The Sketches of Homeport

Written By: Susan J.  Hansen

Tucked in every nook and cranny of our grandparent’s house, is a little bit of ‘Homeport’. They named it, when they fell in love with it.  We grew up in Hampton Bays, Bayport, Hopewell Junction and Warren, Ohio.

….But our hearts, to this day, reside on Shelter Island.

We all learned to drive right around the age of five: In our parents’ cars, on the North and South Ferries. Sitting on their laps, steering wheel firmly in hand, we’d steer that ferry from Greenport or Sag Harbor, carefully commandeering it into the perfect landing position at Dering Harbor…only to pop our thumb firmly in our mouths, in a show of pride and achievement at our stellar piloting skills. The ride across the Sound was always exciting, even in Christmas cold; but the landing, oh the landing was the best part…we were home.

Grandy and Papa would always be awaiting us. We’d come through their back door,  a few at a time or all together; their chickens were under one roof and life was good.

There would be dinner awaiting us.  Always.  Papa’s famous meatloaf or his equally famous chili; Grandy’s secret recipes, from a lifetime of family meals.  How they managed to cook for a hoard of parents and children, was always a deeply respected mystery to us. It was always delicious, it was always too much to eat and it always ended with a ‘Steak Sandwich’: A Klondike bar, taken from the freezer, as if Papa had made them himself. It sure felt like it, anyway. If the freezer was bare, then we would all be piled into Papa’s van, to head off to The Tuck Shop, for a cone of our choosing.

The next morning we would trudge down the stairs or wander in from the back room, where we slept on the pull-out couches and on the floors in our Spider Man and Ariel sleeping bags….goaded by the irresistible scent of massive amounts of bacon, cooking in the cast iron pan. There were even times when the eggs were non-existent!  Bacon and bagels, bacon and cereal…as long as there was bacon.  It was a steadfast rule of the Kingdom. We would eat, a few at a time or a hoard of us, wrapped around their kitchen counter. No matter the day, month or year, if you looked due South from the kitchen counter, you would find Papa, in the Captain’s Chair, deeply involved in The Daily News and Newsday’s crossword puzzles. Without fail. It was part of his constitution.

Their gazebo was the perfect sort of ‘room’.  That irreplaceable panoramic view that our mind’s eye can only see through:  Papa’s garden. The planted herbs were so fragrant and the flowers, always seemed to be in full bloom. Even when it was cold.  It just felt like it. The small pond that we would stand over, gazing into it as if we could see tomorrow. Could we? We thought so.  All sixteen of us.

The hours we spent in the pool and on the rope swing that hung from the giant old oak… why you could count them by the hundreds!  Our memories there, we firmly planted in our hearts and souls, like another flower in Papa’s garden.

Love’s memories we caught, like fireflies in a jelly jar, at dusk.  Playing ‘manhunt’ until it was so dark, that it was no longer fun. They are forever locked within our hearts. Oh, the comfort and the joy they lent….no matter what our age.

We are mostly grown now; the youngest is fifteen and the oldest is thirty-four. We watched each other succeed and achieve, and once in a while, fall hard. Yet we picked each other up and returned to becoming who we were to be.

We grew to know each other’s hearts. We are all very different, but yet the same. We are the children of Homeport.  Every single memory, we took them. We did. And they made us who we are today. Those memories….shall never fade.

Through the eyes and hearts of its children, these are the Sketches of Homeport.