a very personal piece about the first time i felt like part of a family.
I don't know if I ever mentioned it to you, but my boyfriend's father retired this year. Iwas lucky enough to be invited to the party. It was August 4th, and I took the two hour drive down I495 from my house in Queens, to Hampton Bays, Long Island. My boyfriend's father, Ed, retired this year after 40 years in his industry, building and maintaining elevators. His wife, Cathy, planned a surprise party for him at a bar/ restaurant named Cowfish, which was located directly on the sand of a large, crescent shaped bay.Â Â Â
While the valet guy parked my car, we walked off the sand onto a sturdy, dark wooden ramp that zig-zagged us to the entrance of the restaurant. The air smelt like ocean water mixed with the smell of the fresh seafood that was cooking inside. The surrounding foliage, tall trees and high bushes, were connected by gold fairy lights that laced the leaves, and floated in the space above wooden chairs that were facing the water so guests could observe the boats tied up in the bay idly float around.Â Later on that night I remember looking out the top floor window after a few drinks and thinking that it looked like fuzzy white lights were just bouncing above the water against the dark sky like really large lightning bugs.Â
To the side of the building was a small area where kids were playing with a mini wooden jungle gym that matched the wood of the ramp, and that game where you toss a bean bag into holes in little wooden planks on the floor. Behind it, there was a full bar with TVs and everything, next to a dock where boaters could come and park while they have a few drinks. The restaurant even had its own boat, a tiny sailboat that they use to bring guests from Cowfish, to another bar owned by the same owners called Rumba's that sits near its own dock across the bay. It was fun to watch the tiny boat zip back and forth across the water, and drop off intoxicated patrons (many who already have drinks in their hands), to get some more drinks. The building itself was two floors and mostly windows, so it felt like there was barely anything separating us from the outside.
My boyfriend and I were tasked with waiting for the guests to arrive, greeting them, and bringing them to the top of the restaurant where Cathy had rented a room on the roof.Â We really weren't any good, because instead of waiting in front of the restaurant, we waited on the roof at the bar next to the room we were going to be in. I guess we figured they'd find us eventually, why not start drinking, right? So we talked and laughed, and started sucking down the expensive, fruity drinks that the clean cut, Taylor Lautner look-a-like bartender was making for us. They were some sort of blueberry mojitos with actual blueberries and mint in them, and drinking them made me feel really fancy, even though I was only wearing a plain orange tank top and nautical blue striped shorts, and felt totally underdressed for the place, and the event.Â They were the dangerous kind of drinks. The kind that you don't realize are dangerous until it's too late and you have to stand up.
Two hours later, when the parade of middle-aged Irish people started to arrive, my boyfriend took me to meeting his relatives, some of whom I knew. It didn't really matter how anxious I was meeting new people because we had been drinking at a bar by a beach with the summer sun warming my exposed back, so, naturally, I was in a great mood. He took me by the hand, introducing me to aunts and uncles, and cousins, and the new baby in the family, and by the time my boyfriend's parents came up walking up the steps to the roof and we all yelled "Surprise!," it was time to eat what was probably the best clam chowder and steak I had ever had, and go back to drinking.
As the sun was setting we bonded on the wooden chairs by the water with his cousin and his wife, whose baby daughter was only about 6 months old. My boyfriend and his brother, and his cousin and I, all went back to his parent's beach house, which was only 10 or so minute drive away, and the party continued there. As the family all piled out of their respective cars and into the backyard of their tiny house with their beers and chips, Ed started opened his retirement presents, and the family talked, and bull-shitted, and laughed about stupid things he had done over the course of his career and his life.
I've never been much of a sentimental person, maybe it's because my family isn't very connected despite it being so large, or maybe it was the atmosphere of the restaurant, between the water and the sand that I thought was so beautiful. Maybe that's why this experience over the summer meant so much to me, and why I think about it often, and felt the need to tell you about this party. While I'm sure just getting out of the City for a weekend made me feel a certain way on its own, I feel like the experience of family is what really made the event memorable for me.
Anyway, I hope you're doing well.