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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Old Feelings, New Memories

When the ownership of a beloved house passes from
one generation to the next, it is not an easy transition.
Our family's beach house on Long Island's North Fork
 There are so many emotions, so many memories, so many mixed feelings.
Above all, there is a natural reluctance to make any changes.  It is still "their" house.

Only, it's not.
And now it's up to us to care for it.

You look around, and you see the nearly 20-year old paint on the walls, the worn out areas on the carpet, the cotton curtains that are actually falling apart, destroyed by intense waterfront sunshine . . . and then you know.  The house, well loved and cared for, and happily lived in until it could not be lived in any longer, needs help.
 Second floor family room
 That's what we're doing for the next few days, my sister Peggy and her husband Bill, Howard and I -- beginning to spruce up our family's beach house on eastern Long Island.  We had planned to begin this two years ago, but chickened out.  We did take things out of it, to have in our own homes, but we didn't make any real changes.  Pop was still with us, and when he was able to visit his house we didn't want it to look too different.
View from second floor deck
This is hard.

We are beginning modestly, with some new flooring on the first floor.  Fresh paint on the ceilings and walls.  Some needed plumbing repairs.  Slipcovers on the sofas and chairs.  New curtains.  And a down-to-the-tiniest-corner professional cleaning that will banish the very last of any lurking dust bunnies.

Decking.  Time to restore it, too.
The Sunday before last, we gathered out there with my brother Lindy and his wife Carol.  We did what we hadn't had the courage or the heart to do before then . . . we actually disposed of some of my Mom's kitchen kitsch.  The local thrift shop will benefit.
Looking into the kitchen from back entry
I can't tell you how hard that was, and how many times Peggy and I had to reassure
one another that we didn't need to keep everything just because it had belonged to Mom.
Some things we suspect she kept only because they'd been gifts.
Dion asleep in his spot in the kitchen
I told my daughters, who were with us that Sunday, that when I am gone they must not
feel guilty disposing of something that I loved (as long as it's not their father!). 

We know that our Dad, who passed away on February 2nd, would want to see the house
he designed, that he thought a paradise on earth, used again.  
First floor living room

We can do this now.  For us, and for them.
I know we'll have tears, but we'll have laughs, too.
 Our mother was a strong believer in life being for the living;
I know she would want us to put on our big girl pants,
and fix up the home that gave her so many happy years with the man she adored.
So I'll be away from blogging for a few days.  No computer access out there.  No TV.
But we've got some good wine, a corkscrew, some books, a board game or two,
and an endless supply of memories to smile over, and plans to make.

We wish our brothers and their wives could be with us too, but they have become
Southerners.  Imagine that.  And if they were at the beach house
with us, we wouldn't have enough beds for everyone!  Not yet, anyway.
The lawn and dock in winter

Deep breath.
Southold, here we come.
Play nice while I'm gone.  :-)   Cass


  1. Enjoy your time at the beach house and the wonderful memories

  2. What a beautiful house. Have some fun and don't miss blogging to much. Take lots of pictures and blog all about it when your home.

  3. You have so many beautiful views from your house. All of your photos are so pretty...seeing the water, that to me is the best thing about a house on the water.

    Perhaps you are going to do things with the house that your Mom and Dad never got around to doing. They would probably love that. I'll be thinking of you over the next few days.


  4. Cass,

    Take care. We will be waiting when you get back. These things that we have to do are part of growing up I think. Great pictures.


  5. Sigh....such mixed emotions. Excitement for the four of you as you spend time together planning and working. Also pain for the grief you are processing through. May it all go well, Cass.
    I'll be thinking of you....and just a tad jealous that my heritage doesn't involve such a lovely home on a beach. lol

  6. Hi Cass...I'm sorry for your dad..i didn't know it!!I hug you strong...anyway you got very special memories... have a nice memorable weekend, hugs, Flavia

  7. What you are doing now is special time spent with your siblings, with conversations and sharing prompted by such tender, and sometimes painful, memories in this place that your parents loved so much. All of us will sit patiently until you return. :)

  8. I know what a tough job it is BUT, you are so lucky that you get to keep the home! You can change to curtains and the carpet but when you walk in the memories of the great times will always be with you. And think of all the new ones you will make. Have some great sister time!

  9. What a gorgeous piece of property on a very desired area of the country!!!!

    I read through your words the heartfelt sadness of getting rid of some of your parents treasures...yes, treasures to them while they were with you but now like you said it's time to move on and it's easier knowing you 'feel their blessings'.

    Good luck and enjoy your special time.


  10. Cass, I know the feeling all to well after cleaning out my mother's apartment many years ago and more recently my mil's home. But, it's wonderful to find treasures and memories to keep forever. Your beach house will be a wonderful haven for your family in the years to come. What a gorgeous view! Enjoy this time of renewing something for future memories. Blessings, Pamela

  11. Your mother was a wise woman. Life is for the living. None of us keep everything we were ever given or everything we have ever bought.
    Anything really special should be focused on and the rest should be disposed of or given to others.
    The most important item to your parents was most likely the memories in the home and not any of the stuff.

  12. i hv mix emotion reading this... i cant even begin to say (type). just enjoy the moment

  13. Cass, I know the feelings you are going through. Bittersweet memories and yet needing to move forward with life the way your parents would want you to. The house is a wonderful keepsake all its own with memories for everyone to cherish, I think your parents would be happy to know you all enjoy it.

  14. Oh Cass, I have been busy and away from sorry to hear about your father's passing, but this IS the cycle of life, yes, and he and your Mom are together again, and all is as it should be. This is a journey I have in my not too distant future. We can do all things in Christ, who strengthens us. Sending you all my love on the wings of a desert sparrow, Deb

  15. I understand where you are here but you have a great attitude as you begin build new memories to blend in with the old. It is hard to pass on our mom's things ... but you do have to let go! Sometimes just being overwhelmed with the task helps to move things along!

  16. Oh Cass, I haven't been on in a while and just realized that your Father has gone to be with the others. I am so sorry for your loss but he was so lucky to have all of you for his family.

  17. Well I remember having to do it - and it is NEVER easy - I am glad you are not alone in doing it. It is okay to let go.

    And what do you mean about southerners?

    Sandie/Atlanta - lol

  18. Awww! I bet they would be happy you are "spiffing" the place up for many more years of enjoyment. Years ago my daughter ended up with boxes and boxes of things that once belong to her Great Grandmother. She had no interest in the majority of the things and said she did not know what to do, as no one else in the family wanted the things. I told her to keep what you want to keep and give away or sell the rest. She did, and never looked back.
    Enjoy your evening.

  19. I have always wanted a family beach house. I know it will never happen, but oh, I envy your family's good fortune!

  20. I had to do this with my mother's things last summer. It was only a month after she died and so hard. We donated almost all of her clothes and many of her personal things like hats, scarves, purses, makeup. My dad is still in their home, but he wanted us to sort through much of the house stuff too and we got rid of lots of "things" because we simply couldn't bring it all home. My sister and I both brought things we really don't need...but they were too "mom" to part with. I hope that with time some of that will be easier to get rid of. I guess we just need to remember that it is the memories, not the stuff that is important...and you will have the memories every time you step foot in that home. It looks like a magical place.

  21. Cass, I think you and I are on same paths right now. I've been helping my BIL clean out their house and get it ready to be sold. It is so hard to go through the things that I know my sister loved, but I just have to remind myself that things change. And that I can't take all her prized possessions home with me. Hope you have a nice therapeutic time at the beach house.

  22. Hi Cass

    It's sure to be painful but just think how close you'll still feel to both of them every time you step into that beautiful home

    Best wishes

  23. beautiful.
    thanks for sharing and adding some warmth to my soul.

  24. The transition is hard. My mum's family is going through this, but on a much larger scale. They were 13 altogether, with five now left, but everyone had at least four children, so it's very complicated. Not a pretty process, and I may never be able to go back to the site of so many memories.

  25. So sorry for your loss. What a beautiful place filled with so many memories.

  26. I love your family home...I think you will put some lovely touches and updates to make it even nicer! So nice that you are able to keep it in your family. Enjoy your time there!

    Miss Bloomers

  27. What a wonderful old place. I can only imagine the summers there, the kids playing in the yard, countless days swimming and fishing off the dock. I love the water, and always dreamed of a vacation place by the sea. How blessed you are!


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