Memories of Family Celebrations
August 3rd, 2010 was my birthday. I was then 65 years old. The celebration took place the following week, when I visited my sister and brother-in-law, who live in the Village of Orient New York, which is just to the west of Orient Point, at the tip of Long Island's North Fork. My adult niece was there, along with her two daughters, who are my grand nieces, and a friend of theirs. At that time, the three girls were all attending elementary school.
The East End of Long Island is beyond the suburbs, and remains rural. There are still farms, and small towns. Over the past 30 years, wine production has become a thriving local industry. Vineyards have replaced the fields where potatoes once grew, and are much more profitable. One bottle of good wine costs the same as what you would pay for a 50-pound sack of potatoes.
The tip of the North Fork is obviously surrounded by beaches. On the afternoon I arrived, I went with my brother in law to a local sandy beach along an inlet, where I met my niece, grand nieces and their friend, along with some of the local people.
About two hours later, a man and his wife who we'd met at the beach, showed up at my sister's house, and presented me with a birthday card, and a bottle of wine as a birthday present. Imagine that! I'd only spoken to them for a minute or two, and yet they were so gracious. I am truly blessed.
That night we had a dinner of shrimp with linguini in well-seasoned butter sauce, and a tasty salad, along with the wine I'd received as a gift. For dessert there was a birthday cake, with about 20 candles for me to blow out! Believe me. That was rough!
On the other hand, there could have been 65 candles. "Take a really deep breath Uncle Bill!"
That evening we went into the nearby community of Greenport, where an evening block party was being held in a small park beside the harbor. There's a carousel in the park where my nieces and their friend rode for a good amount of time. Their friend kept grabbing the gold rings.
Then we attended the block party, where a rock band was performing and people were dancing. That night, for the very first time in my life, I actually danced with my sister! I have an injured back, so that was something I should not have been doing. I did have a lot of pain for the rest of the evening. However, I had a vial of tablets that I'd brought with me as a precaution. They are the generic equivalent to Aleve. I took one when we got back to my sister's place, and in the morning I was all right.
The next day my brother-in-law asked for my help, in raking up a large pile of apples that had fallen from a large tree in the back yard. It only took me a few minutes, but this time, my back was in severe pain. This time I took two tablets, and my back has been feeling okay since then.
I had a monthly appointment with a chiropractor that was scheduled for 10:30 on the following Wednesday morning. The treatment usually lasts about 20 minutes. After the previous week's activities, the appointment lasted somewhat longer than usual.
My sister lives on a quiet street just a five-minute walk from a beach overlooking Long Island Sound. The beaches on Long Island's north shore are not sandy. The beach is all pebbles, and very hard to walk on. However the view is spectacular. From that spot, you can see the blue hills around New London Connecticut, rising from beyond the horizon. However, while I was there the sky to the north was thickly overcast. Connecticut was gone? Eventually, the sky did clear, and to everyone's relief, that State was returned.
Early Wednesday morning, I went down to the patch of beach, and found that some people had a party there the night before, but hadn't cleaned up after themselves. There was a broken beer bottle, and shards of broken glass all over the pebbles; along with two black, plastic crates containing many partially empty beer bottles and even a bottle of Jose Cuervo Tequila Oro. There was also a collapsed, light blue plastic tent; all of it lying there abandoned.
I have no objection to people having a party, and indulging themselves, but they could have at least cleaned up afterwards; or did they think that's something beneath them? People, including my niece, bring their small children to that spot, and with all that broken glass they would have been in danger.
I went back to the house and warned my niece about it. My brother-in-law wasn't sure who to call about the problem. However, the next morning I went back to the spot, and found that all the glass and debris had been cleared away, and things were back to normal. It looked like the local elves had shown up the night before, and taken care of it. I later found out, that the Elf was none other than my brother-in-law himself.
That was also the day that my niece and the three girls would be going back home, but they wouldn't be going empty handed. While I'd received birthday cards and gifts from them, it was also time for me to present, what were originally intended to be Christmas gifts, to my grand nieces.
The previous December, I'd bought presents for my nieces, but I wasn't able to get to see them at that time. My sister told me that she'd hold the gifts for the girls, until I could give them the presents personally. That didn't happen until this visit. I'd bought them DVDs, but after all this time, I couldn't remember exactly what DVDs I'd bought.
So that morning, out in the back yard, under the warm summer sun, I presented them with gifts in their Christmas wrappings. They were Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" for the older girl, and "Mickey Mouse Around the World", for the younger one. My sister and brother-in-law had also bought a gift for their friend. They were all very pleased with what they'd received
The same situation had also occurred the previous year, but things had not gone as smoothly.
At that time, my sister had placed the Christmas gifts in a tiny shopping bag that she'd placed in my room. Just before lunchtime, on my first full day staying there, I decided that this was the right time to present my grand nieces with the gifts. I left my room heading for the kitchen-dining nook and living room, where the girls were with their mother.
That was when I heard both girls' laughter turn to screaming, and one of them was loudly crying. When I got to the kitchen, my niece (their mother) told me that the 4 year old had thrown a small, plastic pink toy radio at her 7 year old sister, and struck her on the forehead. The older girl was crying, and the younger one had run to her room.
I picked up the toy radio. While it was very light, it still had enough bulk to really hurt someone, if it was thrown hard enough; and the older girl had been badly hurt. She was seated on her mother's lap, while her mother held an ice pack on the crying girl's forehead, to keep the bruise from swelling.
We were all seated at the kitchen table, where I'd put the bag with the presents. I figured that this was just not the right time for me to be handing out gifts to anybody. I decided to wait a few hours, until everything had cooled down.
I told my niece that, but she told me, "No. Wait."
She called the younger girl out of her room. She came into the kitchen with a very sad look on her face.
While her mother held the older, whimpering girl on her lap, she spoke very calmly to the younger girl.
She said, "Now you know you shouldn't have done that, don't you? I know you didn't want to hurt your sister, because you love her." (I don't remember her exact words, but that was the general idea.) "You won't try to hurt her again will you?"
The younger girl shook her head, with the same sad expression on her face.
Her mother said, "Now Uncle Bill has something to say to you."
The girl came over to me, and looked at me with the same sad expression on her face. I had no idea what to say.
All I could think of to say was, "Well you're not going to be throwing things at people any more are you.""
She shook her head and said "No."
I told her, "Then I have these gifts for you and your sister, that I bought last Christmas."
I took the gifts out of the bag, and that was the end of the sadness. Both girls came running over, grabbed the gifts, ripped the wrapping paper off, and they were both delighted.
I'd got the younger girl a DVD for a kids' TV show called "Dora the Explorer". I'd never watched the show myself, but I'd seen it listed in the TV schedules. The girl said it was her favorite show.
This was also the first time I'd seen the girls in a couple of years. Now they were both finally old enough to have a lasting memory of me. Which means that the first lasting memory of me, is that Uncle Bill brought them those really great DVDs.
On the other hand, I'm still not sure if that was the right time to be handing out presents.