Wednesday, June 24, 2009

East Hampton Visitor

About mid-way through my kindergarten year, my parents moved the family from East Hampton to Bay Shore. My father had secured a job at Republic Airfield in Farmingdale where he would work spray painting the planes. I was uprooted from my teachers, Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Wilson and the class I had just begun to be comfortable in.

Many weekends of the month, we would go to East Hampton to visit the families we'd left behind...both sets of grandparents, numerous aunts and uncles and cousins. In those days, about 1954, the trip took quite some time on the only route to and from east to west, the old Montauk Highway. We had to travel through all of the little towns between Bay Shore and East Hampton, slowly making our way 'home.' I remember listening to the 'thump thump, thump thump' of the tires going over the seams between the cement slabs that were the highway, and watching out the window as the telephone poles ticked off the hours to our destination. Sometimes by the time we arrived, I felt a bit sick to my stomach. Sometimes I had bouts of feeling car sick. I don't remember enjoying those rides much, but they were quickly forgotten when I was greeted by the relatives.

There were times when my father's parents would as if I wanted to stay until the following week when my parents would return. To this day, decision making doesn't come easy for me, but as a five or six year old, it was insanely difficult. I would gleefully decided, "Yes!" and in moments, change my mind, and minutes later, I'd be back to 'yes'. I'd repeat all of that indecision until it was too much for one of the adults. My dad would eventually decide for me, after hearing the see-saw of yeses and nos. He would load me into the car with the rest of the family, and begin backing out of the driveway on to Cedar Street. We'd get to the Snowball bush planted near the end of the driveway, and I'd begin to bellow from the back seat that I wanted to stay. Dad would pull back in, stop the car and ask if I was sure. I was, until I got out and saw the car start to back out again. Then I'd bellow that I wanted to stay. Again...the decision was made by the driver. I was either put back into the car and on my way back to Bay Shore or I was left to bellow at the side of my Grandmother. Whatever decision was made, it was quickly adopted by me, and I was fine for the rest of the week. But the scene was replayed whenever the invitation was issued to me to stay with Daddy's folks.

I loved being at my Grandparent's house. The hollyhocks played 'peeping tom' near the bedroom window where I slept in a big metal bed. The bees darted in and out of the Rose of Sharon blossoms there. The grass was sweet under the early morning dew. I was allowed to go barefoot at Grandma's, but never at home. The driveway was dry in summer, and I thought it was good fun to drag my feet in that soft, warm dirt, kicking up a great cloud of dust. The honeysuckle in the hedgerow sent forth a heavy on the summer air.

Evenings after supper, Grandma and I would cross Cedar Street, and walk in 'the Nursery'. (Boxwood Court and another subdivision are there now) Grandma, seeing the first star peek through the dusk, would recite 'Starlight, Starbright', until I learned to say it too. Hand in hand we'd walk, until it was time to return to the little house for a bath and bedtime.

Grandpa had a vegetable garden, and he'd let me help him work in it. I'm sure I didn't do much, other than to enjoy being with him, but he showed me how to hoe the soil around the plants to keep it soft and workable. I can see him out there now, his pipe clenched between his teeth, wearing a pair of old cut off work pants, exposing his white legs, and his high topped work boots. I had high top shoes too, brown ones, that Grandpa had bought for me because he felt that I needed sturdy shoes. (Oh how my mother hated those shoes! But, I wore them anyway, because they were good ones, and my mother was not one to waste anything.)

Grampa had grapes too. I can remember helping him pick those, while he whistled as he worked. He whistled a lot, though I'm told he had a beautiful singing voice that he used as a soloist in church, and in gatherings on the front porch of my Grandmother's home when he was courting her. I can remember hearing him sing only once. The song was "Que Sera, Sera."

Our time away from East Hampton lasted just shy of three years, and we returned 'home' to stay. I learned to adjust to places and people as a result of that move to another town, and I also made some memories of grandparents, that might have been quite different had we stayed in our hometown instead.

And, my Dad would be happy to know that I have learned to make permanent decisions more quickly, but still, not easily.

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