Reader Antoinette Marie Maiorini lives in West Babylon.
My family moved to North Babylon in 1954. Deer Park Avenue was just two lanes and the long-familiar Sunset City shopping center didn't exist. That side of the avenue was covered in woods with noble cedars and other conifers that reached for the sun, creating a picturesque landscape.
Nearly every weekend, my cousins would travel from Brooklyn to enjoy a bit of "country." At first they thought we were crazy to live in "no man's land," but when summer came it was their favorite outing. Dad and Uncle Sam would pack the car with everything needed for a cookout. My mom and her sister, Katie, brought Italian meatballs and sausage for heroes, and hot dogs and hamburgers to be grilled. They never forgot the watermelon and fruit and drinks and, of course, the Italian pastry from the city. Our little entourage proceeded to Belmont Lake State Park for the day.
Breathing in the sweet summer air, the kids played games. Uncle Sam would rent a rowboat and paddle us across the lake. We would pretend to be Vikings and princesses and the day would seem endless. My cousins returned home with fresh air in their lungs and rosy cheeks. My sister and I had many sweet dreams when bedtime came.
As the years passed we entered North Babylon High School and a new world opened up. Parties and proms, school dances and football games kept us busy. In winter the whole gang would gather at Belmont Lake on crystal clear nights. I remember the warm fires and the hot chocolate that was sold to the freezing skaters. Bright stars hung in the sky and I secretly prayed the nights would never end. I was so shaky on my skates that after my friend Bill dragged me out to the middle of the lake, I held on to him so tightly I thought the both of us might fall through the ice. Life was simple then and we enjoyed these earthly pleasures that would someday become memories.
In the fall my mother and I would ride our bikes to the lake. It was wonderful to stand by the water and look out at the jeweled colors of all the trees. Yellows, oranges and reds filled the backdrop of the lake and looked like a painting. We did not have to travel upstate to enjoy beautiful scenery; it was right here in our own backyard. I would walk my little fox terrier there. It was a fine place for a young girl to dream.
In later years, concerts were held at Belmont, and in recent times, multicultural groups of people have joined our community picnic there as well. Adults from different backgrounds bring their children and the air is scented with heavenly ethnic delights such as curried rice, chili, tacos and pierogies. The grills are still fired up and children wait patiently for hot dogs and s'mores. Some things change, but some stay the same. Belmont Lake is still a lovely place to visit and families are still making memories for their children.