By Barbara Anne Kirshner
“My only hesitation about visiting the exhibit hall on July 3rd to write the article on your motorcycle exhibit is that my dachshund Park’s birthday is that day. I know it must sound silly, but I don’t want to leave him at home on his birthday. He’s a perfect little gentleman when he travels, so could I possibly bring him with me?”
The cheerful voice of the curator replied, “I love dogs. I don’t mind at all. In fact, I think it’s sweet you don’t want to leave him home on his birthday. Anyway, we’re very dog friendly.”
I assured her, “We have a stroller that he loves, so he won’t be just walking around the exhibit hall.” “No problem. I’m looking forward to meeting him,” she responded cheerily.
We arrived at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational and Cultural Center, an impressive white colonial style building with black shutters anchoring Stony Brook Village, at the appointed time. We must have been a sight indeed with a long-haired dachshund in a stroller heading into the lobby.
A smiling woman with a bubbly voice met us. “Nice to meet you,” she extended her hand in greeting then looked in the stroller. “And this must be Park, the birthday boy.” Park’s head cocked to one side at the sound of his name. In addition to Park and his stroller, I was laden by my shoulder bag filled with writing pads and pens, my cell phone to record if necessary and my camera; all of which had to be juggled to accept the hand extended in greeting.
She led us into her office where I got a run-down of the fifty different bikes on display. Then she escorted us into the exhibition hall where a guided tour was provided.
As we strolled our way around each cycle with me snapping pictures and scribbling notes, the curator, a font of knowledge, filled in the historic facts connected to some of the cycles. My boy sat with his head leaning on the front bar of his stroller just taking in the sights and listening attentively to her explanations as if he understood and appreciated the information. I wrote feverishly trying to latch on to every word she spoke with back up of my cell phone recorder for anything missed.
Our tour lasted over two hours and at the end the curator marveled at how well-behaved Park was the entire time.
“Well, you must do something special for this very good boy,” she said.
“I intend to,” I agreed.
She suggested, “If you go back toward the main road, you will come to a fork, make the right, that will bring you up a hill toward the stores on the right and a big lawn, a park, on the left. He might enjoy the park.”
“Perfect,” I exclaimed. “Park does enjoy going to parks!”
We giggled at that, then Park and I took off in the direction of the lawn and quaint shops. We came upon a restaurant named Latitude 121 then but has since changed management and is now called Sweet Mama’s. This restaurant has an ice cream parlor in the front where Park and I stopped for a few scoops of vanilla. He licked the cup clean, then followed it up with a water chaser. Once satiated, we explored the great lawn fronting the Stony Brook Village shopping area.
An inviting bench seemed to call to us so we took up brief residence there. A slight breeze played with Park’s luxurious long ears as we sat immersed in this picturesque setting. In the distance, boats and kayaks glided leisurely over the tranquil waters of Long Island Sound. People on blankets or beach chairs dotted the lawn. Some passed by, smiled at my little man who seemed perfectly content to take in the summer day sitting by my side on that bench. A peacefulness embraced us. We were two friends who took a break from life’s hectic activity to cherish this moment in time on my boy’s birthday. We were happy, content, carefree, and undisturbed by the bustle of life.
A few weeks later, Park and I were back at Park’s bench, this time to celebrate my birthday. And every July 3rd and again on July 16th Park and I return to our Stony Brook bench that I nicknamed Park’s bench to celebrate our birthdays. We enjoy stepping out of our busy lives to luxuriate in the serenity of these pastoral surroundings.
Park is 14 years old now, but still healthy and strong. I don’t know how many future birthdays we will be blessed to share together, but even after he is no longer in this world, I will visit Park’s bench and give thanks for the times we spent here together. And I’m sure my boy will look down at me from his place in heaven and find some way to let me know he is still sitting next to me on Park’s bench.
Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of ‘Madison Weatherbee —The Different Dachshund.’