I loved to sit on the porch of the old beach house, watching the moonlight reflect off the slick gray, weather worn boards . From my vantage point I could look out upon the waves crashing onto the beach, smell the sweet sea air and embrace the night. It was the last of the summer season, a season like so many before that this old home had seen pass by into the remembered years of history. Laughter and joy, old romance and new love right here beneath its ancient eaves. The old wood floor was satiny and well used, it had remained unpainted possibly since the first coat had been worn away by salt air and damp sea winds. I loved how it always felt slick and cool to my bare feet. A veneer given by the passing of time, the tread of many bare feet before me, sandy and fresh from the beach below. Tonight was one of those close August nights, humidity thick upon the landscape holding the essences of the wave danced ocean air from in front and the rich pungent odor of plough mud from the tidal marshes behind. Oh the last kiss of sweet summer before the fall season, it was incredible and it was mournful all at one time.
I watched the lightning strike far out on the open water, took a sip from my lime laden Gin & Tonic, the southern ladies drink of choice for the summer months and sighed. I was glad we had come. The forecast had been ominous, yet rainy days on the shore held a certain magic to me, the heavy mist and ever changing ocean vista was cleansing in a very spiritual way. We were coming and then we weren’t, this had been the conversation all through the proceeding days. Yet my husband had struck his final punch at the world in general for the week, shaken his head, then decided we needed this place and this time.
I felt the infusion of alcohol and sea air take its heady effect on me. So many had graced this porch before this storm rocked evening. Hopes, dreams, plans of fortune and plans of failure had been hatched upon this time varnished wooden porch overlooking the Atlantic. I cannot say we were any different in or electronic age than any who surveyed this coastal landscape long before us. Those who had sent ships and riders out with dictates delicately inked upon parchment, sealed with wax and stamped with seals instead of emails and never ending texts. We just moved so much faster now, yet that was why we were here, to slow it down a bit before time moved fast and blazed white hot into the busy fall. I could hear the thunder roll somewhere beyond the horizon. The sounds of muted conversation and tinkling glasses drifted from the main room of the house out to my porch. So this was peace or some form of it anyhow.
I let the wind and wild take my mind for a bit and pondered those who wandered this sugar white beach before me. The women who had stared out at this grey blue expanse of ocean and waited. Waited for lovers to return from far off travels, from despotic bloody battles and sometimes from simple disgrace. I heard the door behind me open and the scent of heavily applied Shalimar wafted through the air. Oh yes, even on short notice the guests had come. Almost by rote the email had been dispatched, as it was every trip we made to the shore. This time being no different, albeit short notice. Light repast and cocktails. It was what it was and truth be told these were our friends. The Shalimar trail was omitted by Edna Greenberg, a New Yorker who had long since fled the city and made it her mission in life to embrace everything southern.
We were her family now since the immediate relatives kept kosher and had long since decided The Hamptons to be the seaside venue of choice. I will be the first to say that Edna’s sausage biscuits dripping in thick sawmill gravy were quite possibly the best in the world. I guess the thought of her pork tainted kitchen had long ago cut her off from the chosen people. Edna said nothing and quietly opened her latest in designer cigarette cases to procure a Marlboro. The multitude of cigarette cases she owned confused my husband. He had once stated , staring at me out over his fancy leather encased cell phone while unstopping his favorite Crystal brandy decanter as we clipped along in the plane at a 3 thousand feet. He did not understand “People who bought equipment for their vices like Edna and her cases”. “No clue babe” was the best answer I could give. We were enroot to an auction seeking hand blown venetian glass Romanov Dynasty swizzle sticks or something like that and there was no point discussing it anyway. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s a remarkable man and one hell of a lover, but sometimes the limbs of his mind just reach too far out for me to dare to climb. I watched Edna take a long drag off her Marlboro. The poor lady must have been dying making small talk in the big room while lusting for a long drag off a Marlboro on the porch. Something about good booze, excellent food and the beach just calls for a cigarette and although I knew my devoted other half would smell it on me later I plucked one for myself out of the fancifully designer initialed case on the table. Stiff Gin and Tonics, a storm tossed ocean and a Marlboro, quite the way to send off the Summer I must say. I raised a toast to Edna who was firing up cigarette number two and she quickly met me in my salute.
“Where to now Sweet Jesus?” I said. I think it was line in a song, not sure which one but Edna got my drift. She threw back her head with the deeply dyed red bobbed cut that naturally fell back into place with every toss and laughed. “Not much in there” she looked towards the big room where we always entertained these evenings on the ocean. “Real Estate” Oh good I thought as I texted my husband who probably had the glazed look in his eyes he gets when someone discusses stationary fixed items that cannot be duplicated and sold in mass. “Sweetie, are you doing what I think?” the truly Southern New Yorker Edna asked. I smiled up at her. Why yes I was, I was texting the hubby to bring us a drink. I knew he would glance at the message, ignore it for about two minutes and then decide to extract himself from the conversation and mix the drinks. “Let’s just say I’m saving him and getting us both refills in the bargain” I told Edna. She laughed as she grasped both sides of her slick turquoise silk skirt, gave a great tug and adjusted what must be some pretty unforgiving Spanx. She actually looked terrific in her matching turquoise silk caftan top and white beaded earrings, New York black long since forgotten in her Begonia raising, country bake off, Southern world. “Seer Sucker Sal”, her husband, a nickname my heart of hearts had given him years ago was a titan in the poultry industry and indulged her every whim. This lead them to become the proud owners of a sprawling southern manse and two standard Poodles, Bobbles and Poot. He was truly the hubby’s ally when it came to all deals coastal, a cigar smoking bear of a man who bore allegiance to the same college football team as my dearest and had also never attended its hallowed halls. Edna was like myself, no children, just a multitude of hobbies and like myself, one destined to be alone in her diminishing years. So we simply grabbed life by the horns and drank it in while it was good.
The drinks arrived, my gallant knight butt closing the porch door behind him since both hands carried what were probably Gin heavy cocktails. He handed Edna hers and placed mine on the table with an obvious glance at the ash tray, yes two different colors of lipstick on those butts. The door behind our winsome trio opened and closed again behind the towering figure of Saul who now joined us upon the porch. We watched the squall line move in towards the beach proper as the whitecaps increased upon the ever maddening Atlantic. The guests in the big room,two real estate salesman who talked of nothing but golf , their wives who talked of nothing but grandchildren, a boat dealer from up the coast with his just past teenage girlfriend, and the local magistrate who came simply to drink. All but forgotten as we watched the storm.
My husband reached across the long patio table, unlatched the well camouflaged humidor, obtained two fine Cubans, handed one to Saul, clipped the tip of his own, looked out upon the shoreline and said “Where to now sweet Jesus?” to no one in particular. So thus we began our Labor Day weekend, the last glorious celebration before Summer ends and Fall begins. Flip flops, swimsuits and hot sandy beaches will give way to school colors, logos and packed football stadiums. Fancy iced drinks and Shrimp cocktails will give way to barbeque and beer. The sweet song of Summer will just be another breath of a memory stored away for the times when we await our final call. Edna met my eyes across the table. We had a pact, if God so willed it we would do our best to see one or the other off this planet when the time came.So one or the other was never alone. But for now we were going to intoxicate ourselves with love, life, laughter and also a good bit of booze mixed with a few cigarettes. My savvy mate must have caught our exchange for he reached into his pocket and extracted a smaller bottle of gin, topped off our drinks and raised a toast. “ I don’t know where to now, but I bet we got this” So welcome Labor Day 2016, winds and rain and storms of life , I do believe he’s right. In fact I’m betting on it.