The Mary Louis Girls Sprinkle Stardust on The Royal Atlantic
It was 1997 but it might have well been 1957. “The Mary Louis Girls” were once again riding east in a white minivan with Pat Boone’s melodic “Love Letter’s in the Sand” crooning from the radio. For two decades, August delivered nostalgia to these ladies and as the stretch of another mile was conquered they were that much closer to being seventeen again. Their forty year bond splashed into the Royal Atlantic hotel every year like a wistful wave and for one week Carol and the two Rosemary’s made Montauk their own, augmenting memories and weathering the path a bit more; the path they had so closely walked together.
Tumbling out of their wagon, shades of grey strands said hello to the sunlight; with jovial countenances, their innocence was reinstated. Struggling with their Vera Bradley grandchild gifted duffle bags, stumbling over Styrofoam coolers and woven beach blankets, they pranced with all the agility of teenagers towards their room. As the door closed behind them, curtains were flung wide and the Atlantic Ocean stared back at them like an old friend, welcoming them with a foamy smile. They hung their sixty celebrated birthdays on towel hooks and mutated into sophomoric, dreamy, white-gloved, Catholic schoolgirls. Yes, The Mary Louis Girls had arrived to make permanent tracks in the sand; forever a part of Royal Atlantic history.
There was a point in time these ladies called The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica Estates home. The prestigious, private all-girls school run by The Sisters of Saint Joseph during the 1950’s was a place where cement alliances were created and lifelong friendships an absolute. MLA’s motto, “Where today’s girl becomes tomorrow’s woman,” may have appeared contemporary at the time but this generation held tight to classic values and chastity was a major player. It was an epoch when nuns still wore Habits and Bishops were referred to as, “His Excellency.” Social influences were relevant and Home Economic classes prepared the young ladies to maintain happy, well run homes. Organdy and taffeta floated over crinoline and handsome Chaminade lads escorted debutantes to dances with names such as Stardust Serenade and were held in The Grand Ballroom at The Hotel Pierre. If caught dancing too close the hand of a nun would wave between them telling them, “OK kids let’s leave some room for the Holy Ghost.” Days when Father’s gave council and Mother’s said prayers.
It was here, during this time that Carol and the two Rosemary’s began their journey and defined their roles not only to each other but to the rest of the world. Carol, The Fashionista had a mania for red and was nicknamed “Kim” for reasons only they know, Rosemary M. was the infamous Mary Louis jock sinking more basketballs than many of her male counterparts, and Rosemary L. or Rosie as she was often called was the rule follower because the thought of questioning any kind of mandate would never cross her mind. Collectively they ate pizza at “Mary’s”, the eatery around the corner from their school, and swooned over boyfriends with names such as Johnny Cassanova. They had pajama parties, curled one another’s hair and played, “Tell the Truth” games unafraid of the consequences. They trusted each other and unconditional was insufficient to describe their affection. They shared the good, the bad and the ugly.
On their annual jaunt to Montauk every year, laughter lurked in the shadows. There was plenty of reminiscing for sure but also many impromptu moments that would instantly encourage a chorus of giggles. Carol and Rosie always had luggage the size of elephants, while Rosemary would survive the week of debauchery with a knapsack. They would calculate bathroom time with Carol always winning the vanity award for her hour long primping procedure; a talent apparently acquired very early on and perfected during her days as a glamourous 1960’s stewardess for Eastern Airlines. But, the most bodacious guffaws would emerge right before bed when Carol insisted that the sliding door in their sea level ocean front room remain shut and locked while they slept. Apparently, her fear of intruders transcended the two Rosemary’s desires for the sound and smells of the ocean they drove 2 and ½ hours to savor.
Never missing a meal, reservations were made at almost every establishment they could squeeze into their week long stay on the east end. Traditions included sanctimonious crustacean filled rolls and warm raspberry pie at The Lobster Roll on Montauk Highway in Amagansett and steamers at Gosman’s.
For those seven turns around the sun, year after year, these three women willingly took back their roles, shared a lifetime of memories and reminded each other why they remained friends. My Mom, The Fashionista left this world five years ago and the Mary Louis Girls never went to Montauk again, but once in a while the two Rosemary’s will be kissed by a sea breeze, know it is her and feel as if they are there all over again.