July 28, 2014

Out East

It could have been the salty, damp air or the curling smoke of our campfire on the beach, but there was something about those precious summer days in Montauk that brought out a spirit of adventure and mischief. Each summer, my aunt would roll up in front of our house, her SUV packed with beach chairs, towels, and my two little cousins, and we would drive out east to Montauk, The End.

The little fishing town, just past the glamour and gloss of the Hamptons, was our special getaway, the very eastern tip of Long Island. Surfers would pad barefoot across the street, their boards tucked under their arms as they made their way to the waves, and every shop was filled to the ceilings with a rainbow of beach towels and sand pails. Locals, their faces lined by years in the sun, would peer out their salt-sprayed windows as the summer crowd filled their once-quiet hamlet and set up camp in simple beachside condos. It might not be Main Beach and multimillion-dollar mansions, but it had lobster and seashells, and that's all we needed.

There were afternoons running around the sand and cooling off in the ocean, my bathing suits permanently tinged with the scent of sunscreen. The evenings brought pizza pies, served by young Irish teenagers who spent their summers out East, and campfire s'mores-- the gooier, the better. Sometimes, in our wilder moments, we spooked ourselves with ghost stories and hushed tales of the time travel experiments at the abandoned military base out at Montauk Point. Those bunkers couldn't be completely sealed up, could they? Were there still secrets buried beneath the satellite tower?

When the years started to bring in boyfriends, and my bathing suits switched to bikinis, our magical days spent on Montauk slowed down and ultimately stopped, the adventures and giggles relegated to photo albums and pictures taped to the fridge. I think my mother and and aunt knew that the day would come. It couldn't last forever. But they were good days. Important days. The kind of days that shape a childhood. The kind of days that shape a life.

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