When you get to the end of the Southern State Parkway, the last exit before the entrance to Heckscher State Park was ours. You can take that to the west to East Islip or to the east to Great River—that’s us. There’s a fork in the road heading east, the right fork remains Timber Point Road and ran back to the stables, and the left fork which was River Road. That’s us.
The first left is Leeside Drive, then the first left on Leeside is Church Road, and we were all the way around the curve at 142. It was a beautiful, shingled, two-story colonial on about an acre of grass but a significant amount of woods in the back left to satisfy a nine-year-old whose hobby was building forts when he wasn’t playing baseball with Steve and Todd or hiking along the Great South Bay and through the woods of Heckscher with Eddie.
Like it was yesterday.
I’d ride my bike out to the bay, and in the winter when no one was playing, I’d head up the golf course cart path to the holes along the water and sit on the high green looking out toward the east, and I’d daydream, or leave my bike near a sand trap and I’d walk along the water. Early on it would still be foggy and I could hear the foghorns out on the reach. I assume it is the same. I hope it is the same.
Later in the day I’d meet Eddie and we’d hike through the paths of the park through woods and marshland, often hopping from bog to bog, once finding the abandoned and broken down beach cabana house. We knew every inch of that place, every path, many of which we named so we could meet there—“Hey, let’s meet tomorrow at the Four Corners Creek.” Yes.
It is DNA or atmosphere? I wonder as I walk along the Rappahannock and the Chesapeake (and in days past, along the Allegheny, the Susquehanna, the Rillito….) if there was something in my blood that connected me to rivers and woods, or was it simply that’s where Mom and Dad moved so that’s what I did, and I find there some sense of familiarity.
It really doesn’t matter in the end; I’m good with it.
It’s hot today, upper nineties, and humid, 80 percent or more. I’ve given up on the lawn, and I’ve moved my vegetables into the shadier areas, no longer believing that “Six hours of direct sunlight” is the same today as it was fifty years ago when those instructions appeared on plant labels.
The heat, though, has never bothered me; I like the sweat and the heat on my neck and arms, and if I don’t have sun stripes where I wear my flip flops, I’m not outside enough.
But I never thanked my dad for making this possible. The greatest gift my parents ever gave me was proximity to water, to woods, to nature and the earthly ingredients which run through my system and keep me alive; keep me tethered enough to reality to not go crazy with the world as it is.