Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Meandering Drive

Yesterday's weather was as close to perfect as it could have been. It was sunny with blue skies and huge puffy clouds. Temperatures hovered around 74, and the air was clear, without a sign of humidity. Following the 90 degree days we've suffered since June, and the two days of downpouring, much-needed, rain, yesterday was greeted with huge welcomes!

We've talked since moving here of visiting Table Rock state park, which is about three-quarters of an hour north of us, in the mountains. Yesterday was the day. We invited Mom to go along, and off we went. As we drove, we wound our way through the business districts of a few towns, keeping eyes open for place we might want to return to in the future. Then it was the open road through the forests, with little to see in the way of businesses or buildings. Rt 11, a well-paved road, with very few cars and trucks, climbed gently. As it did, we saw the bare rock walls of Table Rock.

We found the park with no trouble. It is acres of tent and RV sites, cabins for rental, picnic pavillions, and the necessaries such as a camp store and lavatories. There is even a small lake and sandy beach area, complete with boat house with canoe and kayac rentals. We put it on our list of camping spots to visit in the future.

My husband, the tree-mender, prides himself in his knowledge of trees, but he's used to northern ones. These that grow in the south are often quite different and new to him. At one point we parked beneath a fruit tree. We think it was a plum tree, but it isn't one we're familiar with. We collected a piece of the fallen fruit, as well as a handful of seeds. Perhaps we'll try to grow a few trees, out near the apple ones we planted. But, we'll show the fruit to one of our southern friends, who no doubt will tease us Yankees for not being knowledgeable about something they've known since childhood.

The foliage was still green in most places, but here and there we could see where the evening cooling had kissed the leaves of some trees. It's going to be a brilliant sight in a few weeks, and we mentally planned to return then to see the color. Meanwhile, we look forward to going back to the park in two weeks for our church picnic there.

It's something exciting about being in a place you don't know. There's a whole new place to explore and learn about, and I, for one, love the investigation!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Moving Away from Home

It's always hard, the moving away from home. Generally it's a young person who is off to college or moving out on their own. In our case, our children had all moved out and made homes of their own, either near-by or in distant states.

Whenever frustrations of traffic and prices hit us, we'd talk of leaving East Hampton. We dreamed of a log cabin in Maine or New Hampshire, or perhaps a rambling old place in Vermont. As life would have it, things went very differently.

Three of my daughters and six of our eight grandchildren lived in Georgia. My brothers lived in SC. My son was in the Air Force and might be anywhere in the world during his enlistment. One daughter was in Sag Harbor, and Mike's sons were in East Hampton, but talking, too, of leaving the state. What to do? With my brothers rooting us on to come to SC, and the girls hoping we would too, we chose to move South, to be closer to the most family members. My mother was anxious to move to be near her own sons, and we took that into consideration while making our decision. But, the decision was not an easy one. While attempting to figure out when and where we'd go, we also had one other person to think of. Mike's 94 year old aunt was still alive, and he was her 'rock'. We didn't want to leave her alone, although she already had two caregivers in the house, and a son who lived in Brooklyn. It felt to us that if we left, we'd be abandoning her.

So, we bought a house in SC in 2005, and attempted to rent it in our absence. We had a couple of interested parties, but for one or another reasons, we didn't accept them. So the house say empty for that year. During that year, my mother built her house, and was anxious to move into it. We, on the other hand, were thinking we'd take it slowly, moving a bit at a time, but not permanently move ourselves for a few more years. All that changed when we moved Mom in Oct. 2006, and the brother I thought would be her 'watchman' when I was in NY, passed away the night we arrived. Now there was a dilemna. We had one elderly parent in one state and another 'assumed parent' in a state 900 miles away.

It seemed that life took the controls from us. Mike was in the process of getting through a workman's comp. case, which kept him in New York. I couldn't leave my grieving mother in SC.
So, Mike was to and fro, taking care of business and packing, while I stayed in SC in a sparcely filled new house, unpacking whatever Mike brought with him on his visits. By summer of 2007, we'd had enough of it all, and we determined that it was time to get the NY house ready for a rental, and get us moved fully to SC. While we were there together, working toward that end, we got a phone call one Sunday morning, letting us know that Auntie Lib had passed away. Though we grieved her loss, it took a very heavy weight off of us. She hadn't yet been told that we'd planned to leave the area for good, and now we were relieved that we wouldn't have to tell her. I'm glad that all things worked out the way they did.

As we worked toward the rental idea, a workman we'd hired made an offer to purchase 'as is', the house in NY. We accepted the offer, and moved along with our packing. Another matter solved. We'd not really wanted to be landlords!

Somehow, without our real control of the situation, we'd found all the pieces lining up to take us away from my hometown and Mike's adopted one. Things always have a way of working out, I guess. But, I still find myself missing the family which is scattered around the country. Maybe it's time to buy that RV, and travel from family to family, parking in each driveway until we get bored with them...and then moving on. What do you think?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lost Stories...

She wrote of visiting the Lighthouse, where her ancestors walked, and feeling as if she was visiting the old homestead. I know just what she means.

Each time I board the ferry from North Haven to Shelter Island, something takes a hold on my heart. I remember the story and relive it in my mind, of my young grandfather loading his bicycle into a row boat, rowing across from one shore to the other, unloading his vehicle and traveling away on it, either to East Hampton for work, or home again. It gives me pause each time to think how responsible my grandfather was to go to all that 'work' in order to get to and from his job at Gregory's grocery store.

When I land at Shelter Island, the feeling grabs me again, as I realize that my 'people' traveled those same roads. As I meander around the Island, I drive past the properties where the Beebe family lived. I find myself singing, "On the Street Where You Live." Driving past the Case farmhouse on Ferry Road where my grandmother was born in 1886, where my grandfather courted her and sat singing on that front porch, I flash back to childhood times and remember feeling, even then, that this was a special place for me. It was the place that my great-great grandmother visited her daughter, from her home in Newport, Rhode Island. It was where my GrGrandfather fell from the roof, breaking his neck, causing his death. It was a home where a widow raised her brood of 7 children by running a boarding house. It was the location of the first telephone switchboard on Shelter Island, which was operated by my tiny little Aunt Dot.

What more happened in that house, on that Island that I love so well? Many things, I'm sure, that I will never know. I was lucky to have had a grandfather who enjoyed my company, and who shared his memories as we'd drive to Shelter Island to visit family. I was fortunate to listen to the same stories again and again with each trip, until they sunk in as permanent memories. I wish that Grampa was here today, when I'm truly interested to know his tales of his life in younger days.

I feel that way about each one of my ancestors. Yes, I research their lives as well as I can, but if they were just 'every day' people with no claim to fame, there's not a lot to glean. It seems that in doing just the research as to who married who, and who parents were, that one clue leads to many mysteries. Those mysteries are what keeps me going. I want to know my family, those who live and those who once lived.

And so, I will keep visiting those ancient sites, feeling the pull within me. As I do, it's almost as if I hear the voices of those who bore my DNA cheering me on. "Keep looking...keep seeking." I will do just that, for they are who made me who I am.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


You never know what will become popular in the 'antique decor' categories. When I page through home decorating magazines, devouring the photos and 'picking through the clutter' that often appears in them, I often spot things much like items that I own.

My kids sometimes poke fun at me for collecting the old things that I do. Why would I want those old-fashioned milk cans that stand in my kitchen? Why do I stack those small old-fashioned overnight cases near the window in the guest room? Why do I want that old toolbox with the peeling paint in my house, that holds magazines? The answer is easy for me to give.
These, and other items that are old and appear useless to my kids, are meaningul to me because they belonged to someone that I loved. The milk cans were not owned by my Dad or my Grandfather, but they are a part of a small vignette of dairy bottles, a photo of my grandfather in his work uniform near a G & T Dairies truck. This little 'monument' is to honor their days as the milkmen who delivered dairy products to our doors in the wee hours of morning so many years ago. The toolbox belonged to my late brother, the small, shabby suitcases to beloved family members.

So many treasures have been added to my decorating, which were used by someone who went before me. Not all were owned family members, but many were. Some things I've made part of our living space are things that I've purchased, just because I like them. The pine trunk which I use for a coffee table, the treadle sewing machine in the sunroom, the old fireplace surround are examples of pieces that I've added, which, I think add more personality to our home.

Why should we treasure only bits of jewelry passed down from ancestors? Should our past not be dragged into our present by the use of well-made furniture, no matter how worn it is with age and use? Should not the quilts made by grandmothers and great-grandmothers be displayed, or even used on our beds? I believe so. These things bring our history into today and remind us of those whose blood flows through our veins. It makes us feel connected to something, someone, and gives us a very real feeling of 'belonging'.

My hope is that one of my children who live in this age of 'replacement and renewal' will do a turn-around and begin to see the importance of preserving their own history, their own treasures... and mine!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Camping Vacations

Recently we went 'home' to East Hampton on vacation. What a vacation it was, too! Our time at our rental, overlooking the Harbor, was so relaxing. I think it was one of the most enjoyable of all the vacations I've ever had.

Many memories flood my mind as I write this. When we were a young family with children, our wallet didn't allow for much traveling. Our answer to that was to purchase a tent. That was the beginning of many years of camping vacations. Our first tent was a small, canvas cabin type, which housed us well until we outgrew it. After that, we bought a large, green canvas, two room one, which we still own, but have long-abandoned the use of. As two retired oldsters, we've gone from the work of construction that vacation home, to a smaller, nylon, easy-up dome tent. That, too, has been unused for some years.

Our more recent accommodations on camping trips has been the rental of a KOA cabin. The beds are hard, but far more comfortable than the ground is. We found that our normally aching bodies in morning were fiercely aggravated by the sleeping on a rocky, hard ground, no matter how much padding was placed beneath the sleeping bags. We even tried a blow up mattress. That doesn't work, as one of us is quite a bit heavier than the other, and when he rolls over, I bounce off the mattress! Besides, getting up in the morning after lying low on the ground is NOT pretty at our age. And's the cabin.

We've always been among those who chuckle when we see a huge RV roll into the campsites. They have brought their whole house with them....AC, TV, computers. If they're going cross-country or on an extended trip, I can see the value of the comfort those 'mobile homes' offer.
However, if it's a week's 'camping', it's not much different than it is staying home. We always think, "that's NOT camping!"

I guess everyone has their own opinions and their own ways of enjoying a camping trip. None of the ideas are wrong...just different. Just because we have opted for a new, more comfortable approach, doesn't mean we don't miss the days of camping in a tent and sleeping on the ground.
Aging brings about changes...and this is our 'new' way of spending our camping vacation. We may, eventually, 'graduate' to a pop-up tent trailer, but I can almost guarantee you that we'll never be RV campers, no matter how old we get. It's just not in us.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Connections

On the July 30, I connected with a very distant cousin, through an ancestry program on line. After non-stop emailing for three weeks, it was agreed that we'd go to East Hampton earlier than we'd planned, and meet with them there. They drove from Maine. We drove from SC. We met on Aug 20, and shared a cottage in East Hampton with her and her husband for a full week.

While it is not my usual M.O. to be so 'brave' as to plan a trip and share a place for a week with someone I don't know. Somehow, I felt that it would all go well, at least with the two women. I had a little question about how the men would fare, but they both had been introduced through our emails, and seemed to look forward to the time we'd spend together. With so many similar interests, my wondering soon dissipated. When we met that afternoon, it was as if we were greeting old friends.

Aine is as tall and thin as I am short and round. We're an odd-looking couple! She's a full foot taller than I am, she's younger than I am, but her hair is prematurely white, while mine is still dark, with some threads of gray sprinkled thorough it. She is an educated and interesting person. She wakes with words on her lips and retires at night still much to say. Bruce is soft spoken, easily amused, well-read, intelligent and filled with good, common sense. He and Mike hit it off like long-lost brothers. They are quite similar in personality and interests, and I had no need to give a second thought to them being 'forced' to spending so much time together. There was no pretense in any of us, and our conversations were sincere and very animated. There was much laughter and sharing of lives.

We spent the week watching the sailboats on the Harbor, photographing sunsets and each other,
site-seeing, and cooking simple meals to eat. While the men opted for sitting in the yard, enjoying each other's company, Aine and I went out to cemetaries and libraries in search of ancestry records.

Sometimes life brings opportunities for adventure. While I would advise people to be cautious in making decisions regarding strangers, there are times when you just know. This was one of those times, and I'm glad I listened to my heart, and stepped away from all the 'what ifs'. It was a wonderful experience with a terrific couple, and we are already planning another time together.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's All About Appearances

They say you can never go home again. Since I've moved from East Hampton nearly four years ago, I've been back twice. Even in such a short time, we noticed that there were many changes made in our absence. But one thing hasn't changed.
The absolute beauty of my birthplace.

There are many behind the scenes who work invisibly as individuals to keep the visible up to some very real standards. The Village and Town Zoning Boards meet and discuss issues relating to the integrity of the area in terms of buildings and signs, and many other things that I'm sure I would see if changes were allowed in their appearances. The LVIS, too, who work hard to keep things well in hand around the Village...the gardens, the flower boxes, all the 'pretties' that are enjoyed. The Village and the EH Town Hwy Departments work incessantly to keep up with the roads, the growth along the roadsides, the pruning of trees, the sweeping of streets while we sleep, the plowing of snows in season, the removal of leaves and brush, and so much more.

So many work so hard that visitors and residents alike might enjoy the famous and historic area that is now dubbed 'the Hamptons.' Tourists come and tourists go, and they return once again. Why? Some of the reason, I believe, is the beauty found at the end of Eastern Long Island. Nature has blessed the area with large shade trees, ponds, soft, sandy beaches, and clean bodies of water in which to play. History has played out on the turf, and some are drawn to that. Others come for the status be able to say, "I own a place in the Hamptons", with little else on their minds. Natives stay, despite their rising annoyances with some of the tourist crowds, because it is their beloved hometown, and they don't want to leave. Other natives leave, due to their elevated annoyances, or because of the costs of staying in such a high priced area.

Regardless of whether one stays forever or comes and goes from East Hampton, I think we'd all agree on one thing....there's not another place in the universe that could hold a candle to the beauty of the town of East Hampton.