Growing up in East Hampton, a wonderful, small town surrounded by the ocean and the bays. we had plenty of beach time. As a child, we'd spend every Sunday when weather permitted at Sammis' Beach with my mother's sisters and families. We'd pack our lunches, something without mayonaisse, and take our towels and blankets, and off we'd go for afternoon with cousins. We'd chase minnows with our towels as nets, gripe about crabs that bit our toes, watch for jelly fish and dig for sand crabs. There was a wood 'bath house' there in those days, with little stalls where you could change your clothes. The walls didn't reach the slanted roof, but did touch the floor. I was always aware of that 'above the wall' space, and knew I had to watch for a curious boy cousin who'd shimmy up to peek over. There were also a few holes carved into the wall, where a 'peeping toms' eye might be seen, and poked at with a finger, if necessary.
When I was a pre-teen, Daddy came into possession of a large wooden canoe. I think he bought it from Blue Bay Girl Scout Camp. He refurbished it, and it became a great addition to our weekend beach trips. Daddy, always the amateur inventor, managed to rig the vessel with a mast and sail...and a rudder, so that we could all 'sail' it. Another summer, he built a hand-operated paddlewheel for each side of the boat. I've got a very poor photograph of my brother trying to maneuver the 'ship', with little skill and lots of laughter. Whether we traveled by way of paddle, sail or paddlewheel, it was a terrific source of beach fun.
Then we grew up to be teenagers. Sometimes some of the cousins would skip the family outing and opt for spending time with our friends at the ocean beaches. At other times, we'd take friends to our gathering at the bay. Always, we enjoyed the sun, sand, and sea, no matter where we spent the time....unless we were complaining about green horseflies, sand fleas, or tormenting male cousins.
Some nights would find friends and family members jammed into the back of Dad's pick up truck, for a ride down the wooded dirt road through the dense trees at Old House Landing. We'd end up somewhere far down the beach from where my aunt's house stood high on a bluff. There'd be a bonfire, and a supper of hamburgers cooked on sandwich grills or hot dogs on sticks cut from a wild cherry tree. Toasted marshmallows and s'mores followed, and we'd stay around the fire until the mosquitos or fatigue drove us home.
I miss those parties and those days at the beach. Looking back on them, I wish there was the opportunity to give my grandchildren such precious memories. I suppose it has nothing to do with where or what we do, but who we do fun things with. I pray that our family events will cause my childrn and grandchildren to look back, as I do, with joy and a true sense of the love we've all shared.