By Amy Phillips Penn

My friend Roxanne was the quintessential East Hampton mother’s helper: She watched over her “summer children,”  cooked, did as little spot cleaning as possible, and digested criticism as best as she could.

“You don’t get an ‘A’ in diaper cleaning,” scolded Alice, the mother of the household.

What Roxanne did earn an ‘A’ in was entertaining Alice’s husband, Charlie. While Alice was asleep and Roxanne’s boyfriend was waiting for her impatiently in the guest house around 3am, double dipping was at its finest. If only the waves could gossip.

Sandy foot prints leading in and out of bedrooms had to be swept away by the cleaning lady the next morning. The wife was the last to know, but oblivion was her caviar.

Roxanne and I were 19-year-olds, and we were both mother’s helpers. Actually, I was a father’s helper.

While Roxanne looked after two kids (and their father) in a movie-set perfect East Hampton beach house, I was stationed in a small Sagaponack home. My “summer child” was a wonderful 2-year-old called Ryan, who was visiting his father for a month. Ryan’s mother sent me a full inventory of Ryan’s possessions from socks to stuffed monkey, along with a copy of Dr. Spock. Except for a postcard, we never heard from her again.

Ryan’s father, Jack, was a full-time writer. On weekends, his other housemates would arrive: a professor at NYU, a TV commentator and best of all: “the” woman who wrote the “Bible” of Women’s Lib.

I was impressed… for about a minute.

When she arrived, unexpectedly, I was on the phone, so I cupped the receiver for a second to show due respect. The woman, was, after all a legend.

“Are you the baby sitter?” she asked dismissively.

So much for women’s lib.

My interview with Jack had been equally compelling.

After talking salary (what a joke), he asked two questions and I had one for him.

Peering into my eyes with the look of a stoned customs inspector, he said, “Where do you stand politically and do you smoke pot?”

“How many nights do I get off?” I countered.

We shook on the deal.

I loved that summer, our nights at the disco, Mitty’s in Bridgehampton, and balmy beach days. Most of all, I loved Ryan. He was fun, fit perfectly on the back of my bicycle seat, and slept until 9am: my kind of guy.

Roxanne continued to juggle Charlie and a boyfriend or two, while my “fascination not” with Ms. Libber soon screeched to a delete.

I was waiting for my father to pick me up so I could go home sweet home for my day off. As he made his way into the driveway, Ms. Lib and her friend froze.

“Look, there’s a handsome man and he’s coming into our driveway!”

They all but crippled each other to be first in line.

My father floored it, and then floored it again.

The little station-wagon-that-could made like an XKE.

Meanwhile, Roxanne and Charlie met in his New York apartment while Alice was in East Hampton. He gave Roxanne a Cartier wedding band, which she wears to this day. Charlie would remarry, and remarry again.

In the beginning of that summer, Roxanne and I were sunbathing outside the East Hampton stunner of a mansion, wearing t-shirts and bikinis, waiting for Charlie to arrive. Emilio Pucci would be proud that Roxanne wore his signature so curvaceously. We wondered if Charlie was handsome.

He was of course more than that.

“If you were a mother would you hire someone who looked like we do in bikinis?” Roxanne asked.

Would you?


Featured image courtesy of Hamptons Film Fest

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