East Hampton #ThingsRFLtaughtMe post 4 of 4
Updated: Jun 27, 2022
“I see Omega” When I was five years old, before my sister Christina was born, our family went to East Hampton for the first time. My parents were invited to share a rental house with the family of my childhood buddy, Jay Banta, the son of a friend of my mother’s, and another family.
My mother tells me this story: *** Your dad rented a car and we drove out there at night. You were asleep and we carried you inside and put you in your room. When your father and I woke up the next morning, we heard you outside, already up and awake and playing in the tree house with Jay and the child from the other family, instead of inside watching TV. It made an impression on us, how happy you were to be in the country. That weekend, we started looking at homes, and we found Springy Banks. Your father made an offer on it right away, and the wife of the architect, Mrs. Sosa, cried. She had lovingly decorated the home, they had been living in it, and now she had to leave it because we had bought it. *** I remember that weekend. I remember that tree house. I remember the other boy, saying “We’ll go to Snowflake to get ice cream.” I imagined Snowflake to be a place where it snowed indoors. It turned out that Snowflake was just the name of an ice cream parlor, but still. It still felt magical to eat ice cream at a store you had to drive to get to. Different from the neighborhood parlor near our home in Manhattan--to get there, you just walked around the corner. So, my parents bought that home and I started to learn how to ride a bike and make campfires and sew and be in the woods.
They called it our ‘summer house.’ In my father’s book, he talked about how this time was actually one of the hardest times of his life. Apparently he came close to having a nervous breakdown. My mother says he totally kept that from her. I certainly had no idea. A deal that he had worked on for a year and a half fell through, and it brought him to his knees, although he didn’t let anyone close to him know. Here is what he says about that time: *** From Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun
page 118-9 I bought a vacation home in East Hampton which the family loved. It’s a very nice house, and in 1978 I spent a good part of the summer there. I began to take my daughter Leslie for long walks, or would watch her ride her bicycle on deserted roads near the house. One day, Leslie and I were out and she was on her bike and the thought came pounding in my head again, YOU ARE NOT READY. But this time, on a somewhat cloudy day in East Hampton, an answer started to emerge. Leslie was getting too far ahead, and as I ran a little to catch up, the answer came roaring though, “WELL, IF YOU ARE NOT READY, ALL RIGHT. THEN GET READY—GET READY.” As I approached my daughter, then five years old, I knew that what I was going through was a mental process of burying the ego of the last few months. I decided to wipe it out of my mind for the moment: My five-year-old needed help turning her bicycle around. I said, “Here Leslie, this is how you do it.” When I told her that, I hadn’t another thought in my head, and without thinking, I knew the healing process had begun. I decided first to restore my own self-confidence. This had begun instinctively right after the blown deal by turning my attention back to the law. Next, why not take inventory? I decided to grade everyone involved in the deal, including myself. Part of this effort was to become a prospectus junkie and read all the deals which were publicly reported. It is amazing how much you can learn from public records about how people go about things. *** East Hampton was a happy place for our family. My father could relax there. He would play the Brandenburg concerti on the stereo, and get picnic foods from Dean and Deluca, like pâté and prosciutto. And he would tell me stories of his time in college. He had pledged Kappa Alpha Psi, a well established Black fraternity, but he remembered loving the song of the Omegas, and he would sing it to me. “I see Omega way over there On the other side And I know that’s where I should be. it’s calling my name (calling my name) I hear it so plain (hear it so plain)...
[in a very deep voice] COME TO OMEH-EH-GA!” Indeed.
Image courtesy of Christina Lewis. RFL, me and Christina on the outdoor deck of our home in East Hampton, circa 1986.
This was the last post in the series #ThingsRFLtaughtMe for Black History/Black Futures month.
Post 1—The Lemonade Stand
Post 2—The Building
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And an aside for those who like numbers: I posted that at 2:22 local time, on 2/22/22, a Tuesday!
As always, thanks for reading this.