22 August 2008

Thirty Eight Years Ago

I found a picture one day recently, and it unleashed a flood of memories - the mothball smell of the bunkhouse, sand in my bathing suit, the sound of priming the water pump, making hand-cranked icecream, slipping through the sharp grass on the way down to the beach.

For several years in the early seventies, my family rented a friend's house out in Montauk. It was the perfect summer house - no phone, no electricity, isolated at the end of a mile and a half long dirt driveway, and right on an isolated stretch of beach. It had the basic comforts, all powered by propane - hot and cold running water, stove, refrigerator, and lights. No TV, just books and board games.

There were three little buildings on the property - a main house with the kitchen, bath and pot-bellied stove, and two bunkhouses. There were enough beds (bunkbeds, cots, pull-outs) to sleep 10-12 people. The bunkhouse we kids slept in had a whole wall of screens, facing the ocean; it was almost like sleeping outside.

We'd arrive for a week or two, with foot lockers strapped to the roof of the station wagon, and return home brown as berries, with sun-bleached hair, and sand everywhere. Heaven.

We spent all day, every day, on the beach. My father would fish in the surf; once he caught a sting ray. We'd gather seaweed and wear it as wigs. We picked wild blueberries and beach plums, and dug for steamers in a nearby brackish pond. Once each summer, we'd get dressed up and go to dinner at Gosman's. But most of the time, we ran around naked or nearly so.

And my mother? Three children and a huge abdominal scar didn't stop her from wearing a bikini. That's her and my four year old sister in that picture.

I'd love to go back there. But it's never to be. The property, even then, was surrounded by state park land, and one day the State took it back, by eminent domain. The State owns the land, but the memories remain mine.

22 comments:

Kyddryn said...

When I was growing up, I divided my summers between Little Compton, RI (it was just a quiet, insular little town, back then) and Martha's Vineyard (that was before the "privileged" turned it into their personal playground and ruined it for the rest of us). Most of my days were spent on one beach or another, frolicking in the waves - it's one of the experiences I can't give my son, and that makes me so very sad.

Every child should have a few memories of endless Summer days on the beach, browning and soaking in brine or sailing over the surface in a little Sunfish boat, pulling dinner out of the surf and from the garden, picking breakfast from the bushes, and generally being heathens for a bit.

Sigh.

Thanks for the memories.

Shade and Sweetwater,
K (who thinks your mum looks terrific, by the way)

Aunt Becky said...

What a gorgeous memory, Magpie. Seriously, I felt like I was there. Maybe it's wishful thinking on my end.

flutter said...

This was absolutely lush and lovely

Mayberry said...

She's not just wearing that bikini, she's rocking it!

What a great picture, and a great memory to go with it.

Her Grace said...

Your mom is smokin' in that bikini! Good for her!

We're trying to create similar memories for our kids by returning to our favorite beach town each year. We've only done it twice, but plan to keep it up, if only for a weekend every summer.

What a wonderful memory to have.

Kyla said...

What wonderful, wonderful memories!

She She said...

Sounds lovely.

Your mom was a dish!

Sunshine said...

Love that picture.
Wish I was in that picture.

So fricking cool.

wheelsonthebus said...

That sounds pretty much perfect.

Eva said...

Ours is like this, but with TV, but we don't usually watch it. People keep talking about putting in internet and pools--bah.

Marmite Breath said...

How heavenly! And your Mama is an inspiration. I've worn a bikini for the first time this summer, and even 10lbs ago didn't feel confident enough.

Now, good enough is my motto.

I love traditions and memories. Yours sound so comforting.

PS) Got the book today. Am mailing a little something to you tomorrow.

noble pig said...

What great memories, wow! And I love that picture, you see the tan skin even in black and white!

painted maypole said...

sounds great!

Kate Lord Brown said...

Wow - that's magical. These are the kind of memories I'd love my kids to have. Moms Rock!

Ellie said...

Just beautiful.

Hey, thanks for the idea:
http://meandyouandellie.blogspot.com/2008/08/weekend-3-way.html

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

What a fantastic memory.

Anjali said...

Now, THAT'S a picture worth a thousand words.

womaninawindow said...

Beautiful
PHoto
and words.

zellmer said...

Montauk might be my favorite beach in the world, as well as the little fishing village it belongs to. I read something disturbing lately that it was on the verge of becoming bougie, like its neighbors to the west. I hope that doesn't happen.
Anyway, your Mom looks hot in the bathing suit and the photo is classic nostalgia. Sounds like you have some wonderful memories.

Mad said...

This is how summers should be remembered. BTW, the hero of the Perseus Jackson trilogy was conceived by Poseidon and a mortal woman at Montauk.

MadMad said...

I'd wear a bikini, too, if I looked like that, hon! What great memories; great post!

Furrow said...

She is gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. Mad bikini bod.