There is something magical about the air in Wainscott, Long Island. The zephyr is warm and dry. The breeze that hits my sunburned face at twilight is cool and misty, peppered with ocean spray. It smells of saltwater, freshly cut grass, and a hint of fish at low tide. The sailor's favorite time is late afternoon, just before sunset, when the winds are particularly strong. The normally calm ripples of Georgica Pond violently curl with a foaming brackish crest. The white polyester sails swell with northeastern gusts. “Keep the sail full,” my dad always says as I push the wooden tiller away from me. “Don't let it billow.” This lasts about an hour or so, until the pink and orange pastels begin to surface on the Atlantic horizon, the wind subsides, and we make our way back to the boat landing. Back on shore, my best friend, Elizabeth, is waiting for me on her little black bicycle. “Best friend” probably isn't the right phrase. If you didn't know us you'd assume we were sisters. A lot of people do. We have the same sandy blonde hair, light eyes, and freckles on the bridge of our nose, and we spend almost every waking hour together. She hates sailing, though, so she meets me after I moor the boat to its anchor. The rower's favorite time of day is dawn, as the sun is coming up and the sky turns from gray to blue. The air is beautifully still, and the water on the pond is so flat you swear you could walk on it. The only sounds are the wake behind you and the piping plovers. Sometimes I wake up at four in the morning to the sounds of my mom rigging her boat for a morning row. She's crazy, I think, and go back to sleep, only to wake up an hour later to the roaring of a hedge trimmer. I love these little things that aggravate most people. It reminds me where I am. And that place is home. My favorite time is midday, when the sun is high and beating down on my tender skin. The tar and sand are equally scorching on the soles of my feet. At home in New York City, shoes always protect my feet from the dirt and grime of the concrete, so summer is painful at first, until my soles strengthen. “Have you gotten your country feet back yet?” my mom asks after long days spent barefoot. By the look of my sooty heels, the answer is yes. On the exceptionally hot days, steam rises from the green clay tennis courts, and the players' clothing becomes soiled with dust and perspiration. But it's nothing that can't be cured by a bike ride to the beach and a quick plunge. The white sand is blistering, but we can't tell because our feet are still burdened by socks. We do this often, actually. We always regret it afterwards as we bike home through frigid wind in white clothing that's soaking wet to the point of translucency. At 6 o'clock every Monday, children, cousins, and mothers file down the wooden steps of the beach to congregate around the lifeguard stand. Friends gather on woven blankets and fold-up beach chairs, eating pizza. Cans and bottles rest on the uneven ground, sand clinging to the condensation. The dune grass and phragmites rustle behind us as the sun sinks into the horizon. Elizabeth and I roll our jeans up to our knees and walk down to the water where the icy waves pierce our ankles. Together, we watch the sky as the sun takes its final breaths, ceding to the moon. These are the times I am happiest, most content, and freest of anxiety. One hundred miles away from the honking taxis, crowded sidewalks, and oppressive subway stations, there's no stress from schoolwork or grades or my future. All we need to plan is whose house to go to for that night's game of manhunt. As I look into the stars hanging over the still black ocean, all of my worries fade away like sea glass with the tide. I look beside me at these kids who have become my family, who I've grown up with, and whose parents grew up with my parents, and I know some day our children will grow up together too. One night last summer, Elizabeth and I sat in a tent on the beach and reflected on this place we call home. As we venture toward college and adulthood, we are anticipating a time when our summers won't be so carefree, when we'll have to spend more time away from our beautiful Georgica bubble. It is a difficult concept to accept – that our time in Wainscott will decrease from three months to mere weeks. We have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, we will miss the luxurious summers we have become accustomed to. But we are venturing out on the incredible journey to adulthood. “I feel like I'm going to miss out on so much,” I complain to Elizabeth. “Georgica will always be here. And it will always be home,” she replies wisely. I couldn't have said it any better.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.
This piece won the September 2014 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.