Monday, May 16, 2011


Once upon a time, I was a little girl. And my parents brought me to Montauk every summer for 6 weeks to go camping at Hither Hills.

Lilly swinging at Hither Hills

It defined me, having this space of just being a kid. Of running and playing, swinging and laughing, swimming in the ocean and building castles on the beach.

Lilly running on the boardwalk.

I loved the quality time with my family. Meeting friends, riding a bike, soaking in the warm sun, reading books. Being creative because we didn't have a tv to distract us from life.

Lilly the photographer took a picture of us on our 7 year wedding anniversary this weekend.

And I got to bring my daughter back to the very same playground that I spent most of my summers running around. The equipment may have changed over the years, but the feeling of pure happiness has not.

I'm pretty sure that I had the same huge grin at the same age in the same exact spot, 25 years ago.

Most of the time, our lives are hectic. We have so many activities, so many vacations and weekends away; so many unique experiences in our current nomadic lifestyle. We don't usually know how to just stop and live in the moment. But here, we did.

Lilly walking to the beach at our hotel, Driftwood. Which was just renovated and the rooms were beautiful, as was the location. Highly recommended.

The cold weather didn't stop us. The sun wasn't our friend this weekend, but we absolutely made the most of it. Sand in sneakers wouldn't stop us from appreciating the fact that we live in New York City and a weekend away at the beach is to be savoured, no matter the temperature.

Jon on the beach.

And so ourside our comfort zone, I reverted us back to my childhood. We stopped looking at our cell phones (we didn't get signal anyways), sat in the cold sand and lived in the moment of just wanting to teach our little girl to make a good sandcastle. I pushed aside my obsessive compuslive need to be "clean" and dug my hands deep into the sand, showing Lilly where he best sand castle sand would be, slightly damp underneath the powdery sand surface above. Sand got under our nails, in our jackets, on our clothes, and we loved it.

My novice castle maker.

And we explored. We drove all over town, as I explained to my girl and her daddy all the times we had gone here and there. Lilly even put away her i-pod to be in the moment of just driving around, seeing the sights, and feeling the hills on Old Montauk Highway as she laughed out to us: "Wheee! I love this ride!"

Montauk Lighthouse

We ate overpriced food, paid too much for parking at the Lighthouse, and enjoyed the experience of not just doing touristy things, but re-exploring what meant so much to me as a child. These things are priceless, I think.

Daddy's girl.

Every thing we did, I saw myself in my daughter. I remember specifically what it was like to be her age, in the same spot, feeling the same feelings of comfort and excitement and love and security and just pure joy and happiness.

Lilly with her favorite doll doing her "Hannah Montana" modeling pose.

In a way, it was like seeing myself as a child. And wanting to give her everything that I had known and felt at that age. And the best part was, she was totally receptive to it, and was as happy to be there as I wanted her to be, if that makes sense.

Posing outside Gosman's after dinner.

I can't tell you how many times Lilly looked into my eyes with a huge grin and said "excited!" It almost made me want to buy a 4 million dollar house in town, just to give her that feeling every day of her life. (Somehow we couldn't raise the funds for such a house.)

Lilly with my cousin Taylor, who lives in the Hamptons. Lilly adored her.

So since we forgot to be millionares so we could retire in our 30's to a house on the beach, we just had to soak up all the raw happiness while we were there. As much as we loved the beach and simplicity in New Zealand, this was like my "home" as a child and it meant so much more being here. Walking the same paths holding my daughter's hand that I remember walking myself as a little girl, holding my mommy's hand.

Walking down the stairs at Hither Hills where I always remember my mom pointing out the sweet smelling honeysuckles to me.

As the weekend started to wrap up, I got sad, and more nostolgic. I wondered, what would we provide to Lilly to give her these same feelings that I have from my childhood? What would be the legacy that she would someday say to someone: "I remember when I was little..."

Lilly and her daddy resting at a campsite.

We will move for the last time this summer. Our super unique experiences - travel, Broadway, living overseas, moving every year, will taper off. And in its place Lilly will finally have a home that she will remember. Normalcy, routines that last longer than a year. Yet I can't help but hope that each summer we can sneak off, maybe for just a week, to Hither Hills and teach her how to camp, to amuse herself, to enjoy being outside and enter a sandcastle contest with training and preparation from her mommy (who has a few sand castle championships under her belt). To teach Lilly to just be a kid for a little bit. To pass on the tradition that her mommy got from her own mommy, so that in 25 years when Lilly visits the beach here, she will take in a deep breath just like I did this weekend and feel total relaxation and peace.

But either way, Lilly had a great weekend. And so did we.

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