Opening Fire Island: Swoon 55
I was born on July 1st 1966 during a heatwave in New York City. As the story goes there was a blackout because it was super crazy hot. After welcoming me, my mom was eager to bond in the air conditioned hospital. My dad was eager to… get to Fire Island. I mean really, what good did it do for him to be in a hot city in the dark. He had a point, so mom and I joined him a week later, mom already back in her white bikini (having dropped the 15 pounds she was allowed to gain, 5 of which were me). My first trip to Fire Island…cool sea air flowing through the house, the sound of waves crashing a block away, happy baby in the crib (made from an old dresser drawer). Life was good.
These days, the first trip “to open” in the spring tends to go like this… weeks before, get the water, gas, electric, and wifi turned on; shop based on the list you made at the end of the fall, buy extra toilet paper and paper towels (ha, this is why we still have not run out of paper products during the pandemic: FI training!); get cleaning products (natural for all under 55, chemicals and bleach for those over 80), check ferry schedule; buy groceries for 9 people, buy oversized wheelie luggage at the rummage sale, get tick repellent oils to create natural tick repellent (that you will then question and revert back to Deet); get new sunscreen and drug store items; load up on beverages and gin & tonic makings; check ferry schedule; pack up wheelie luggage with food, supplies, and liquor (while not squishing the bread or tomatoes). No need for clothing, you must have something out there…throw some panties and a sweatshirt in with the groceries, ya neva know. Notice that piece of luggage is at least 3 feet tall (like the ones commonly sold on 14th street for those traveling back to Europe and South America) and weighs 946 pounds. Perfect, we won’t need to pay extra cargo fees on the boat… we just have heavy “luggage”.
Get all the luggage in the car, a game of Tetris. Hoisting bags that weigh as much as a baby elephant and are two thirds your height is a trick, smile cause you are almost ready to go. Retrace steps to make sure nothing important is left inside, note that the dining room seems so much bigger with out all the FI stoof in it. Then wait, and wait. Wait for the other people in the house (who have just figured out we are leaving, despite the fact that we have been living amongst a warehouse of goods being accumulated for weeks), to get in the car. Now, we are leaving now?…Mom, have you seen my…Kat, do you know where my…Kit Kat, honey, don’t get annoyed, but did you call to turn on the water?…Mom, did you pack the…Kat, do we have enough..? Yes, yes, yes… GET IN THE CAR, we have two hours to get to the boat.
Sunglasses on. Lipstick on. Classic rock station on. Go.
Saw Mill to Sprain to Cross Bronx to Throgs (aka Frogs) Neck Bridge to Clearview to Grand Central to Northern State to Sagtikos to Southern State to Bay Shore to FERRY… boom. Once we exit in Bay Shore it goes like this… hello back there, put your shoes on, clean up the back seat, get all your stuff together, clap clap clap, let’s go, we have 15 minutes to make the boat, we still need to buy tickets, come on people, Jacob, move. Olivia I have no clue where your book is, it was in the back seat 2 minutes ago, Jacob, Jacob, Jacob, move. Jacob stop making Olivia nuts. Olivia your book is right there. Please note my “kids” are 22 and 24, the above description would only be different these days because Ella…Jacob’s girlfriend… would be in the back seat between them…giggling) sigh, we all revert when with parents.
We do the sharp right turning into the parking lot, gravel under the wheels, the most welcoming sound ever. The Zee Lion, or Zee Wiz, or Zee Something sits at the dock, waiting to take us from the chaos of mainland life to the chaotic bliss of island life. We scramble, yelling at each other, giving orders, counting luggage, running to the bathroom, making sure everyone has tickets, risking getting a coffee and donut for the ride, getting into each other’s business, trips back and forth to load the luggage on the boat while someone runs up to get the “good seats”, and smiling at other islanders I have known forever but don’t really know at all. Getting a nod from Luke (the boat captain), I will always be 11 and he will always be 17 and growing his first beard. His calves are the size of a teenage girl’s waist, 40 years of working on boats will do that. Count luggage again and walk up the steps, to “up top” we wipe off any sea spray from the seats, we smile. We cuddle. We forget all the hard work it took to get here, we ignore that there will be much more work once we are on the island. The motor revs, we watch the sad souls screeching into the parking lot just in time to see the ferry leave without them. Heading out of the marina we wave to the fishermen on the pier as we enter the Great South Bay. Speeding up, hair getting bigger by the second, sea air facial, life is so very good.
Thankful for memories, thankful for 53 straight years of this experience.
Fire Island, I hope we get to see you again soon, stay safe.