Where to Summer in the Summer?

Summer is a dilemma for One Percent New Yorkers.  Where a person summers is something of a litmus test.

Growing up, my family summered in Nantucket.  Problem is, Jews just didn’t do that.

My Jewish mother refused to follow a trend, any trend. Jewish New Yorkers summered in Fire Island or East Hampton.  My mother wanted to spend summers in Nantucket. Never mind that only WASPS summered in Nantucket and never mind that my curly, frizzy, dark-brown hair marked me as an outside for life against the blond and straight-haired, long-legged and skinny backdrop of all the other girls on island. Never mind that we could not really afford it and that my father had to stay behind to earn a living to support the whole endeavor.  Logic and other people’s feelings could not move her off her determined effort to leave New York and my father behind from Memorial Day to Labor Day

After disposing of my older brother by placing him in 8 weeks of camp in Maine, she and I drove and ferried to Nantucket.


As the ferry rolled into the quiet sandy island, I sank into my own state of depressed angst. What in the world would I do here all summer?
 “Lucky girl” said my Mother as she signed me up for a daily 1 pm tennis clinic in the blazing sun or drove me to the beach to sit alone on the sand while she read a book.
 “I don’t fit in” I whined often.  I was six years old and still thought whining a successful strategy.
“You have green eyes” she replied with a clear end-of-discussion tone.
As the years passed, I knew I was supposed to feel lucky and happy but I just couldn’t figure out how to pull it off.
While beautiful, tow-headed, non-Jewish kids darted into the restricted yacht club holding tennis racquets and wearing tennis whites, I biked to a friend’s house to play our umpteenth game of Jacks or Monopoly.  I had 4 girlfriends and I clung to them every summer, all summer.  Four of us were Jewish and one was a perfect, blond, WASPY girl.  Her family belonged to the Yacht Club and her older sisters had boyfriends and guitars.  I never quite understood why she preferred to hang out with us instead of just about anyone else on the Island.
I felt completely left out. If this was fun, I would rather be in school and back in the hot city from which my mother fled.
“Can we stay in the city next summer?” I asked her one September evening as we passed a homeless man encamped on our block and I handed him a quarter as a ritualistic way to ward off misfortune and count my blessings.
I don’t think she ever answered the question.
Years later, in total rebellion to my childhood immersion in the WASP enclave, my husband and I bought a house in an orthodox Jewish beach enclave on Long Island despite the fact that we were not at all religious.  I wanted my kids to grow up in Jewish surroundings with beach and biking, tennis and swimming.  Turns out, we didn’t fit in there too well either.
Ten years later, when the kids refused to go,we sold the house.
We summer in Manhattan now.  I walk my dogs in a largely empty Central Park. My husband and I eat at largely empty restaurants and walk largely empty streets. I get first crack at fall fashions in the largely empty stores and I park my SMART car anywhere I want in the largely empty street.
I don’t rush anywhere and I don’t have to unpack anything.
 It’s a largely quiet and tame summer and I totally love it.
Of course, If I were handed a summer house on the Ocean in the Hamptons or Fire Island, I can guarantee that that’s where I would summer.

Aphorism – As Groucho Marx said “I don’t care to belong to a club that would have me as a member.”  Note to Yacht Club  – if asked, I would join.

Takeaway – I appreciate my childhood friends more and more each yimg_7848ear and recognize how lucky we are to have each other.  We are the keepers of each other’s childhood memories.

Recipe – Wild Blueberry Cobbler

Nantucket was known for having wild blueberries, but in true Nantucket fashion, the location of the best low-bush-blueberry patches was a closely-guarded secret that only natives and long-time Nantucketers knew.  When I was very small, our neighbor on India Street used to take me berry picking by car.  I could never remember where she took me.  Years later, I learned the location of some blueberries and blackberries.  Naturally, I can’t share this information.  Suffice it to say, there are very few berries left to be picked.  I think all the blueberries summer in Maine now.

Preheat oven to 375

Four pints of organic blueberries (wild or cultivated but not frozen)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Juice of one lemon

Mix sugar, cinnamon, berries and lemon juice and pour fruit mixture into either a 9 inch cake pan or a 9 inch pie pan.  If there is too much fruit, make two cobblers.

For the topping:

4 Tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour (I use oat flour to keep this gluten-free)

1 cup organic whole oats

Mix topping together quickly with hands and sprinkle over berries. Do it quickly so the butter doesn’t completely melt.

Bake until topping is brown and fruit is bubbly – about 30 minutes at most.  If topping browns too quickly, tent cobblers loosely with aluminum foil to protect the topping while tfruit continues to cook.


This recipe works with peaches, nectarines, plums and any berry.



2 thoughts on “Where to Summer in the Summer?

  1. Valerie – honestly, Fire Island was hard on a self-conscious, unhappy curly-haired kid as well. Jews or no jews, I seemed to be the only girl who 1) was forced by my mother to wear a straight hair hair-piece with a hairband that fooled no one 2) wore a low ponytail with frizz zooming out from every part of my head and 3) checked the humidity each day, every day before I even brushed my teeth – in those days there was a telephone number you could call for weather reports I think this is a fascinating and honest piece about a topic that everyone on the Northeast coast has a story to tell – summer, and what was wrong with it. A great read! Laurie Silver

    On Sat, Sep 10, 2016 at 10:15 PM, Diary of a One Percenter by Valerie Feigen wrote:

    > Valerie posted: “Summer is a dilemma for One Percent New Yorkers. Where a > person summers is something of a litmus test. Growing up, my > family summered in Nantucket. Problem is, Jews just didn’t do that. My > Jewish mother refused to follow a trend, any trend. Jewish” >


    1. Summer stories would make a great compilation. So interesting that you had similar issues on Fire Island. Was frizzy hair ever socially acceptable anywhere? I keep thinking of parental neglect versus active abuse in the context of decision making . Thank you for your comment!


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