I am visiting my mother in Baldwin on the South Shore of Long Island. She still lives in the house we grew up in on Silver Lake Place. We are a short walk to the canals that were carved into the shore of the bay that separates Long Island from its southern barrier islands. Across the bay from Baldwin and Oceanside are the towns of Point Lookout, Lido Beach, and Long Island that face directly on to the Atlantic. Further east and across from Freeport next door to us is the barrier island that houses the state park of Jones Beach and Gilgo and Cedar Beach and Captree. Further east still, you cross over another bridge over to Robert Moses State Park on the eastern point of Fire Island. All these areas are the playground for my mom and me when we take our drives. We have special stops where we take out mom’s rollalator so that she can take a walk. We sit on a bench and watch the water, the boats, the birds, the people fishing. We get to sit outside in the sun or just in the fresh air with a breeze on a cloudy day. Outside time is good for all of us.
Yesterday my mother and I did a usual route of our, through Freeport and south on the Meadowbook Parkway to Jones Beach, about a fifteen minute drive. We continued on to Tobay Beach where we at lunch at the now upscale Tobay Seafood Shack on the bay side of the island. We chatted a bit. I have been showing my mom photos from my Southern Tier trip, a couple of days at a time. She knew all the characters and was eagerly waiting to find out what would happen next. The day before we had reached Austin in the photo show and so that led into the whole story of the traumatic ending to my trip, my early termination in Tallahassee. She like everyone else was appalled and shocked. She is my mother, and she knows my work and determination. Something wasn’t right, she said. Even incidents prior to my dismissal, my being 45 minutes late arriving in camp with the van and trailer (I did send text messages from the Walmart) and an emotional response to yet another accusal with mean-spirited words from one of the riders, did not warrant the firing I got. She is absolutely right, and so at the restaurant, she would ask me a question about the trip. But then we’d end up looking through the binoculars and the swimmers training for a triathlon and the birds at the water’s edge. There were laughing gulls and my big sighting, a black skimmer with a its long, partially orange beak. It would fly low to the water, dropping its lower beak into the saltwater attempting to skim some food to eat.
From Tobay, we ventured further east, first stopping at Oak Beach to see what its ocean side restaurant offered. In the evenings, that would be beer, mixed drinks, and beach volleyball. But there was also a kitchen with hamburgers, fish sandwiches and clam cakes. We put that on our list for another visit.
A beautiful bridge brought us over to Fire Island and Robert Moses Park. We parked at the end of parking field five pointing toward the ocean so my mother could look at the Atlantic and doze while I followed a boardwalk through beach dunes and grasses and marshes to the lighthouse. For the walk back, I chose the ocean and walked through the water that would run up from the waves. There is no question for me that ocean wins out over mountains and lakes. Maybe it is what you know first that tugs at your heart.
We had one more stop, the Captree Fishing Peer, where charter boats were lined up waiting for recreational fishermen to join them for the 6-9 evening fishing sail. We listened to the pre-fishing chatter of men hanging out by the boats they would soon embark on. My mother walked the length of the fashioning pier and then I walked out to
the pier that jets out into the water and fills with Asian Americans catching crabs. On our walk back to the car, a couple my age eyed the binoculars hanging around my neck and asked if I had seen anything good. They were birders, new to the sport but much more experienced that I am. I hadn’t seen anything but seagulls and charter fishing boats. Still that started a conversation and somehow I mentioned my bike trip and listening to the bird songs and then my mom walked up and before long she discovered that Tim had delivered newspaper growing up to the only people my mom knew who lived in the Oak Island just a bit west of where we were then. Tim and Dianna were as happy to talk with us as we were with them. And it all reminded me about how if you are in the right frame of mind, that there are kind, interesting people all around to meet and learn from.
On the way home, my mom remarked on how I got such pleasure from little things, from washing my bike in the morning and sorting through a box of papers to the small day trips we were getting and my delight at the light on the ocean and ordinary people we would meet. Getting pleasure from small things does make life more enjoyable. And really, are these really just small things, or are they all that makes up life.
By the time we got back to Silver Lake, it was almost 6:30 pm, and my mom remarked, “You are good for me, Carol.” Touching words for a daughter to hear.