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Essay: Proud to show off our Long Island to visitors

The beach at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve,

The beach at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve, one of the gems Ellen Cooke showed her in-laws on their recent visit. Credit: Ellen Cooke

My in-laws, Joe and Nora Cooke, recently came down from Buffalo to Long Island for the first time in about 35 years, and I was eager to show them around.

Seeing Long Island through their fresh eyes renewed my love for my lifelong home. And it gave me a fresh perspective of the beauty all around us as we explored parks, beaches, villages and restaurants — or just sat and listened to the birds and watched a bunny hop around my backyard in East Northport as we enjoyed coffee, bagels (of course) and the local paper.

Helped by picture-perfect weather on Memorial Day weekend, our special get-together was ideal in its simplicity.

We walked along the ocean shore of Robert Moses State Park at dusk on a Friday. Nora collected shells and rocks. It was the first time I’d been at the beach when there were only a handful of people as far as the eye could see, and just one other car in the parking lot. It was us, the waves and the seagulls — perfect!

Wanting to show them the diversity of our shorelines, the next day we walked for miles along trails and woods to get to the tranquil Long Island Sound at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve in Lloyd Harbor. We enjoyed the expansive view of the water and sailboats from the mansion on the hill; looked across cloudless, clear-blue skies to Connecticut; and marveled together at the contrast between Long Island’s sandy South Shore and its rocky North.

In Huntington village, juicy burgers, local beers, sweet potato fries, and Ben and Jerry’s salted caramel ice cream ensured we’d be doing plenty more walking to burn it all off.

Everywhere we went that holiday weekend seemed magical and new. I looked at places I’d taken for granted with childlike wonder.

Nora and I watched a bald eagle swoop across Centerport Harbor to its nearby nest. Turtles clambered up and down the banks of the pond at Huntington’s Heckscher Park. Different-colored chickens roamed around a Northport home’s side yard (one even crossed the road, though the owner didn’t know why).

On our strolls, I pointed out favorite spots, like a home that has a horse corral in East Northport, and Nora expressed surprise that Long Island could be so hilly, woodsy and “New Englandy.” Every step was a sort of rediscovery of why I love living here.

I realized, too, that Long Island cuisine, besides fresh-caught seafood, is pretty worldly. We ate at an Indian buffet and a Japanese sushi bar — and considered local Mexican, Greek and Thai alternatives.

Being pretty tireless walkers, Nora and I clocked nearly 30 miles on my old-school pedometer over the three days. And we did it all over the terrain I’m so happy, proud and lucky to call home. I’m grateful to my upstate relatives for reminding me to appreciate the simple beauty of my Long Island home!

 Reader Ellen Cooke lives in East Northport.

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