One look at this photo, and memories of what brought my father Frank joy smack me in the back of the head.
Yeah, sometimes he’d do that, too, figuratively, with just one of his parental death stares.
But not when we were tooling around the village of Stony Brook.
Our father was proud of this last stop in our family climb up the Greater New York ladder of socioeconomic progress.
Brooklyn was old school family. There was church, there were stores, there were both sets of grandparents. Life as Frank always knew it greeted him on ever street corner. But the apartment was restricting and up too many stairs for a little kid. The work company had moved from Manhattan, east to Long Island.
Levittown was a first-house escape and a new world. There were new friends, parties to play Yahtzee, barbecue burgers and drink Manhattans, a big park adjoining the backyard for my sandlot exploits. But the rooms were tiny, there was no heat in my upstairs bedroom, and his two little daughters had to share one room.
Stony Brook, ah, Stony Brook. Our next door neighbor, dear Alex Lewicki, was my dad’s guru at work. The school district was one of the best on Long Island. Four bedrooms. Somehow, the girls and the parents still decided they’d share one of them, upstairs across from the master, while I got one by myself on the first floor, with a “den/guest bedroom” next to it.
And there was the village of Stony Brook.
Our father loved driving us the couple of miles to the north shore of Long Island to walk around the quaint village.
Above, we are pictured at the duck pond. Mom Dolores — I figure she’s the one who snapped the picture — would save the old bread and rolls so we all could feed the ducks. I would skim flat stones. We’d poke around that old Grist Mill and think about what old grist mills used to do in the history of Long Island.
Just up the road was village access to the water.
The spot at the shore of the Long Island Sound had a concrete dock that stretched hundreds of yards. All of us would bring fishing poles and cast our lines down below. We’d lure flounder. Bluefish. Snappers. Fluke. So many fish to go in the bucket to bring home. My parents loved eating that freshly caught fish for dinner. Me, not so much. I didn’t even like taking them off the hook.
Down the grade was the rocky sand. I did not like to walk on the stones barefoot. Braver souls swam here. But my preferred swimming spot was another couple of miles up the road, in Old Field. At West Meadow Beach, they’d brought in sand.
But it was always the village of Stony Brook itself that had my dad’s heart. A heavy metal, motorized eagle adorned the post office store front. On the hour, it would flap its wings.
Frank loved watching those moments. I think it marked the ascent in his life.
Have you come across old pictures that make memories flood back about that time in your family life? Where do you think your parents liked living the most?