Some summers we’d bring the Phantom, our one-person sailing dinghy, reminiscent of a Sunfish with its dagger board, tiller and striped sail. My dad hitched it to a trailer on the back of our station wagon. My sisters and I had taken sailing lessons at our local marina. My dad had not. We’d watch safely from the shore as my father wrestled with the boat, capsizing it, righting it, and hauling himself back aboard repeatedly as he attempted to tack and jibe across the bay until he reached the point of utter physical exhaustion, and until other bystanders felt compelled to call for help from the harbor police, who my dad was getting to know rather well.
On special occasions, like my grandma’s birthday, my sisters and I would wear the sun dresses my mother packed for us and let her braid our long, wet hair, before we drove to the Lobster Inn for dinner. Noticing the tan straps on my shoulders, my mother would remark proudly, “You are brown as a berry.” Other times, we’d go watch the boats parade through Shinecock Canal. On really hot days, we’d go to Cooper’s Beach, a paradise of soft sand, clear air and big, rough, cold waves. I remember the feeling of my teeth dragging against the gritty ocean floor while being churned and spit out at the water’s smooth edge. Afterwards, wet sand poured out of every nook and cranny of my swimsuit in the shower. On rainy days, we’d go to the toy store on Job’s Lane in Southampton.
When my dad was promoted to a new job in California, I grieved for a place for the very first time. While living in Danville, a cookie cutter suburb that for all of its dry temperate weather and air conditioning had no soul that I could find among its spacious supermarkets and shiny new banks, I longed for home. I longed for the sound of crickets and muffled voices outside an open window in the humid dark night of summertime. I longed for the Hamptons, not for the Hamptons people might imagine, but for the one I knew.
Squaw Island is long gone now, razed and replaced with a condo complex. Still, every summer, with my parents, my sisters, my husband and my own children, I return.
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