Chapter One – Escape

We always go to the country in the summer to get away from the city heat. I don’t remember any of the other summers too well but now I’m five years old and remember everything. This summer we’ve rented a huge, damp old house in Easthampton near the ocean. Mummy says it doesn’t cost much to rent because nobody wants it. No one’s lived in this house full-time for years so the spiders have decided they will. There are lots of spiders in Easthampton but not too much else. It certainly isn’t crowded. The farmers and fishermen account for most of the people in town and there are acres of planted fields without a house in sight. There are also miles of beaches without a sole on them. I recognize every driver of every car on Dunemere Lane, which is why if we come back here again when I get older I’ll be allowed to hitchhike.

How we ended up here is interesting and lots of fun. My father fell in love with the adventure of flying on a foggy day in 1927 at Roosevelt Field on Long Island. He stood spellbound as Charles Lindberg took off on his bid to be the first non-stop solo pilot to cross the Atlantic. He could hardly breathe he was so excited. He didn’t dare move while he watched the plane lumber down the muddy field for what seemed like forever. Then when it looked like the trees would swallow it up, the clumsy little plane started to lift off and jumped up just enough to clear the branches grabbing at its wheels. That daring escape was completed right before his eyes leaving him staring after it through the mist in shock.

As it was with most of the other young men in that meadow, my father, who was the same age as Mr. Lindberg, pictured himself in the cockpit so he bought a plane when he was passing through Macy’s basement one night on his way home from work and learned how to fly. All of our travels are now geared to Daddy’s flight plans. Escaping New York for the summer this year involved jabbing a math compass into a map, and drawing a circle around the City in a 100 mile radius. Somewhere along the circumference had to be a paved runway and a wind sock. Easthampton popped up along the curve. That guaranteed that in less than an hour Daddy can be with us from his office in New York; unless the fog rolls in. I’ve noticed his plan is only as reliable as the weather.

And it can get pretty foggy in the country with all the heat and salt air; but I keep my windows open since there’s no soot to get in on your eyelashes. The soot from burning coal in New York hurts a lot if one of the big cinders gets under your eyelid. My grandmother says cinders aren’t good in your lungs either so sometimes I hold my breath when I’m walking down the street. You can hear your heart beat louder the way it does when you’re scared if you do that.

Mummy said Daddy moved the family to the city from a horse farm in New Jersey during World War II in order to protect us. I wasn’t born until the end of the war so I don’t really know much about it. Apparently he went to Washington to help President Roosevelt win the war and didn’t want the family left behind stuck in the country without a father to take care of them…or enough gas to run the car…or doctors to help in emergencies. But now that the war is over, summer in New York City is “no place for a child” they say. I’m told the only way to escape the deadly polio virus is to run away…to the country.

I have friends who’ve been attacked anyway. I don’t understand it because they’re in the country too, but there’s often a hole in grown-up reasons for why things happen so I probably never will. My mother says tonsils can’t come out in the summer either. They don’t want children near a city hospital after May so if you can hold on to your tonsils until then, you’re safe for another four months! I think about this plan a lot. Get away with it for a few years in a row and you might get to keep them forever because you’ll be a grown-up!

. . . Continue reading by clicking the page numbers below.