Some of my earliest memories are of the beach. In 1944 my grandparents bought a summer house in New London on the Connecticut shore. For years thereafter the entire extended family -- grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins -- fit, a little tightly, into the seven bedrooms. The women and children remained from mid June until Labor Day. The men came only for the weekends. They drove down from the city on Friday nights, often arriving in time for a swim before dinner, and departed on Sunday nights.
Summers at the beach were wonderful for the children, less so for the adults -- especially the women. The beach house was large and airy, but it had far fewer conveniences than our middle-class suburban homes. Rather than an up-to-date washer and dryer in a conveniently placed laundry room, the beach house offered an old fashion wringer machine in a very damp and musty basement and a clothesline in the backyard. One and a half bathrooms serviced more than three times as many people as the two and a half bathrooms of our regular houses. A constant parade of sandy feet made housekeeping difficult. And then there were the joys and tensions of living in a multigenerational home containing the elder matriarch, two daughters, one daughter-in-law, and numerous small children.