Authors Posts by Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief



By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Why are we Americans so fascinated by the British royal family? Well, surely not all of us are, but enough to make even the staid The New York Times write daily stories about Prince Harry and Meghan leading up to the release of Prince Harry’s book, “Spare,” this past Tuesday. On that day, the story went front page and continued on an entire broadsheet inside page. Just about every news outlet has covered the Prince Harry and Meghan Show.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have read each and every story in the New York Times. So I’m trying to figure out the appeal for myself and those who are similarly addicted. It’s not as if we would want to have a king or queen in the United States. Heaven forbid. So what, then?

Maybe it has to do, like most eccentricities, with our early childhoods. Shortly after I learned to read, I loved fairy tales about princes and princesses, wicked stepmothers and dragons. Thanks to the Brits, we have a replay of such stories for our adult lives. Well, sort of. It depends to whom one assigns the role of dragon. 

But in fairy tales, they live happily ever after. For us adults, the royals’ stories have a reality component. We know there is no such thing because we all have families. And families disappoint each other, fight with each other, malign and divorce each other and otherwise disgrace each other. But families don’t usually put their “dirty linen” out in public. Yet here is that gilded group, in theory living the best possible lives as kings and queens, princes and princesses, causing each other unbelievable grief. It’s a rom-com gone dystopic.

The other part of this drama is its permanence. Like the soap operas of old, the stories just keep unfolding as time progresses. Again, in my elementary school years, when I would come down with some infectious disease, my mom would prop me up with lots of pillows in my parents bed, and I would listen to the half-hour soaps on the radio. Sometimes my mother would come into the bedroom to listen to one of her favorites. (Incidentally, that was before television.)

She was totally hooked on “Our Gal Sunday,” whose preamble each day would ask the question, “Can this girl [named Sunday] from a little mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?” This may offer a clue to our captivation with the British Royals. In the case of Harry and Meghan, she, of course, is an American. While she doesn’t come from a little mining town in the West, she doesn’t have that as a strike against her, she is biracial, an actress and divorced. 

Divorced! Divorce prevented Wallis Simpson from becoming Queen. Divorced caused Princess Margaret to lose her true love, Peter Townsend. And although Diana and Charles were finally allowed to get divorced, that was only as a relief from the constant acrimony. 

As far as being an actress, Prince Philip, Harry’s grandfather, was quoted as having advised Prince Harry, “We don’t MARRY actresses.”

And what can we say about biracial? A glimpse into racial attitudes among the court was the recent kerfuffle involving Queen Elizabeth’s former lady-in-waiting, Susan Hussey, and her insistent questioning of a Black British guest at Buckingham Palace as to where her family came from. The implication was decidedly not Great Britain. Hussey was stripped of her duties and publicly apologized.

So the current situation with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who have chosen as their refuge the (usually) sunny shores of Southern California, has many threads of interest for Americans. And probably the real appeal of the current tribulations of the House of Windsor is its relief from the hard, very hard, news of our time: the war in Ukraine, the immigration mess at the southern border and the spread, denial not withstanding, of the coronavirus, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) germs.  

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Peace. That is what religions ask for, what billions of people across all nations pray for. Why in our family of humanity is that goal so elusive?

Perhaps this is a question only for theologians and  philosophers to answer. But now, in this glorious holiday season, when we speak and sing of Peace on Earth, we all articulate the ideal.

Many seek, and indeed can find inner peace. But the dream of peace, the kind of peace that is defined as lack of conflict and freedom from fear of violence between individuals and groups, has never been achieved. 

When will there be such peace?

The answer, it seems, is when all humans are of good will.

And what does that involve?

For starters, it requires acceptance and respect for the “other.” We need to see each other as humans with the same ambitions and desires and feelings. Rather than look down on and despise people who are simply different, we can be intrigued and interested in those differences and therefore in those who are different.

We can invite into our world those who are different from us in the way of skin color or appearance or beliefs. And if we can do so, we can see them as humans, just like us, and bigotry cannot exist. For we cannot look down on ourselves. If we are to do so, starting now, racism and antisemitism and every other sort of hatred of our neighbors disappears.

For there to be Peace on Earth, it must start with accepting the stranger, the “other” among us.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Just to add some excitement to my life, I had Mohs surgery this past week. Of course, it was not my idea. The dermatologist identified a spot on the side of my nose as possibly the beginning of a basal cell carcinoma, scraped it off and sent it for a biopsy. The report came back positive.

The next step in this situation was a visit to a Mohs surgeon, who specializes in removing the unwelcome cells.

So off I went.

Now typically there are three types of skin cancers: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. Mine was a basal, the least of the three and slowest growing. Nonetheless, it had to come off.

An appointment was made for the deed to be done. Now Mohs surgery, used first by Frederic E. Mohs in 1936,  is intended for areas totally visible, like the cheek or nose, where scars would be most undesirable. The skin with the troubled spot is cut away one layer at a time and then studied under a microscope. When a layer is found free of the cancer, the surgeon can stop removal. In that way, no more skin is cut away than is affected, minimizing the healing process and the scarring.

At the initial consult, I was told to come back at 8:30 a.m. last Monday and bring lunch and a book because there was no way to know in advance how deep the basal cells have penetrated and hence, how many layers may have to be removed.

“Plan to spend the whole day here,” the nurse instructed. “Of course you can leave as soon as the skin is cancer free.”

So I dutifully appeared at the appointed time, heart pounding, not knowing exactly what I was in for. For those facing Mohs surgery or will undergo the procedure in the future, here is what’s involved. And by the way, more and more people are developing various skin cancers because the skin is damaged by the sun, older people have had more time to be affected, and there are now more older residents in America than ever before. Thousands of baby boomers turn 65 every day.

Mohs surgery can be done in a hospital or a physician’s office. I was in an office. First, the nurse carefully and thoroughly wiped my face with antiseptic to prevent an infection. Pictures were taken to record the exact location of the spot. Then my upper body was draped, and the nurse injected pain killer in several locations on the nose and cheek, which each felt like a sharp but quick pinch.

When I was anesthetized, the physician entered, put on his surgical gloves, and the procedure began as Christmas music played softly in the background. It took less than five minutes to get the specimen for the lab. It takes about an hour for the slide to be inspected, using a special diagnostic machine.

I was then bandaged and sent out to wait. While I was waiting, I studied the others in the waiting room. Some had bandages on their ear or their cheek. One lady had a dressing on her scalp. A man had one on his neck. All were reading.

I also enjoyed the company of my son, who accompanied me throughout this experience, for it gave us an opportunity to chat and catch up on the latest. That was the silver lining.

In less than an hour, the nurse waved me back into the procedure room, and I swooped up my untouched lunch, my book and my coat and anxiously followed her.

“It’s all clear,” she said smiling. “No further cancer.”

“Hot dog!” I exclaimed, thereby giving both the young nurse and youngish doctor a laugh. Apparently, they were not familiar with that enthusiastic expression. I guess the current phrase would have been,


Then the surgeon took a thin slice of skin from elsewhere on my nose, and using this plastic surgery technique, covered the surgical site. The wound was next stitched up and covered with a pressure bandage that was to remain until the next day.

Happily we could leave. The task now is to keep the area clean and manage the ensuing pain until the healing is complete.

Until then, should we cross paths, I hope you won’t confuse me with your neighborhood raccoons. Or think that I was in a bar fight and got punched in the eye.

Jeopardy. Facebook photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

It’s not an addiction, exactly, but I do regularly watch “Jeopardy!” So do several of my friends and at least one son and daughter-in-law, who make sure they get home from work just as the television program begins. What is it, you might ask, that makes the program so alluring? There is no love interest, no spy adventure, no murder mystery, no serial episodes to coax one back each weeknight at 7 o’clock. 

Well, maybe there is that last aspect. There are three contestants nightly, for those unacquainted with the format, and each stands behind a podium, separated from the one alongside. Each person has a buzzer in hand, and they look at the answers to questions on a big board before them, just as the TV audience does, and as the moderator reads the answer. The first one to hit the buzzer after the moderator stops speaking then get to ask the question the answer poses. 

It’s questions and answers in reverse. The questions range across six categories, and of course, each contestant tries for answers in the category most familiar to them. Each answer is worth a certain amount of money, and once in a while, one contestant will respond to all five in a single subject. There is single Jeopardy or part one for the first half, and then Double Jeopardy, in which the answers are worth twice as much.

But there is more to the half-hour stint than just who-knows-more-about-what. There is also luck involved, because hidden among the answers on the board is a kind of Joker that enables the person, who unknowingly clicks on it and causes it to be revealed, to wager as much of their “earnings” in advance of what has to be answered next. There is also strategy that is required, the sort found in the card game, Poker. Each person needs a sense of the risk-taking tolerance of the opponents in order to determine how much to wager. Many games are won or lost during Final Jeopardy, on that last detail, alone. The winner is the one with the most money at the end and returns to play the following night until they lose.

Now back to the serial appeal. When one contestant wins repeatedly, that person will attract more than the usual interest. He or she, and it is almost always a “he,” will develop a fan club among the viewers, who cheer him on each night from their living rooms. He, of course, cannot hear them, but after an especially long run, that person may become nationally known. In addition to the substantial amount of money they may have earned, sometimes enough to fully fund retirement, there are all sorts of further opportunities for them, like endorsements and sponsorships.

So we tune in to see how our winner is doing with each new night of games, as we might gather around a roulette table with a persistent winner in a casino. But unlike a casino, there is the broad knowledge of trivia required to play competitively, and that makes for fun in our living rooms. We call out the answers along with the actual contestants, and we become contestants, too, among our group. When one of us has the right answer, the other or others offer congratulations. Most satisfying is when one of us knows the last question at Final Jeopardy, and none of the three on stage does.

That calls for a high-five and a “Wahoo!”

“Jeopardy!” was invented by the game show king, Merv Griffin, and premiered in 1964. It had a successful daytime run until 1975, hosted by Art Flemming and running on NBC, until it was deemed no longer of interest. The series was then picked up in 1984 by CBS and hosted by Alex Trebek, and has been on the air five times a week since then. Currently, Ken Jennings has replaced the late Trebek. It airs in various international versions in more than 25 countries.

I confess to being a member of the “Jeopardy!” cult.

Pumpkin Pie. METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Here comes my favorite weekend of the year: Thanksgiving. It starts on a Thursday, as all good weekends should. We, the Dunaief Clan, have managed to extend it into three, even four days. We deserve no less. Like many American families, our immediate members are stretched across the entire continent, from the California coast to the middle of Suffolk County on Long Island, and from below the Mason-Dixon Line and the Florida Peninsula to the Gulf of Mexico. They need that much time just to get to Grandma’s house and back.

What’s waiting for them when they arrive? Food! All kinds of favorite foods. And love. Lots of love that bridges three generations with mighty hugs. Why, it even takes a good part of that long weekend before all the members of the family finish hugging each other, at which point we sit down to eat. We get back up some hours later, only to regroup for the next meal. We know we are among the fortunate in that regard and give thanks.

Food means so many different things. There are the traditional historic dishes that symbolize the meal eaten by the Pilgrims. But we have added so much more to the basics. And each person has a favorite that tickles them when they look at the offerings on the laden table and know it was prepared especially for them. Food is love, and special foods carry that message.

It still amazes me to be surrounded by the many members of my tribe. Almost 60 years ago, before I was married, there was just me. Then, three months later, there were the two of us, my husband and I. Now there are children and children-in-law, and their children and eventually, their children-in-law. Together we populate the dining room and fill the house with chatter and laughter.

One of the high points of the weekend follows Thanksgiving dinner, when we are still sitting around the table, digesting sufficiently until we can have dessert, and we tell each other what we are most thankful for that occurred in the past year. In that way, I get to catch up on some of the events in my loved ones’ lives, and they on mine.

Speaking of dessert, the pumpkin pies will be an issue this year. For all the Thanksgivings we have celebrated here, 53 to be exact, we have enjoyed the classic finale from The Good Steer. Their pies pleased all our taste buds, from my children to my parents, who would join us from the city during those early years. Alas, The Good Steer on Middle Country Road in Lake Grove is no more, the family having closed the business. 

So, faced with this significant void, I have done some research and have come up with replacements. Whether they will be acceptable remains a sensitive question. I’ve had a number of friends offer suggestions, and I thank them kindly because they understand how important it is to find an alternative source. After all, no two differently-made pumpkin pies taste the same. The result here hangs in the balance until Thursday eve. Keep your fingers crossed for me, as my reputation as the Best Thanksgiving Grandma depends on this important outcome.

Actually I have a monopoly on the title. Thanksgiving is always celebrated at our house. My in-law children know and accept that arrangement because I trade Thanksgiving for Christmas. That seems to work for everyone in the family.

This year, we have a special event to celebrate. My oldest grandson has asked the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with to marry him, and she has accepted. We will welcome her enthusiastically, and I will give thanks for the blessing of seeing our family continue to grow.

Wishing you all, Dear Readers, a Happy Thanksgiving with the foods you enjoy and the people you love, whether they be relatives or close friends or perhaps those you recently met and have chosen to share this celebratory meal. 

On this day, we are reminded that we are all Americans together.

The 2019 People of the Year event at the Three Village Inn. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Thanksgiving is almost here, and many of us are bustling about, packing for a distant visit with loved ones or making sure the house is in good shape to receive those traveling to us. For most Americans, it is our favorite holiday, defined by turkey and the trimmings. What could be bad about an eating holiday? The only skunk at the party is abandoned overeating, and most of us, wise from unfortunate past experience, try to avoid that.

The other thing that makes Thanksgiving special is the conscious awareness, again by most of us, of how much we have to be grateful for, including the community in which we live. It takes exceptional people to make a strong community, some of them leaders of organizations, others simply caring neighbors who go out of their way to help when help is needed.

In recognition of the many who enhance the quality of our lives, we publish a Thank You edition of the newspaper and website on the Thursday between Christmas and New Year’s. We call that issue, “People of the Year,” and we solicit suggestions for profiles from our staff, community leaders and especially from readers. 

We have been doing this for 47 years, since we started publishing, and we still haven’t run out of winners. In fact, the more we meet, the larger the circle grows. [Confession in the spirit of full disclosure: I used to worry that we would indeed run out of nominees.] Sometimes we get lots of suggestions for the same person. We’ve even had readers bring in petitions with many signatures to help us choose whom to profile.

Ultimately the TBR Editorial Board makes the final decisions, so if you disagree with any of the choices, blame us.

When we published only one newspaper, selection was fairly easy. As our editions grew, we produced a different slate for each. Recently, however, we have realized that what happens in Stony Brook can also affect Northport and vice versa, so we now publish a master list of sorts honoring those who have gone the extra mile on behalf of our communities. And by so doing, we have eased the strain on our COVID-reduced staff.

The purpose of the profiles, in addition to offering these terrific people our thanks, is also to give them a spotlight to help them with their work, which is usually ongoing. With that goal in mind, we refrain from writing in this issue about those who have retired or are deceased. However, those stories, along with many we couldn’t fit in, may become features in future additions.

We have tried, each year, to keep their selection a secret from the winners. They seem to enjoy opening the paper in print or on the web and finding themselves and their efforts acknowledged. Of course, it’s fun to be appreciated, then with the additional kick of it being a surprise. 

Until the year 2020, we invited the People of the Year to supper at the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook, generally on a late Sunday afternoon in March. At that venue, we gave each recipient a framed certificate, spoke for a minute about why they were selected, then gave them the mic to elaborate on their work.

Many of the past awardees also attended each year. Based on how long the residents lingered over dessert after the last certificate was announced, we concluded that there was a lot of cross pollination among them, further strengthening our communities and their interactions. 

We stopped those suppers with the advent of the coronavirus, fearing the possibility of a super spreader event. With each passing year, we hope to restore that tradition. It was delightful for us and, we believe, helpful for the community.

So we will wait to see what happens in 2023 and if we can resume partying. We all hope for the start of an After Times.

Alarm clock concept

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

You wouldn’t know, of course, dear reader, but I almost always write this column each week at the last minute. Why? I could say it is to get in the latest news, or that I am so busy I can’t write it sooner, but that’s not the truth. The reason is that I am an incorrigible procrastinator. And even when I do write ahead of time and submit the column early, I feel so virtuous, and I want to extend that good feeling as long as I can, which causes me to procrastinate writing the next column until the last minute.

What’s more, I believe most people, and especially most journalists, are closet procrastinators, and that part of the appeal of journalism is the ever-present deadlines, without which we would do nothing but be sloths.

It’s much easier to be lazy. I like to sit on the back deck and just stare out at the trees and think. Perhaps that’s meditating, which would put a respectable spin on it, but it’s more just peacefully enjoying my thoughts and my ease. A deadline, however, does move me.

A recent TED talk, that my oldest son emailed me, confirmed my belief about the existence of multitudes of procrastinators. Tim Urban, a writer and blogger, is also a funny man when he offers a look “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator,” as the subject of his talk. He maintains that we have a rational decision-maker in our brains, who knows when we should get started on a project or chore, and also an instant gratification monkey, who overrides the rational decision-maker in favor of doing things that are easy and fun. There is, according to Urban, a third being we carry in our heads that is a kind of guardian angel. That one is the panic monster, the only being the instant gratification monkey is terrified of. The panic monster, after putting the whole system in chaos by arriving on the scene, successfully motivates us procrastinators to do what we need to do before the deadline.

So what do I do when I am heeding the instant gratification monkey?

I do all sorts of vitally important things, like cleaning out the pantry on my way to the computer keyboard. Of course, by the time I have finished, it’s time to start making dinner or going to bed. You can believe I have a neatly arranged pantry.

The New York Times print version is impossible for me to ignore, and it’s a perfect procrastinator’s tool. No matter how much of the daily issue I have read, there is always more to read, all of it equally important, of course. I carefully read the obits of people I have never heard of, and whose names I will shortly forget, but their lives must have great meaning for me right now.

Then there is the call of the wild from the kitchen refrigerator. I must be hungry, and surely there is something in there that I need to eat at this moment. If the frig fails me, I can resort to the organized pantry alongside.

We all need fresh air, especially if we are about to do something that requires some cognitive effort, so we should probably take a walk before we sit down to create. And after the walk, we need a bit of a rest, say a 20-minute power nap. And who was that we were supposed to call back? We should do it right now, before we forget.

Hey, we can’t begin working yet. “Jeopardy!” is on shortly. We’ll start immediately after the final question. That is, if we are not too tired. If we are too tired, we can always write that next column in the morning, before we go to press.

And that is how, after more than 46-and-one-half years of writing a column, I still do so at the last minute. The fault must be in my DNA. I’ll blame it on my mom. 

METRO photo

This is a rerun of last year’s explanation, updated for the current elections. 

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Inside this issue is a treasure trove of first-hand information about the candidates and the issues in the coming election. How do I know? Because we, the different members of the editorial board of Times Beacon Record Newspapers, personally interviewed people running for office across the three towns that we serve: Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington. The offices the candidates are running for are all local except for Congress, which means that these are the officials who will have the most direct effect on our lives. 

The positions range this year from county  comptroller and county clerk to state senators, and assembly men and women and Congress.

We asked them questions without bias, seeking only to understand who they were, what they believed and what we could expect from each of them, should they be elected — or re-elected, as the case might be. The setting in our conference room was relaxed, and we hoped comfortable, with opponents for each office seated together around the table responding to questions put to them by our editors and reporters. 

Sometimes there was only one candidate who  might be running unopposed or against a shadow opponent, but mostly there were two during each session. Most of the time, the hour went by calmly, but occasionally the opponents get testy with each other — they may even become openly hostile.

METRO photo

At one such session some years ago, one of the candidates invited the other out to the back parking lot “to settle things.” When the other began to take off his jacket, we quickly intervened. But there were no such flare-ups this year. 

The answers were timed in an attempt to get to the main ideas without running on too long. There was ample time at the end for each visitor to tell us anything more that perhaps we hadn’t elicited with our questioning. 

We discussed the candidates at the end of each hour and came to a conclusion for the endorsement. 

We have written up the details of each interview in a separate article for the election section. Most of the time, the editorial group was unanimous because the choices were fairly direct. But for a couple of races, we talked over the pros and cons of each candidate at length before making the selection. These endorsements are based on both the in-depth interviews and the considerable information we know about the incumbents since we have been covering them closely throughout their terms in office. Of course, after reading the stories, you may or may not agree with our conclusions. Our job is to get you thinking.

The many hours that are given to this task, throughout the month of October, are a service for our readers. We are privileged to enjoy an extended face-to-face time with those standing for election, and we feel an obligation to pass along whatever information, facts and impressions we gather during these sessions. We sincerely hope we help in the sometimes-difficult job of casting a responsible vote.

Each year we include in the election section a sample ballot that we are able to procure from the Suffolk County Board of Elections because readers have told us that it is a great advantage for them to receive the ballot at the voting poll already knowing how it is laid out.

Our editorial board is made up of staffers with different political leanings, but when we put our journalists’ hats on, we try to judge each race strictly on the merits of the opposing candidates. And while it is technically possible for me to be tyrannical about the final selections, that is almost never the case. We decide by majority rule.

Sincere thanks to the talented staff who join in this extra work each year. We truly believe that we are watchdogs for the people, and nowhere is that more necessary than in reporting about government and its office holders. We hope we have helped you, whether you read by newspaper and/or online. Now please vote. 

Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo by Gene Sprouse

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Last week I wrote about the pleasure of getting away, even for a day, and enjoying the foliage season in lower New England. This time I want to wax rhapsodic (well, in a manner of speaking) about the special places we love here in the neighborhood. 

Do you have such a special place? By which, I mean a place you go when you want to enjoy the beauty of the area, where you can sit and relax and let concerns just melt away for a few minutes. Or where you can go to think out troubles peacefully, deciding what to do next. Or maybe, you just want a bucolic walk.

One such location for me is the Frank Melville Memorial Park, not far from 25A and my office in Setauket, but nicely hidden from view. Opened in 1937 as a memorial to Frank Melville Jr., it was the brainchild of his wife, Jennie MacConnell Melville, and his son, Ward Melville. While it is privately owned, the park is open for the pleasure of the public every day from sunrise to sunset.

So who was Frank Melville, you might ask, and how did it happen that a park is dedicated to him?

Frank Melville Jr. started by selling shoes to the residents from his sailboat on a fixed schedule, as he and his family of wife and small children circumnavigated Long Island. Eventually, he founded the Thom McAn brand with J. Franklin McElwain, a New Hampshire shoe manufacturer, exactly one hundred years ago. Their first retail shoe store in New York, selling a few simple styles at a low fixed price, then expanded to hundreds of stores across the US, becoming the largest footwear retailer in the country with 1400 stores. The brand name was eventually bought by Sears 86 years later. 

As they grew wealthy, the Melvilles, who lived in Manhattan, bought a second home for themselves in Old Field, and became increasingly philanthropic, donating local land for community benefit, including what is now the campus for Stony Brook University. And it was Ward Melville, who visualized and created Stony Brook Village in 1941, the first outdoor mall in the country, and to this day, a fun daytime destination.

When I walk through the park, which surrounds the duck pond with leafy and varied greenery now changing colors, I marvel at the generosity and vision of the Melville family in fashioning such a jewel for anyone who wishes to enjoy its paved path, picture postcard views and many benches. It is such a place of respite for those of us who work just around the corner and those who come with their dogs from farther away. 

Dogs are welcome, as long as their owners pick up after them. We sat on one of the benches last Saturday and called out, “Hello, Dog,” to the various pooches as they walked by with their owners. The dogs immediately veered over for a pat, and sometimes the owners lingered for a chat. 

It was quite a social affair on a beautiful fall afternoon for dogs and people.

One of the people we met as we strolled along was Anita Lago, an energetic woman from Stony Brook who discovered the pond and the park eight years ago and has been coming over to enjoy the swans regularly since then. When she was found cleaning out the stray fishing lines and other detritus that might enmesh the fowl, she was offered a pail and a rake by the foundation that oversees the park and invited to be official. And so, she can be found at water’s edge, when she is not at her full-time job, a hard-working volunteer helping to keep the pond clean and the swans and other fowl safe.

The Frank Melville Memorial Park is supported by donations from a grateful public. It’s that kind of place, one that brings out the best in all of us as it gifts to us all year round.

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

It was time to get away, even for a day, and when better than on foliage weekend! So Saturday, we took the ferry to Connecticut and started up Route 8 to get to the Berkshires and the seasonal colors. Were we too late in the fall? Shortly after we left Bridgeport, our choice of time and place were confirmed. It was a perfect autumn day, sunny, bright, soft breeze, balmy even, and the colors burst upon us, the reds, oranges, yellows mixed with a still significant amount of green as we began to drive through the hills. No, we were not too late.

We had been concerned, too, about the effects of the summer’s drought on the leaves. We needn’t have worried. Perhaps, it wasn’t the most dramatic foliage we had ever witnessed, some trees were already bare, but it was brilliant enough to excite our eyes. We whooped around every bend in the road that presented us with a new palette of hills and color. 

The timing of foliage season has altered somewhat over the past few years. Climate change has impacted peak leaf peeping by extending the warmer weather that keeps trees green. Hence the optimal viewing time has also been delayed. This year, according to records, seems like it will clock in as the fifth warmest. So it turned out that our urge for an outing was right on.

Where to go?

The Store

While it was possible just to drive slowly, drinking in the scenery, it was also fun to have a destination in mind. We left the highway, or rather it left us as it ended in Winsted, incidentally, my dad’s birthplace, and we started on a local road that eventually led us to Southfield, the home of a long-ago college roommate with whom we had lost contact. She, and her family, as we discovered, no longer lived there, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the tiny town. Yes, it was one of those “blink and you will miss it” villages, but we didn’t blink. We parked and had lunch at The Store, a delightful coffee, pastry and sandwich shop with tables inside as well as out front. Happily installed in one corner of the patio with a turkey and avocado sandwich and a generous slice of chocolate-banana bread, to be washed down with ambrosial coffee, we chatted up the couple at the adjoining table, who were smiling at us.

In fact, it was the kind of day that prompted everyone to smile. There we were, amid glorious leafage, basking in ideal temperature and bright sunlight in the peaceful countryside. They told us their names, Paul and Julia, and that they were from Westchester County and celebrating their anniversary. For the first time, they were at leisure to do that because their two children, a son and a daughter, were at college. She was a psychologist, he worked in finance, and they had left their responsibilities behind to stay at the historic inn in the next village for the weekend.

They were fun to talk to, as was every other person who went by, walking their dogs. We asked each one if they knew the roommate’s family, but just about each one apologized and explained that they had only moved there 20 years ago. What a coincidence, we thought. They had all come more or less at the same time. It wasn’t until the next day that we realized what had happened those two decades ago: 9/11 happened. If one wanted to escape from a city to a safe and bucolic place, here was one such location. Perhaps that was what brought them there.

We stayed in the area, driving around, enjoying the typical New England white clapboard church with its distinctive steeple, the inn and the village common along with glorious Nature. Then, as night fell, we had dinner at the inn before returning home.

The next day, I felt as if I had been aired out.