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Welcome to the Neighborhood! We're the Polos. . .

 

We're not quite as stylish as this gentleman, but our shirts are in the right direction!


I got a chuckle when the three of us turned up downstairs early this morning before breakfast.  We each wore a variation of the short sleeve cotton pique knit polo top, sometimes referred to as a golf shirt.  

The Young Master selected orange (his favorite color) worn with jeans and argyle socks while The Grand Duchess unwittingly opted for melon with a pair of faded olive chino shorts.  Unaware of what wife and child were wearing, yours truly appeared in the kitchen wearing a navy version thereof with dove gray chino shorts and a surcingle belt plus the ever present leather dock-siders.  

As I remarked to my wife, we look like we ought to be on the Chesapeake or The Outer Banks.  

My own extended family used to wear similar gear during evenings or weekend afternoons each summer once yard work and mowing were finished.  People had showered, changed into nicer clothes, and returned to the porch or shady sideyard for a drink or two before dinner.  The broader extended family also dressed like this from first light until late into the evening when we congregated at someone's beach house along the Carolina coast or "cottage" on the Chesapeake for two weeks each July or August from the immediate Post-WWII years into the mid-1990s. 

My late mother and step-father hosted smaller gatherings a few times at a beach house outside of Progreso, Mexico during the early 2000s.  These were lovely visits, but they were never quite the same.  For one, we did not play bridge from after breakfast until well after midnight.  Scrabble and Gin Rummy were our preferred forms of evening entertainment.  Or reading our respective detective and spy thrillers after retiring for the night.  Summertime reading. 

For another, we did not consume quite the same amount of spirits as the earlier generation.  Coffee, yes, but no gin and tonics, scotch on the rocks, or assorted mixed drinks.  At least nowhere near to the same degree.  Thirdly, the more recent Mexican beach trips were generally quieter affairs since there was no extended family.  At most, six adults -- myself, wife, sister, her husband, our mother, and step-dad -- and a small child (The Young Master).  We sat up late "visiting," as my late grandmother would have put it, but no one required help to his, or her room.  That once was the case with Great Aunt Lillian, who fell asleep mid-meal at the dinner table one evening after starting The Happy Hour a little too early that afternoon.

At another time, Great Uncle Syd, slightly tipsy after an evening at the card table, lost his balance while putting on shorty summer pajamas in the dark and fell into his open suitcase on a valet very late one night.  He was fine but made all kinds of noise extricating himself from said piece of luggage.  The commotion woke sister-in-law Great Aunt Marnie in the next bedroom.  A control freak among the family (in the nicest way possible), she sent her husband Great Uncle Bob, once a code-breaker for the NSA, to see if everything was all right.  Yep, drunken excitement in the wee hours. 

I was only about seven when this happened during the summer of 1974, but the retelling of it in hushed tones the next morning was hilarious to the young me, for whom late-night hours and the related enigmatic activities of adults were still some years away and, thus, fascinating at the time. 

In any case, and as evidenced by various old photographs that have yet to be digitized, everyone's beach attire always consisted of polo, madras, or seersucker shirts with (Wait for it!) chino, Bermuda, or madras shorts.  This was what we wore most summer days, regardless of age, from early in the morning until 2-3am when various tables of slightly inebriated but jolly adults (my late grandparents' generation), who genuinely enjoyed each others' company, eventually finished their games of bridge.  They stumbled off to bed somehow to begin all over again not that many hours later once breakfast had been cooked and the urn of coffee brewed in the kitchen.  

There was also Great Uncle Zeb, husband of Great Aunt Polly, who always wore dark, knee length dress socks and wingtip dress shoes with Bermuda shorts, tucked in dress shirt, and leather belt.  He was a sartorial law unto himself, but a true gentleman of the old order.  

Sadly, that generation and my own mother's are all gone now, as are the beach houses, cottages, and sailing boat.  But the fond memories, and habitual mode of laid back, yet presentable dress for the warmer months, nevertheless remain.  Comfortable, familiar garments with some history and an amusing story or two connected to them.  Ahhh. . .  My kinda clothes.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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