself, that as long as I am living, I will bear witness that there once was a boy, named Scooter, and he was my best friend. For a brief time, he was the brightest star, in the sky, over this little patch of earth we call East Quogue. I will never forget the Magician’s son and the magic of long ago. For those who knew him, he will be forever missed. My only wish is that his father’s magic could have brought him back.