When does it end? When the house gets invaded by crickets? A hurricane comes? Your daughter shits on the floor and the dog eats it? When you can’t possibly put another friend shrimp, however golden, into your gluttonous mouth? (Waiter: “And for you, Ma’am?” With reluctance: “I’ll have the fried shrimp.”)
After all, isn’t vacation just a state of mind?
A declaration, I’m on vacation. A time when you tell yourself things will be different. No work. No laundry. No problems.
We had a great time on our vacation, we really did. The house we rented was awesome, right on the water and not infested by chirping dinosaur-like nocturnal creatures, as in the past. Nor were any naturally disasters pending, circa 2011 Hurricane Irene. The weather was August-perfect, no rain, no humidity.
But mid-way into our second week, I found myself wandering all two streets of Montauk, a town that’s known as “the end,” wondering, should this be the end? Should I just pack it up now? Your father was gone, having left for a work trip, and I was missing him. It felt weird to be there without him, his presence imbedded in every memory of this place where we go together every year. Thanks to memories, anyplace can be a ghost town. When you find yourself saying I just need to get through today, isn’t that a sign that you should you just go home? Still, aside from the usual family quarreling (the people vs. Grumpah; and I remember fuming at your father one night at the pizza place, but I can’t recall about what), we really did have a good run. Even though you did shit on the floor, Baby Girl, and the dog did eat it. Thanks to memories, things also get glossed over.
How was Montauk?
…And then we got a call that Nana’s cousin had died. And were all oh, oh. Oh, this is sad. Oh, this stinks. Oh, we don’t want to leave. Oh, but we should. Oh, but we have to. Oh, this is all very sad. Oh, I’m okay actually with ending vacation early. Oh, me too. Oh, okay, let’s pack up and go.
She was an amazing woman, my aunt who passed away. Intelligent. Articulate. A gifted English teacher. A lover of books and words. A giver of elegant brunches with dishes labeled on little place cards. Say you liked the punch, you’d be leaving with the handwritten recipe. (And this a special type of person who does these things, you’ll see, think of my entertaining, scrambling around the kitchen when the guests arrives, flustered, saying napkins, where are the napkins…)
She left behind laminated prayer cards for everyone. On one side, a beautiful picture of the sunset over water. The other, the following Ralph Waldo Emerson words:
To laugh often and much
to win the respect of intelligent people
and affection of children; to earn the
appreciation of honest critics and
endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty, to find the best
in others; to leave the world a bit
better, whether by a healthy child
a garden patch or redeemed
social condition; to know even
one life has breathed easier because
you have lived. This is to have
And so we’re home now. I’m going grocery shopping in a bit. The tomatoes in the garden rotten, dammit. I must remember to water the plants…