I have known three homes of my paternal grandparents: the Old Westbury house on Bacon Road — the one that my cousins say has since been painted to look like a Taco Bell — the Asharoken house on the north shore of Long Island and now, and finally, the one in Northport with the house number that always manages to slip my mind.
Most of my favorite memories have the Asharoken home as their backdrop: the games of sardines where I hid in cramped closets, singing “This Land is Your Land” with my cousins on one of their visits to New York from California and, most notably, the walks on the beach every time my grandparents hosted a gathering.
We always did this, especially on Thanksgiving. No one ever dressed quite warm enough to combat the outdoors, much less November’s chill when it worked in conjunction with the sea breeze — the girls in stockings and floral dresses, everyone wearing jackets that were meant to be fashionable more so than warm, perhaps with the exception of my Uncle Peter, who consistently sported high-end coats.
I don’t know what year it was, but it was one of the last Thanksgivings in Asharoken. We wanted to take a walk on the beach after dinner — we swore we weren’t planning on going too far — but it was already dark. After my father and his sisters made it clear that they were not planning on trekking around outdoors in the cold night, my Uncle Peter agreed to come with us. He lent me his coat too, and though it was certainly large on me, it felt cozy but not too heavy; warm without bearing the burden of restricted movement.
We always walked north, en route to the lighthouse our grandmother adored in Eaton’s Neck, though we rarely went all the way there. I don’t think there was much else to distinguish this walk from any other one we had taken, other than the jacket my uncle let me borrow and the flash of his low-quality iPhone camera that snapped blurry photos of us near a “no trespassing” sign.
It should be noted that this was a sign that all of us had stepped beyond in the past in an attempt to spot deer, not a new act of rebellion. That sign had always stood at the top of a short, eroding wall, and we had always climbed up and walked past the sign. In the dark on a chill Thanksgiving night, it became a funny place to pose, but in the history of that house, it was a sign of adventure and a place to peacefully rebel.
Sooner or later, it was time to return for dessert, as prompted by a call from someone waiting for us back in the house. We were chastised for walking so far — “Didn’t we tell you dessert was in 30 minutes?” — and we giggled as we realized that we were even farther than we had claimed. As such, it was more of a jog back to the house, boots and dress shoes be damned.
Of course, they had to wait, and many years we would all sleep over anyway, so we could rest assured that the pies and cakes and cookies would remain when we finally made it back into the dining room, the flush of the cool air clear on our faces and the eagerness to try each dessert obvious in the glint in our eyes.
Now that Thanksgiving is no longer on the beach, I realize what I am missing. No longer do we gather around a table large enough to fit everyone, with the water beckoning us outdoors. Now, we have two tables in two separate rooms, and the walk we took on Thanksgiving in 2019 was along the street, yellow lines perpetually reminding us that our Thanksgiving was now held in a place other than the one we wished it was. Every year, I had thought that that holiday season was the last in that house.
It’s been several years since my grandparents left Asharoken, but I cannot stop imagining Thanksgivings on the beach.
Madelyn Kye is a sophomore from Long Island, N.Y. majoring in Writing Seminars and International Studies. Her column discusses people and things that have entered and exited her life, often through the lens of growing up.