When I Grew Up
Wednesday afternoon I am driving home from another meeting, the same I have every week, down the same road home. Manor Lane is long and open, the usual farm fields and vines are an even brighter green today against the faded pavement. Lost in thought in an average routine, I often make it to Sound Avenue for the straight shot home to Greenport without noticing so much as a blink of my own eye. It’s a blissful unawareness that I’ve grown to appreciate.
Today though, I notice everything; the broken fence post, the patch of grass missed when mowing the lawn, even the crooked street sign as a warning to snowmobilers; meaningless glimpses of daily life that have always been here, just never acknowledged. What I notice most are the reminiscences I had forgotten living on the North Fork as they come flooding through the open car windows. Every street has a story, every turn a lost memory. When did I forget all of this?
My formative years of East End living were spent on beaches day and night, the latter usually with a gaggle of other teenagers who snuck out while their parents slept, drinking cheap beer and whatever else that may have been easily missed in a dusty liquor cabinet. Blanketed under the safety of the night sky, we would sometimes trail through the woods to an unknown hideout, in search of nothing and everything, just happy to be free.
Many of us were too big for this town, or so we thought. On the nights when we would gather for one random party or another, in a farm field or on the beach, we would laugh surrounded by red Solo cups as we spilled warm beer, quietly knowing these days were numbered. We swore we would leave here, never to return. We wanted to find something, be something, better.
Post-high school I did a few stints in London and New Orleans, promising myself I would not move back to my then-boring hometown of Laurel. Small town living was to be forgotten, and I wanted a life of adventure I knew could only be found in these crazy cities. But as life would have it, I did move back home, and I couldn’t remember why it was I left.
Visiting family and a few friends on holidays, I returned to these same beaches and farm fields just to see what it was I had missed. Awake at night in sandy bedsheets I thought of how those days away seemed to have run parallel; as if a walk along the River Thames under an often useless umbrella took place during a barefoot stroll picking up beach glass on Bailie’s Beach. Knocking back another shot of Jameson under Christmas lights at Snake & Jake’s occurred while toasting a birthday at one of many North Fork wineries. Which memory belonged where, and why couldn’t I tell the difference?
Those times made me who I am, and I see home now for what it is. I have been back on the North Fork for five years, the last three in the village of Greenport. I live here, work here, and don’t want to be anywhere but here. It wasn’t until a friend asked me what I wanted in the future did I realize that I had in fact settled into a life in a place I didn’t think I would. It turns out at some point I had become an adult, and so did everyone else that came back to the East End for one reason or another.
I am reminded of these things on this Wednesday after having received an invitation to Mattituck High School’s Class of 2006 ten-year reunion party. I pass my alma matter a few times a week, oblivious to the brick building I couldn’t wait to leave behind. Now, we’ve all grown up and are to relive some of the memories we made, while trading stories on our new lives. “Do you remember,” will precede every conversation as we smile and laugh. While as adults we’re thankful the years of teen angst are gone, we’ll toast to home and what it has made us.