Each Friday night after work, we’d leave Nassau County and drive ninety miles east to the House. Dad was always adjusting our departure time in the fruitless attempt to avoid traffic. We once started two hour trip at 11pm. I was amazed by the late night activity through East Hampton – people were out and about like it was after noon opposed to after midnight. They strolled along the brick sidewalks in their casual nautical attire – window shopping – or relaxed on the benches along the road enjoying ice cream or cappuccino.
Once we hit the long stretch of road after Amagansett, I knew we were almost there. If not already open, I’d roll down my window just to get the first taste of sea air. The salty dampness was always more refreshing than the car air conditioning. We would climbing the hill past Old Montauk Highway until a clearing through the trees appeared and there was nothing in front of us but ocean – this was, and may still be, my most favorite view.
For about ten years, we enjoyed the House as much as possible. My parents sold the House in 1985 – the year after I graduated college. I remember it well, though I didn’t know it would be my last stay in the House. I planned a relaxing weekend with some college friends as the rigors of final exams were over – the summer crowds have not arrived and my parents were home, which meant no younger siblings around – a rarity when you’re the eldest of five. The House seemed like the perfect place to celebrate becoming a college graduate.
Since then, I go see the House each time I’m in Montauk. Sometimes I drive by – ever so slowly. Sometimes I park and just look at it. No matter what changes the new owners have made, I still see the same House. I still see the U-shaped pebble driveway that announced each guest and visitor by the distinct sound of the rocks mashing together under car wheels. No need for a door bell – the sound would resonate through the House and alert everyone that our guests have arrived. Without a house phone, there were no calls informing us of heavy traffic through the Hamptons – we just waited for the sound of the pebbles. I can also see our surfboards leaning against the deck and wet suits drying over the wooden railing along with the beach towels used that day. I specifically remember being called out onto that deck on a moonless night and seeing a night sky so filled with stars, it’d take a lifetime to count them all.
I remember my favorite ritual of waking early in the morning to check the surf conditions. I’d walk the side streets of Ditch Plains toward the East Deck Motel – up on the dune between the parking lot and the beach just to see how much time I’d spend on breakfast. There were days when I’d hear the pounding surf from the House – breakfast would have to wait.
From this position on the side of the road I can see the wild grape vines. The skin of these local grapes is very thick – not for eating. But, one year, my mother decided to make grape jam from the grapes in our yard. It was the best grape jam I have ever tasted – even to this day.
Each time I see the House – it takes me back. Back to a simpler time – a quieter time – with plenty of free time – time to lie on the beach or surf or walk the shoreline and watch the birds. There was plenty of time to fly a kite and learn that when you let out 1500 feet of string, it will take two hours to reel it back in. It was a time without instant access to anyone at anytime. No internet, no cell phone or texts. No announcing your every move to the world. The 13 inch black and white television kept us from wasting untold hours watching sitcoms. Instead, we played cards, painted by numbers, worked on puzzles and just talked about nothing important. But, we were together, without any external distractions that are so common place today. All together – in the House that my brother and I helped build with our dad in Montauk – all because of a cricket.