Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Growing up on Long Island

I grew up on an island, adjacent to the melting pot of New York City: Long Island, Jamaica, East Norwich, and finally Oyster Bay to be exact, home of Teddy Roosevelt’s summer white house, and Chink’s, serving the best lemon ices this side of citrus. Life revolved around beaches, boats and clam shacks. We lived for summer.

Some of my earliest memories are of bending over a wet sandbar, picking up a crab. Catching fireflies in June, at my grandmother’s house in Sea Cliff. Or following my father into a boatyard, staring up at the immensities that dwarfed me.

We didn’t have air conditioning when I grew up. Beating the heat was a full time job each summer, and we learned all the tricks from our elders: how to open the old sash windows at the top and bottom, so air would circulate better. Dress in natural fabrics—cotton was good; seersucker better. Drink lots of water.

Most evenings we sat on the porch, too hot to move, swinging and rocking, sipping drinks. Not even talking, just listening to the peepers. There has never been a finer activity.