Growing up in Manhattan, I remember how hot summers were. Walking the streets felt like the heat was coming up from the asphalt and almost smothering you. We didn’t have air-conditioning at home, just a couple of fans. My Uncle George (my Dad’s brother and a film buff like me) and I would escape to air-conditioned movie houses to avoid the brutal heat.
I loved getting ice pops from vendors who were always in the neighborhood pushing their carts selling ice cream and ices. They helped for a few minutes, but the heavy New York heat was unrelenting.
Then a wonderful thing happened. We (Aunt Anna, her two daughters, my Mom, Angela, my sister, and me) started spending the whole summer—July and August—in Southampton, Long Island. This was way before the Hamptons became the playground of millionaires. At that time, Southampton was cozy, relaxing, easy going, and beautiful. It’s still beautiful.
We had great summers and great fun. We rented half a house; it was a pretty one with a nice backyard and a porch where we’d often sit on the rocking chairs. It was on a street I think was called Meeting House Lane. At night, we would take casual walks through town, which was just a block from the house. There were several lovely stores on Main Street and we would walk around town looking in store windows and stopping at the local ice cream parlor. What a treat!
One night, we four girls wanted banana splits but they didn’t have any bananas. I asked the man behind the ice cream counter if we came back the following night with our own bananas, would he make us banana splits? He laughed but promised. And the following night, we showed up with four bananas and we had the best banana splits I ever had. I can still taste it and remember how luscious it looked.
Southampton was beautiful: the people were friendly, and the beaches were magnificent…the endless Atlantic Ocean on the horizon, wide beaches to lay or play on all day long. Every sunny day we’d head for the beach and spend the whole day there. And then we’d go back to the house for delicious homemade dinners. I remember one particular dish my Mom made—chunks of crabmeat with onions, lemon, olive oil and oregano. So delicious! It was a special dish of my Mom’s. She was a terrific cook—Aunt Anna too, so our meals were great.
We’d sit around the kitchen table enjoying everything, talking and laughing. There was a lot of laughter. I remember many times when my Mom made her sister, Aunt Anna, laugh so much, she’d almost collapse.
The beach was a few miles out of town. We would get there by different means—sometimes we’d ride in a truck, or get a ride from neighbors, and a few times in a vintage 1930s two-door Ford with hatch back seats. (I think these rides inspired my love of vintage cars.) The back looked like a trunk, but when you opened it, there were two seats. That’s where I would sit with Aunt Anna’s younger daughter; we got this honor because we were the smallest.
On rainy days when we couldn’t go to the beach, the knitting would come out. My Aunt Anna was a terrific knitter and she showed me how to knit a sweater. Unfortunately I never finished it so somewhere out there there’s a red woolen sweater with only one sleeve.
On weekends, our dads would join us in Southampton. They’d come out by train, relax for a couple of days and then head back to hot, hot Manhattan. I felt bad about that, because we were having such great times in an awesome place, while our dads worked hard to pay for our glorious summers.
I still remember those summers…the fun, the laughter, the closeness of a family. I look back and remember how lucky I was.