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.
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.
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.