Living the Dream

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Two weeks left of summer. Already I can feel the thumping energy of the city sneaking into our sanctuary out here, our haven in the Hamptons. The pulsing beat of back-to-school everything is strumming everywhere, a low hum masking the thwack of tennis balls, the cannonballs in the deep end, the crashing waves of the ocean covering tiny toes. My inbox is cluttered with the beginnings of logistics nightmares, the impossibility of shuttling four children around Manhattan to classes, schools, birthdays, doctors, all while my husband commutes to DC each week. I can feel the constant movement, the shifting, the rushing, the clock tick-tocking, the invitations and obligations piling up, meetings being scheduled, boards to serve, work to be done.

And yet, I’m still here now, dappled by the warm light of the early evening setting sun as it hits the freshly washed curls of my daughters’ hair. I’m watching the sunsets and sunrises in awe, trying to hold on to something that I know is about to fade away, feeling like maybe, just maybe, mindfulness is more than a bullshit buzzword. I’m paralyzed by the feeling of being sad about something ending while it’s still occurring, trying to be “in the moment” yet knowing that I can’t freeze it.

At first, I thought I was having a blast simply because it was the first summer in three years that I wasn’t pregnant or nursing. I could finally enjoy the endless array of workout classes and tennis lessons and yoga in the backyard. But then I realized it was much more than that. The city to me means constant motion: by car, by Uber, by shaky taxis with foreign drivers, by foot, even underground. Everyone and everything is going, like all the little ghosts in the old Pacman arcade game, up, down, around, across. Here in the Hamptons, aside from all the crazy drivers clogging the roads, there is peace. Calm. Sitting still. Plopping down in the yard to watch kids clammer over swingsets. Relaxing in the pool for hours, losing all sense of time. Feet buried in the sand while deep in conversation. Long, leisurely walks for pure enjoyment, not for mere utility.

Midway through this summer, I thought seriously about moving here full-time, as I do every year. My deep love of this place, this tiny enclave, makes it almost impossible for me to leave. But then, as I always do, I realized that part of the beauty and joy of the Hamptons is the fact that it serves as such a contrast, an antidote, to crazy life in the city.

Perhaps if I were here full-time, I wouldn’t appreciate the beauty as much. I wouldn’t slow down every time I crossed Bridge Lane to show my kids the beautiful water (“bootifull wada!” as my two-year-old says). I might not spend several minutes early in the morning watching the sun rise over my shingled roof, the steam from my coffee cup warming my nose. I might not appreciate the truly incomparable light, making every photograph of mine a masterpiece. I would probably take the small “town” for granted, lamenting its limited merchandise rather than praising it for limiting the time I could possibly spend shopping for my family. I might not race out to the backyard to play baseball with my son after dinner or jump in the pool at 6:30 a.m. with my daughter who is just learning to swim (“go far away, mommy!”) or spot my older daughter’s back walkovers in the long grass or take my baby son to the duck pond the way I’d taken his three older siblings, the way my parents had taken me. Maybe if I lived here full-time, I would eat Lisa’s Brownie Bites from Round Swamp Farm without thinking, without literally moaning with delight after each bite as I do now. I might not marvel in the grandeur of the homes I visit, the joy in every weekend’s bountiful birthday parties. I might take playing tennis at EHIT for granted, the fabulous teachers, the indoor courts lined up like toy soldiers, the sound of worn tennis shoes sliding sideways, the pinging of balls, the warm staff, the smell of the bubble (the “VIP” section). I might not smile at the smell of my hazelnut coffee at The Golden Pear, the granola filling me up.But maybe I would.

Somehow, in a summer jam-packed with baby art classes, bulging camp backpacks, school reading practice, time-outs, “shoes and socks!”, beach barbecues, bath times and bedtimes, I’ve managed to experience the most profound joy by simply being. Resting. Reconnecting. Smiling. Dancing. Playing.

Living the dream.

And I don’t want to wake up.

But I also know that if I don’t wake up now, I won’t be able to fall back to sleep and experience such bliss here again, another time. So I’ll take a huge, deep, heavy sigh and think about packing up the house, the kids, the food, the baby’s diapers, the summer homework, and start plotting my reintegration into my “real life.” Knowing that my reward for another endless winter is this, this sparkling place filled magical moments, Disney on the beach. I can’t wait to come back and I haven’t even left yet.

So, these final two weeks, I’m going to try to stay still, to savor it all without the sadness of the impending goodbye pressing down on my chest like the heaviness of a sandbag, to stave off school-year conversations as long as possible and to simply be. Happy. Peaceful. Me. Living the dream.


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