Many of the perfect memories of my youth are set in Sag Harbor. For those unfamiliar with the area, Sag Harbor is out on Long Island, in the vicinity of the Hamptons. My dad, who worked for an oil company, accumulated a lot of vacation time, and every summer we spent it all in a cottage on Noyack Bay. We would leave Queens at 6:00 a.m. (an unearthly hour, it seemed in those days) and make the long drive to Sag Harbor with our 7.5HP Evinrude outboard motor in the trunk of whatever car my father owned at the time. A big custom stick-shift Pontiac with a truck clutch comes to mind.
I had an awkward period that began at around age four and lasted ten years, but at 14 I was a fairly pretty girl. I had lost weight at last, and had long, thick hair the color of butter and just as shiny. Although I had no more fashion sense then than I do now, I remember I favored white shorts that year, and white sneakers, of course. It was a good look.
The summer I was 14, my childhood friend Pat joined us. We met Jim Shaw and Johnny Bechtel that summer. Pat and I were on shore--two blondes--and the boys pulled up in Jim's Penn Yan boat. So cute they were. They became a big part of our summer life, and, in Jim's case, beyond. Boats are why to this day I love the smell of gasoline. For the briefest moment it gives me that rush of pure teenage freedom layered with sun, water, gulls, and hermit crabs.
Pat and I both have an indelible memory of the time we climbed a road to the top of a cliff, and then ran down. We didn't run, exactly. All that was between the top of the cliff and the beach below was deep sand. I'll never forget the feeling of running in slow motion, each step sinking, sinking into the sand. And then we were at the edge of the water, thrilled at the experience.
Two girls in a boat, Pat and I had lots of adventures. Accidentally drifting too close to a gull's nest, we waved oars in the air to fend off the aggressive parents. We had ample opportunity to closely observe sand sharks, clam beds, eels, and fish of all kinds, including jellyfish. We walked where the sandpipers walked. We looked into the water to study the prehistoric-looking horseshoe crabs. We took the boat out at sunset to ride that golden path.
On the last day of one of these vacations, I was the only girl in the living room of one of the boys' homes. One of the others (there were quite a few by then) had discovered folk music. Raised on 1950s rock 'n roll, this was new to us. He put on a record, and we sat there listening to The Kingston Trio. Do today's teenagers ever sit quietly together, listening to new music? I hope they do. I remember sitting cross-legged. Nothing hurt then......no aches or pains, no responsibilities, no to-do list, nowhere else I had to be. Is this what mindfulness is? What they call "living in the moment"? I remember looking with more than a little interest at Dave Guard on the album cover. I remember putting it down and gazing out the big picture window at the sun on the water, and being aware of my friends around me, and hearing the wonderful harmonies. Perfect harmonies. Perfect moment. Perfect memory.