Week-end at Gurney’s
We met on my first day of high school, in 1958. I was waiting for the first of the three buses I needed to take to go to St. Brendan’s Diocesan High School, when a girl I didn’t know called me “Rosalie”. Apparently I had a doppelgänger. I don’t remember my reply, but that was the beginning of a golden friendship that is going on its fifty sixth year. The girl became my friend, RoseAnn. SaraAnn got on the second bus, the Avenue D. Being a Diocesan school meant that the students came from many areas of the Diocese, Brooklyn. RoseAnn was a Junior, and SaraAnn a Sophomore, and so they had already been friends. St. Brendan’s had a total of about four hundred girls (it was, like most Catholic high schools of its day, not co-Ed). Friendships could form easily in the nurturing atmosphere of a small school, where Sisters of St. Joseph were most of the teachers. But the long daily bus rides with SaraAnn and RoseAnn were the defining factors in our becoming close friends. We had much in common beside neighborhood. As children of first or second generation Sicilian immigrants, we shared common backgrounds, and the slight difference in ages meant nothing. RoseAnn graduated first, and went on to become a nurse, then SaraAnn also became a nurse, and I became a New York City teacher. We met the men who would become our husbands, and raised our families, and were always there for each other when there was special joy or crisis, always ready with advice, a meal, a supportive word, and always,always laughing. Somehow we could find humor in every situation. Then it was easy. In December of 1993, Bill, RoseAnn’s husband, was in a car accident that put him in a coma until January seventeenth, when he died. Roe had just turned fifty. Exactly one year later to the day, Sara’s husband, Frank, succumbed to cancer, after a brave one year battle. She, too, had just turned fifty. My two best friends were widows at such young ages. My husband, Pete, and I were devastated by the loss of these dear friends, and we made sure to keep close to the “girls”. By now we were not just friends, but more like family. Shortly after these life-changing circumstances, someone gifted Sara a time-share at Gurney’s Inn in Montauk. The time wasn’t ideal, always in January, and Montauk is really a Summer kind of place. But she now had the use of a room and the facilities at this once-renowned resort. Famous people had stayed there, and in its day it was THE place to go to for fabulous gourmet meals. But by the mid-1990’s it’s luster had faded as a world class resort, though it still maintained high standards and quality restaurants. So Sara decided to use one of the week-ends as a retreat for her dear friends, RoseAnn and me. But remember, we were still Sicilian-American girls from Brooklyn, no matter how far along life’s journey we travelled. Though the restaurants at Gurney’s were still quality, and we could certainly afford them, we chose to bring camping-style gear and our own ethnic specialties to cook in the room. Here we were, ladies by all accounts, cooking shrimp scampi, eggplant parmigiana and pasta, not to mention omelets and real waffles in a room that was likely used by heads-of-states! And we didn’t use disposable dishes or flat wear, preferring real melamine and stainless for our gourmet meals. We took turns washing what we used in the bathroom sink. In between we relaxed in the fabulous salt-water pool, took long walks on the beach, got the BEST massages from Anna (never gotten one so good since) , and talked till we couldn’t think of another thing to say. We played silly games, and reminisced about those wonderful carefree days at St Brendan’s. We also, unlike the dignitaries that stayed there in the past, solved the problems of the world! The view of the Atlantic, the ocean our ancestors crossed (likely in steerage) to get to this wonderful country was magnificent! We did this for three years, and then RoseAnn met Andy, so she had new paths to take. He is a prince in every way, and Pete’s fishing buddy to boot. Sara and her prince, Bob, became a couple a few years later. We have built more wonderful memories with these recent additions to our group. We had come a long way in life’s journey, and our friendship has continued to flourish. The blended families laugh at our stories of the past, and we wouldn’t trade them for all the world’s gold. We have our own brand of gold. And I have one grandson named Brendan, named for the Saint who was called the Navigator. I think he, too, crossed the Atlantic.