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By Damion Michaels

I am always drawn back to the places where I have once lived, the houses and their neighborhoods. For instance, there is a small South Hampton style house in Rumson, New Jersey where, during the early years of my coming of age, I had my first apartment in the carriage house round back. It was one room crowded with furniture, a sofa and fat chairs upholstered in that itchy, particular red velvet that one associates with hot days on a train. The walls were stark white and reminded me of an art gallery in the East Village. Everywhere, in the bathroom too, there were prints of sail boats freckled with brown age. The single window looked out onto the back of that South Hampton style house. Even so, my spirits heightened whenever I felt in my pocket the key to this apartment; with all its sterile gloom; it was still a place of my own, the first, and my books were there, and jars of pencils to sharpen, everything I needed, so I felt, to become the writer I wanted to be.

Much like my favorite writer, Truman Capote, I too had a Holly Golightly. Her name was Carter Farmer. Carter was tall, slender, graceful, full of bravado and of course, beautiful. But for all of her grace, there was a certain kind of awkwardness to Carter. Carter was not only a physical paradox of a girl and a woman, but so was her personality, she had an odd mixture of child-like innocence and street smarts. I mean to say that Carter only resembled Holly Golightly in her carefree glide through life. Unlike Holly, Carter had two wonderful parents who were rich in intellect and grace.

Carter's father was the kind of father I always thought never existed - witty, insightful, didactic in even the most mundane conversations and "there". He and I sailed quite often on the family's 51 year-old sailboat. I say "family's sailboat" but in truth, no one but Mr. Farmer liked to sail. I loved to sail and hence, was forturnate to spend a great deal of time with Mr. Farmer. I treasured my time with him - not because I wanted him to like me or because I loved his daughter - but because I truly felt comfortable in his presence. Contrasting the warmth and affability of Carter's father was the cool and watchful eye of Carter's mother.

Carter's mother was a brilliant intellect and spoke with great measure and passion. She was incredibly wise and only feigned ignorance when it came to her daughter's coming of age antics. Carter's parents were the ideal parents, of old money, gliding through life with grace and ease; and passing on to their children the simple lesson that life was to be enjoyed. Carter certainly embraced this particular lesson from her parents as she extracted every ounce of joy from life that could be extracted. I loved being with Carter but I secretly loved being with her family just as much.
I can't explain if it was the fact that Carter's ideallic family life was the antithesis of mine (and that of my childhood) or if it was just the mere fact that the company of her family was truly that enjoyable. I surmise that it was a mixture of both. Carter's family seemed to revel in family dinners (or dining in general) and they even demanded a certain formality to the dining events.

I can remember getting dressed for dinner in coat and tie. I can remember an elegantly set table with fresh flowers and candelight. I can remember everyone having cocktails and sitting down at the table at the same time. Don't misunderstand. The Farmers were not pretentious. In fact, for one formal occasion I distinctly remember Mr. Farmer wore just a plain black suit, white shirt, hand tied baroque bow tie and black loafers. But it was with the intense confidence and style of Mr. Farmer that gave that simple black suit and bow tie the elegance of the most expensive formal attire. You see the Farmers simply saw dining as a occasion to celebrate. And don't you get dressed up to go to a party?

I distinctly remember one Sunday brunch in the back yard of the main house where there was a small picnic table in the middle of a courtyard. It was an amazingly beautiful spring day - windy and still cool from the lingering winter days of the weeks prior. The Farmer's decided to have a simple brunch. And I was invited. It was a splendid meal of french toast, eggs, bacon and english muffins. Not to mention the orange juice, coffee and teas. I can't recall what was so compelling about the meal that Sunday morning. Was it the beautiful spring day? Was it the presence of a young and passionate love? Was it the wonderful meal? Or was it the company of a warm and wonderful family - joking and talking about nothing? Upon reflection, I can only recall that it was a little bit of everything. It has been nearly seventeen years since I thought of the Farmers and the ethereal Carter.
I smile.

My wife asks me why I am smiling. I come to my senses and realize that I am brunching with my beautiful wife of ten years and her wonderful parents - who are themselves rich in intellect, grace and humor. I look around. No it's not a breezy spring day and we are not outside. We are in Emeril's Delmonico having brunch. The food before us is wonderfully eccentric - French Toast "Pan Perdu", Steak and Eggs Delmonico and Louisiana Crawfish Quiche - and no, there are no english muffins. However, there is the company of a warm and wonderful family - joking and talking about nothing.

I smile again because this time I am part of the family.

May brunch at such a beautiful and spectacular place as Emeril's Delmonico (or your own backyard) cause you to stop and reflect about such things.

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