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Was sitting at the drive-thru at a local restaurant here in Marion, Moondoggies. The place, besides being an eatery, is close to being a museum of 1950s-1960s memorabilia. So, as I was staring at the old Texaco sign on the side of the building, I was also observing the steady stream of traffic going down the 5-lane. Got me reminiscing … once it was just a little road … I so very much miss those simpler times … where a trip to “the country” was just a few minutes away from the Tappan Zee bridge in NYC.
The pond.

Monroe, NY

I miss the old Red Apple Rest and the Motel on the Mountain. Bear Mountain Lodge. Funny thing. My Dad moved to the “quaint little town of Valley Stream” – yes, I received my copy of the newly released “History of Valley Stream” recently – to be in the country. And in fact, though our new “country” house was just one short block from the New York City line, there was, indeed, a farmer’s house right in our backyard. Maybe a half-acre was all he had left.

What happened to the country lanes, the smell of freshly cut clover hay? Where are all the drive-in movie theaters, the mom & pop country restaurants, and those lone motels that didn’t have a Holiday INN sign … just “air-conditioned,” “color TV,” & “pool” signs? “Yeah dad, let’s stop here!” What ever happened to the days when every country shop in the Adirondacks smelled – and looked – just like a Cracker Barrel. Diners. Woolworth’s & the Five and Dime with the wooden floors and unique odor. Soda fountains & candy stores.
Monroe, NY

the pond … another view

Which brings me to Monroe, NY …. I was probably between 4-8 years old when my family used to go there as part of our summer vacation. We would stay at a small, rustic motel on a bluff overlooking the road. A road much like I imagined used to be what the 5-lane in Marion once was. Sitting on that front porch watching the sporadic car go by was just one of life’s many small pleasures. I do have quite a few memories of those days – with my Mom & Dad, baby brother [literally], Aunt Tess & Uncle Joe, and my cousin, Robert [like my big brother] – but being so young they are sort of surreal to me now. Life was so much simpler & quieter back then. I wonder what Monroe is like today? One memory I have is of a rat being in our room and nibbling on my brother’s bottle nipple. I think my Mom felt it run across her shoulder as she slept. Nothing like a rat in your vacation suite. There was a miniature golf course up the road. A blast. That’s where I did most all the golfing I have ever done. Ice cream and golfing … putt-putt … My parents helped me create some great memories. We’d go down to the pond to sail the vessel across the mighty seas – my cousin & I. The vessel was a creaky old row-boat. The difference wasn’t noted in the day.


Some of the memories, though, were created solely in my ever-active mind — like the little “imaginary” glade that belonged to the gnomes. There was a small toad-stool home, moss, magic. It was emerald-green, a tiny, confined little area near the pond, I think it existed – somewhat, a secluded glen – but ever since, I have had a recurring dream about that mythical, secret home of non-existent creatures – ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. To this day. I still get “a thrill up my leg” when I dream of this “place”. Must have discovered something around that pond that triggered this memory … probably a tadpole pool. 🙂
Gnomes' Glade

in my imagination …

But the best … the memory, the one that just sticks with me … is that smell. Not sure what it was … sweet clover? – perhaps. There was a herd of sheep grazing out in a pasture across the road from our rinky-dink motel [few, if any, large chains were around then – it was all Mom & Pop]. Seems I could watch them in their peacefulness forever. And, I did. But it was really all about that smell. It just wafted through the air, across the road, and to my appreciative nostrils. I don’t think I have ever smelled anything better – not that I didn’t eat, at least. And yet, I still don’t know, for sure, what it was. Once in a while, as I am driving, I get a brief, passing whiff of that smell. Instantaneously, I am brought back to Monroe, NY, at that old motel, as safe & secure as a kid could be, smelling that sheep pasture. It is like a magical mist surrounds my brain and gently massages it with soft wisps of fingertips. It is bliss. And then it’s gone.

‘Twas a time when we looked at and absorbed the simple beauty around us … now? 12 inches or so in front of our nose is about as far as we really look. Everything, our whole world, is right there in the damn phone. I have always disliked the telephone. Must of had a sense it would come to this!! “Oh well, another day has begun … ” And they all seem so complicated now, too!
And, that reminds me – as I continue to ramble – I have a distinct memory of waking up on a sunny summer’s morning, hearing the song sparrows outside my open bedroom window, probably 10 years old, and saying out loud to myself, as I wiped the sandman from my eyes, that very thing, “Oh well, another day has begun!” Now, I get to wondering just how many are left. Where does the time go?
Monroe, NY

I don’t know where this is, exactly, might be a country club’s golf course, but it is in Monroe, and it reminds me of the view I had from the motel, where the sheep grazed.