“I’m too old to write in the book, Grandma.” Such was the conclusion of my then almost 15-year-old grandson Carson. Too old? For years he had been writing in the brown leather visitors’ book after every summer stay at our beach house. Stories of summer written in the guestbook were a chance to glance back at our grandchildren growing up. The pen went through my heart like a sword. Kids don’t get it sometimes.
He started writing first as a little guy, helped by his dad, later with the scrawled letters of a young scholar. Finally, it was almost a seven-page thesis. He was getting to be a real Shakespeare. But then one summer, no more words written by my favorite bard.
In “Puff the Magic Dragon,” Jackie Paper gave up painted wings and giant’s rings for other toys. I guess number-one grandson has moved on as well. My little boy with tousled blond hair, sandy toes, and sticky lips is now six feet tall, towers way above anyone else in the family, and has dark hair underneath his baseball cap. He sports iPhone earbuds hanging like fish gills, wears size-12 flip-flops, can legally drive our 18-foot motor boat, and is in charge of the barbecue grill. I miss the little guy with ice pop dribbling down his chin, but love the man he has become.
So now I will be his scribe. Just as he captained my kayak when we paddled in Three Mile Harbor, I will write his memories. I know he will want to read them years from now when he brings his own tousled blond son to visit. I hope someday he’ll enjoy this trip down memory lane, so here goes . . .
Mom brought me and my brother, Cooper, out to East Hampton. Cooper is almost 12. We hang out together a lot. Mom had to go back to her job, so we were left in East Hampton with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma said I could just chill out this week. I’m really tired from baseball and water polo, so I hope she means it. Grandma calls herself the “culture vulture,” so I think she will try to get me and Cooper to go to some boring stuff, although she does try to make it fun and she is kind of interesting. I don’t know if it’s a grandma thing but she is always talking about history and Einstein.
The best thing about East Hampton is the pool. This year Uncle Evan got us this blow-up riding bull for the water. Cooper doesn’t weigh a lot. He rode that bull while I shook it really hard trying to dump him, but that skinny little guy really could stay on, even holding with just one hand while waving the other hand high in the air. I got thrown off much faster. Lightweights have the advantage!
We entered the Sand Castle Contest at Atlantic Beach in Amagansett. Beaches in the Hamptons are the best, they have great sand and clean water and big waves. Grandma says that’s why people “schlep” out in all the traffic. It was so hot the day of the contest, it felt like a hundred degrees. We came in second place with our sand sculpture. I was pissed about second place, but next year we’ll try again for first place. I hope it will be cooler and that Cooper is faster at bringing the buckets of water.
We ate out a lot. One of the perks of being a grandson, you can usually get grandparents to take you out to eat tons of times. They forget all about the budget when we are here. So from Japanese dinners at Zakura, to hero sandwiches from One Stop Market, to burgers at Indian Wells Tavern, we had it all. Shame Conca D’Oro restaurant in Sag Harbor closed, that was our favorite.
And then there was the disaster beach breakfast. Grandpa wanted to dock his boat at the shore by Maidstone Park and cook breakfast. We have a portable griddle and had mixed pancake batter at home so we were all set. We tried to dock, but the water got rough and pushed the boat sideways into the shoreline and we got stuck. Cooper and I got out to push and Grandpa’s friend Simon, who was along for the ride, got out and pushed too. It was a little scary. The boat kept moving hard against us. Eventually we got free and headed into calmer water. Grandma and Simon stayed on the boat and Cooper and I made great blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes, and we ate them on the boat. Simon said he wants his money back, whatever that means.
One day it poured rain. Time for culture-vulture Grandma to bribe us with a great lunch at Hampton Coffee Company, best burger I ever had. Then we had to pay the piper with a visit to the Parrish Museum right nearby, to see sculptures made out of electric fluorescent tubes in bright colors. Surprisingly it was kinda fun, but I won’t tell Grandma and then have to go to more museums.
Me, Cooper, Grandma, and Grandpa took the ferry to Shelter Island to play our annual mini-golf tournament at Whale’s Tale. Grandpa usually wins it. Of course, Grandma made sure she snuck in a concert at the Itzhak Perlman music camp. We picnicked on the outdoor tables at the camp, left for quick ice creams at the Tuck Shop, and came back just in time for the music to begin. I knew she would squeeze in one of her “cultural adventures,” as she calls them. Even though it’s not my kind of music, it is really something. Those kids are amazing! Grandma made me and Cooper sit apart so we would pay attention and not nudge each other. It worked, we did listen, and then she let us leave halfway through. I give her points for that!
Can’t wait to come back next year to East Hampton and do a lot of fun stuff. By then I will be 15 and Cooper will be 13. Grandma says time flies, I don’t know why, but that’s what she says. Maybe I’ll write in the book next summer. I think it makes Grandma real happy.
Postscript: They came back the next summer, and, yes, Carson did write in the book.
Jackie Friedman, a part-time resident of East Hampton, has been published in The Darien News, The Scarsdale Inquirer, and previously in The Star.