Being English, my wife takes pride in correctly pronouncing place names from around where I grew up:
Long Island, New York is that fish-profile-resembling island that extends east from New York City. My parents lived in New York City and on Long Island all of their lives until moving to Pennsylvania in 2011. I was born in the city and raised on the island.
I’m flying to New York (alone) next week for a 10 day visit to check on my father in Pennsylvania and also check on our house and “lock it down” for a Catskills winter – where temperatures can easily fall to -10C (14F) for days on end. Hopefully, no “local guests” have eaten it completely since I was there in June! You may remember what was awaiting me the last time…
This dawned on me as well as I explained that plan yesterday while I was answering a message from a cousin in Connecticut. Now married with two young sons, she and I grew up living around the corner from each other on Long Island – where none of our families now live any longer. With my mother’s one year anniversary upon us, she’d written me asking how my dad is doing these days.
A lazy Sunday morning here near Bristol. It caused me to recall what “todays” were while growing up on the other side. Memories of years long past.
Everyone’s home life is distinctive. Back on Long Island, Sundays were special in our house. My mother maintained her routine long after I’d moved out and away, and even in her last years after she and my dad had relocated to Pennsylvania.
It was “the day of rest” centered around lunch/dinner. As a teen, I’d probably have mowed the lawn on Saturday. My grandmother – my Mom’s mother – would sometimes have slept over Saturday night.
But one habit my mother eventually came to avoid and never demanded of us….
While cat sitting for friends last month, I’d noticed this coaster on their dining room table. I photographed it because, being a man, I’m not entirely sure how to take this:
And it made me chuckle. We saw them again last night; they have just moved house temporarily until they move permanently to Cambridge in August. So we got to see their “interim” place in Bath, and she had that coaster on their dining room table once more.
Today, this blog is in “Hala mania” hangover mode. If you missed the party, it was not something that happens here very often. Thanks to my interviewing Lebanese journalist Hala Feghaly on Monday, through yesterday I’d been inundated with new visitors, mostly from Lebanon.
Yes, yes, yes, I know they came by for her, so I presume most won’t be back longer-term. Although, you never know; one can but hope a few stick around. In any event, let’s return here today to what passes for “normal.”
A “sneak peek” into another chapter I finished drafting recently in Distances. James’s father, who runs the family’s Long Island construction company, has just come home from work. He found James’s mother, Joanne, sitting at the kitchen table.
Joanne had spoken to James in Paris hours before. She’d rung their son at about two o’clock in the morning New York time (Jim had been asleep and later went to work without knowing she’d had), catching James, she believed, with a female overnight guest at his apartment. It had been too early in the morning in Paris, Joanne is sure, for that to have been innocent:
On our way out of church this morning, the priest asked me, “And where are you from?”
He may merely have been asking where I was from in the U.K. It wasn’t our “regular” church. Nonetheless, I was startled.
I thought: Gee, do I look like I’m not from here? I’m sure, to some extent, I don’t.
As we shook hands, I replied, “I’m from New York originally.”
The look on his face indicated that answer was a surprise. I suppose he had indeed figured I was going to say Bristol or something.
But I often don’t know how to answer that question. I was born in New York City, and when asked where I’m from that’s my initial answer. I grew up on Long Island, in Suffolk County; but most Europeans haven’t a clue where Suffolk County is, and they usually associate “Long Island” either with the Hamptons or The Great Gatsby. And, here in England, there is a Suffolk county too – the “original” Suffolk, of course.
I’ve also spent much more of my adult life outside of the U.S. than inside of it. But I always feel American, and like a New Yorker. And I even still feel like a Long Islander – even though I have for years had no ties to Long Island whatsoever.
I don’t think I’ll ever not feel that way. We can move wherever in the world, but is where we are born and reared imprinted on us for life? Seems so.
Just a little “quiet reflection.” Hope you’re having a good Sunday. 🙂
It’s finally back here in Britain. Last night, we watched the second episode of Revenge for 2014-2015. (We saw the opener last week.) I’ve written about that escapist show before, although not in this context.
The program does accurately reflect aspects of the incredible wealth (often “weekend wealth”) seen on Suffolk County’s “South Fork” – in east end towns such as Southampton and East Hampton. But when I write of “Long Island” in the novels, it’s about the “middle class” island. In one exchange in Passports between Uncle Bill and Joanne (James’s mother), I decided to slip in this reference to the dramatic difference in lifestyles:
As her brother gave her a long look, Joanne added caustically, “You know, we were always imagining Lake Ronkonkoma as the sublime setting.”
“Really? What? Not East Hampton?” he joked.
“Oh, yeh, us Brookhaven billionaires,” she smirked.
Brookhaven is a large town (that would probably be better described as a “township” – encompassing many hamlets and villages) in central Suffolk that runs the width of the island from north shore to south shore.