A great beach friend from childhood and, in some ways, even before--our parents had been friends when they were young, and our grandparents before that--posted on my facebook page today. We were reminiscing about Helen Hubbard--a neighbor who lived on the Point, and for whom my fictional beach town "Hubbard's Point" is named. Betty reminded me of how we used to crouch under Helen's window to listen to her practice. Helen was an opera singer and voice teacher, and when she sang it was beach music--as much a natural sound as seagulls and wind blowing through the pine needles. Once or twice a summer she would give recitals and invite grownups from the Point. That didn't stop us kids from sitting outside and enjoying the performance.
Betty and her sisters and brother and my sisters and I were across-the-road neighbors, and pretty much inseparable from Memorial Day through Labor Day. We loved summer and each other. The beach was OURS. As I wrote back to her, we swam and laughed all day. Mim, my grandmother, and her great-aunt Florence would hang out together too, tell old stories, go for swims in their skirted bathing suits and white bathing caps.
When Betty's family visited Ireland--often--they would come home with Irish linens, wall-hangings, and tea towels. My cottage is still filled with the many gifts they brought us.
Her family had a party every Labor Day. Such a bittersweet gathering! The weather would still be summery, but fall and school and--especially-leaving the beach--were in the air. We'd walk down the steep steps from their cottage to glacial rock ledge sloping into Long Island Sound. Black-eyed Susans, bright pink sweet peas, and lavender flowered spearmint grew at the top of the rocks. A picnic table would be set with plates of sandwiches, platters of sliced honeydew and musk-melon, and--the piece de resistance--Aunt Florence's soda bread and blueberry buckle.
We'd make that party last as long as possible, because as soon as it was over it was time to pack the station wagon and head up to New Britain for the school year.
As Betty says, our memories are a treasure in themselves. She is so right. Just connecting with her today makes me remember everything, and smile, and feel so happy. I wish I had a picture of us all as children--if I did, no doubt our hair would be wet, someone would be adorned with seaweed, there'd be sunglasses, flip-flops, and a few Good Humors in the picture. And we'd be doing our best and not succeeding to keep from laughing.