Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Summer Place

Every summer we're confronted with the same choices: East Hampton, Fire Island, the Berkshires, closer and further in Connecticut, the Catskills, Woodstock (Vermont and New York). No, we're not looking for a place. We’re invited to visit friends, all of whom, in addition to Manhattan apartments, have country or beach homes. If we're all on level footing the rest of the year, once winter coats go into storage, Martin and I emerge as New York’s answer to Brangelina. We're the couple everyone aspires to having in their heated pools and enclosed porches. We’re presented with a dazzling array of perks -- tennis courts, beachfront locations, bluefish dinners and blueberry pancakes, local artists and writers dropping by, concerts, galleries, auctions and produce stands.

The reason for our seasonal rise to the top of the charts is we don’t have a summer place, making us almost unique among our friends. We are, therefore, the designated guests. Our friends, who'd bought second homes when their kids were young are now left with empty four-poster beds and enormous kitchens with painted, wood chairs to be filled.

Early in our marriage Martin and I made a maiden voyage to Sag Harbor to the country house of close friends. On Friday night, shortly after Roberta had said to me, “Isn’t it great having all our toothbrushes in the same house,” Martin pulled me aside to ask how long we had to stay. From the moment we’d taken our overnight bags into the white, clapboard house, he’d been stressed. "There are no Chinese restaurants that deliver!" He was unable to fall asleep without the familiar sounds of sirens and brakes screeching. He finally nodded off around 5 and was woken almost immediately by the chirping of a bird. Not only did he hate being in the country, but he was not at all relaxed in someone else's house.

“I like walking on pavement, not grass,” he tells me repeatedly when we get an invitation. “Why drive for hours to see them when they live twenty minutes from us in the city?” is another argument he sets forth.

Friends, mindful of Martin's difficulties, try to lure us with concessions. “You don’t have to stay over." "Come for lunch and a swim. You can even leave the car running," one quipped.

We make the occasional day trips to the country, but most summer weekends find us in Manhattan. Martin doesn't mind that the subways don't run, the tomatoes are mealy and our bathing suits remain untouched. Getting to stay home is the gift that never stops giving. With so few natives around, we see it as our responsibility to assist tourists in our neighborhood, all of whom are thrown by the fact that Waverly Place intersects with Waverly Place.

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