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Sixty-Something: Christmas Birthdays In The Hamptons

T.J. Clemente

Dayton Farms at Hardscrabble in East Hampton's is the author's farm stand of choice. (Photo: Courtesy of the author)

Anyone born near or around Christmastime already knows part of what I am going to say. Having a birthday Christmas week isn't quite ideal. However, all that changed when I ended up in the Hamptons. Through the years it was tough to celebrate with anyone, even immediate family. Between the Christmas shopping rush, the multitude of Christmas office parties who really had the time?

When I moved to the Hamptons full-time in 2003 that changed. Being single and under-employed (a phrase for earning my whole existence by both writing articles for and delivering for Dan's Papers), my birthdays were spent either at the Stephen Talkhouse or Liar's Saloon in Montauk, sometimes both. I did that just to not have them alone. Bar people do take care of their own and to Katie, Mary, (Liars) and Stephen, Larry, and Phil (Talkhouse) I say thanks for letting me bend your ears. I apologize for becoming so scarce since I met Cindi. What I loved about those venues was it was someone's birthday every night.

Christmastime in the Hamptons has a certain magic for many reasons. The magnificent old churches, windmills, along with the historic homes embrace the season with so many traditions of this authentic picturesque wonderland. With that weekly delivery job that lasted 3-4 years, I had the opportunity to walk/work through most of the village streets of East Hampton, Southampton, Shelter Island and for a very short time the North Fork.

Doing the deliveries gave me ideas for stories I still write about today. Strolling through the alleys of Jobs Lane in Southampton after snow flurries at sunrise was very peaceful and powerful, as were the backroads of Shelter Island blanketed with a foot of snow.

The stories flowed from things I observed. For example, back in 2005, I remember writing about the Santa in the road selling Christmas Trees in Bridgehampton on Route 27 and Lockwood. The Santa Claus would be waving to cars in front of the "Small Potato Nursery" at that location that had been selling the traditional Christmas tree during the holiday season for 30 years. The trees sold there were actually selected by owner Elizabeth Linker in Nova Scotia personally every year. Elizabeth would take the time out from managing her Hamptons businesses to drive all the way up to Canada because she wanted to have the highest quality of Christmas tree. The selection consisted of either Nova Scotia Fir or Fraser Fir. Elizabeth revealed around 1,000 trees would be sold during the holiday season, "or there abouts." She, as I recall, was the first person who besides selling the plentiful and varied sizes of cut trees, started selling a fine selection of pine trees to be planted. A planted 10-foot Norway Spruce would run around $630 back then.

However, my "go-to" Christmas tree location for wreaths and trees was at the Dayton Farms at Hardscrabble on Route 114 and Stephens Hand Path. I seemed to get a good deal there. Truth be told, I buy my pumpkins there and in late summer my Long Island corn. When you live in the Hamptons, you have your personal farm stand, routes to avoid the traffic, and favorite beach. It's the gift of the location. So many locals talk about the summer traffic and the "citidiots." But it is the love of the land, the ocean, and the whole package that their families have enjoyed for in some cases 7-8 generations that actually binds them to the East End.

So, yes, I am turning another sixty-something number (67) this week, six days before Christmas. Again, I will be at a Christmas party that night with the usual, "Merry Christmas and oh Happy Birthday too!"

Years back, I was so jealous of Cyril and Nick Kraus who used to celebrate their birthdays on successive summer weekend Saturday nights with hundreds of folks in shorts, tee-shirts and cocktails! In my time in the Hamptons on my birthday there might be 20 people in the Talkhouse and 12 people in Liar's. However, I knew each one and they knew me. I was fine with that.

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