Tonight she is so grateful to have gown up in this small town that she still lives in. This truly is small town America. A town that could be describe in novels by writers much better than she. Tonight the sights, sounds and smells overwhelm her with joy and a little bit of nostalgia, tinged with some sadness too.
Walking across Smith Street she hears the crack of a bat hitting a ball at the ballpark and hears, before she sees, the cheering as men run around bases. This is baseball playoff weekend for the leagues that play on this field. Picnic things are laying all about the grass as she power walks on by. Women, children and older couples sit in the bleachers watching, talking and laughing while the ballplayers continue to play this game that to her at times seem boring. Not tonight though, tonight she can feel the excitement in the air as she hears the sounds of the game and smells the dust in the air as a player slides on into home.
She heads further into the park, past the playground filled with young children and families…..children running, jumping, and squealing with laughter and delight as they fly toward the moon on a swing or zipped down to the ground on a slide. As she walks onto the track at the park, she takes it past the 9-11 Memorial, a place she will sometimes stop and sit for a minute. It is a very small garden area connected, yet separate, from the walking track that winds its way in a quarter mile circle through the shore front park. Two benches, in the shade of newly planted young trees, sit, looking out across the bay at Fire Island on the other side. In front of the benches are two big native granite boulders, sitting in the middle of bunches of Montauk daisies. The boulders are inscribed in memory of not just the two men that she knew who died, but all the others who perished on that day as well. On occasion she has been down here and seen the elderly parents of one of the men in whose memory this little garden memorial is dedicated, sitting on a bench, gazing out over the water. She knows the story and knows that there is no cemetery for them to go to, as their son just never came home that day, like so many others...... like so many others, he vanished, like vapor into the air.
She hears the deep droning sound of the engines on the ferry as it makes its way across the bay and listens to the waves as they slap against the bulkhead. A light southwest wind whistles through the rigging of the sailboats docked nearby and she remembers what it was like to sail out onto the bay with her family. She always had mixed feeling about sailing with her father, who at times might rival Captain Bligh. Leaving from, and returning to, the dock was always a challenge, with orders begin bark at people who initially, had no freakin’ idea what they meant. After a couple of years of sailing, they all sort of got with the program and were able to do a half way decent job of knowing what to do. Recently she covered a sailing story for the newspaper she works for and decided that maybe next summer, she will think about treating herself to sailing lessons. It might be fun to relive that experience again, only with a more patient skipper this time.
She winds her way out onto the L- Dock, a place that has been in her life forever, the place where her brother once caught 40 blowfish. She wonders whatever happened to the blowfish; it seems that no one catches them anymore. Incredibly odd creatures they were. After being caught, they would puff themselves up like small balls in order to be more intimidating to others. She doubts that it ever worked as a defense mechanism against fishermen, but thinks that in the world of fish it might very well have been effective at keeping the larger ones at bay. It bothers her to know that now they’re gone. Just like the clammers that use dot the bay as far as the eye could see. When exactly did they disappear she wonders?
As she walks back up the dock she looks in the pails of water as she passes, seeing fish and crabs of varying sorts and sizes. She’s never been one for fishing and only likes the idea of it, but not the reality of it. Her way of fishing would consist of sitting on the dock with a fishing pole in her hand and gazing out over the water. It would not include baiting a hook, or even actually hoping to catch a fish. She would be hoping not to catch a fish and would just enjoy the scenery. It’s lovely out on the dock in the early evening and she finds it very relaxing to watch the stars as they start to appear gradually in the darkening night sky. She has difficulty *relaxing* these days as her mind tends to go into over-thinking mode quite easily. Sitting on the dock with an un-baited fishing pole, might just do the trick.
Up past the large French restaurant where a wedding is taking place and to Nancy’s Crab Shack she goes. Small and quaint with outdoor tables and a snack bar to sit at, Nancy’s is the place to be in the summer. The smell of grilled hot dogs and burgers mingled with the salt smell in the air is the scent of summer to her; a scent that on certain days in the winter when you stand on the porch with your eyes closed, you can almost still catch a whiff of. A guy with a guitar is playing for the diners and she chats with people that she knows as she walks on past. Nancy’s is the place to go to chat with all the people you know from your neighborhood that you don’t see anymore, because everyone is too busy to stop and enjoy their lives….but for a few minutes at Nancy’s they do.
Now on into the quieter parts of the neighborhoods, with the smells of the back yard grills cooking burgers, and the sounds of televisions and radios, cars and motorcycles, the ice cream man in his truck that now plays that annoying electronic music. She dislikes that electronic music and the way the tunes become stuck in her brain, to play over and over and over again. The jingling of the bells on the old ice cream trucks was so much less invasive to the mind. Softer and almost joyful she thinks. So what if the old fashioned style bells can only be heard from three blocks away. Children can hear the ice cream truck from wherever they are, so why not play something that does not irritate most of the population in a ten block radius.
She slows herself down now as she continues past the house that has a Gargoyle on the roof and the one that always flies the very interesting flags, many of which she has no idea of their meaning. Back in July that house flew the Union Jack right after the London subway and bus bombings. At the time, she thought about what a wonderful show of support that was. She wonders where these flags all come from and thinks about how she use to have a house that she flew flags from.
By now the fire flies are lighting up the air around her and she heads on past the house she use to live in, a house where the lawn and her beautiful flower beds have not been watered once during this very hot and dry summer. She thinks about how she would have been out there every day, watering the beautiful plants that use to live there. The fragrant miniature lilac bushes she had planted, the azalea that she bought 20 years ago in the grocery store and that survived all this time, until she moved away. The mass of black-eyed Susan’s, with yellow petals and brown centers, the purple cone daises and the large clematis, that over the course of the summer would have wound it’s way up past the dining room window, and in the late summer would be covered in small, fragrant white flowers that she could smell through the open window. She could have taken some of these things with her when she moved, but she just did not have the energy, or the heart, to do so. Now she is sorry as she mourns the loose of all these beautiful things that use to live in her garden. Now they are dry and brown and dead. It makes her sad to walk by there, but it’s not her house anymore. Maybe she’ll garden somewhere else one day, or maybe she’ll never garden again….who knows.
She finishes her walk at the house she now lives in. A place that she’s grateful to have, but cannot view as more than a place of transition. A place where she continues to stand in the hallway, with the door behind her closed and the door in front of her, not yet open. She hates standing in this hallway. How many moments, hours, days or years will she stand in this hallway she wonders, until the door in front of her finally opens so that she can walk through it….