Sometimes images plant themselves on our brains, seeds taking hold, growing for a time, blooming, withering, and then going dormant again until the water or the sunlight or the right nutrients awaken them again, and they revisit in their glory.
For nearly 13 years, I lived on Long Island. There were so many things about Long Island that frustrated me… High taxes, the perpetual motion of activities in which every child MUST participate, gas prices, and that feeling when the temperatures were well below freezing and the wind hit your face so hard it would steal your breath.
But somewhere in me, I loved New York. I had roots in New York that burrowed deeper than 13 miserable years. The connection with Long Island is severed to the point that I don’t really even wish to visit, but the ties to upstate, to a lavender field and a strange trail through the woods that we hiked when I was a little kid, visiting grandparents who lived near Ft. Stanwix will skip through me for the rest of my life.
My grandparents and great-grandparents moved to Tampa when I was very young, so the memories must be from when I was about three years old. They are images, and fragrances, and textures, and very rarely, echoes of sound. If I open my mind, I can almost see the somber furniture of a living room lightly scented with lemon furniture polish, fascinating knick knacks begging grubby toddler fingers to explore. And explore we did. We dressed up in my mother’s scratchy ballet costumes and danced around like little fairies, rewarded with smiles and laughter and compliments from the seemingly ancient relatives who were probably younger than I am now.
The fields were a thing to remember… Stalks of flowers taller than my arms could reach, fuzzy bees softly buzzing, and that glorious smell.
My father, sister and I went on what seemed like a very long walk during that visit. I remember being carried on his shoulders for at least part of that walk, my legs too tired to move any more. At one point, we crossed railroad tracks. It seemed as though we crossed them, turned around and crossed the same tracks again and found ourselves in a different world. It’s funny how the mind works at that age… We walked into this world for a while before reversing the process and returning back to the more familiar territory.
Grandad (my great-grandfather) was a farmer. He not only grew amazing flowers, he grew vegetables. I can smell the damp of the basement where we sat, mixed with the fresh scent of peas that we pulled from their pods, with a stray pea here and there sneaking into my greedy little mouth.
There are other memories that remain… a pink and black bathroom with smooth, cool tiles… a room that had a hanging pool-table type “Budweiser” lamp, being in that room and playing with some sort of cards that had photographs of various animals… I could not yet read at the time, but I believe I was able to recognize some words.
There were kids who were visiting the next door neighbors, and I remember being left behind one afternoon while they were taken on a tractor ride. I may even have contrarily expressed a desire to remain behind, but I remember wishing I was with them.
I don’t recall when we last visited the area… sometime when I was still a kid. I visited my great aunt and uncle in Rome, New York, the summer before I started law school. I would like to go back and visit, preferably in the summer, because it was breathtakingly beautiful.
Just no snow, thank-you-very-much.