anne_mikolay_120There's something about autumn that triggers nostalgia. Perhaps it's the vibrant, colorful leaves, or the scent of a fresh October morning. I don't really know the reason, but fall reminds me of the little girl I used to be. How I loved to watch the sycamores shed their leaves, and relished the crunch-crunch as I ran through piles of raked cast-offs! On a crisp autumn evening, I warmed to the scent of wood burning in a neighbor's fireplace, and took comfort in the soft glow of lights inside the old colonial homes on my street.

I remembered all this yesterday as I spent a lazy afternoon at Sandy Hook. The foliage was beautiful; the paths were lined with red and brown crunchy leaves. Families were out and about, enjoying the warm temperatures, taking photographs, riding bicycles. A trio of little bicyclists reminded me of how much I loved riding my bike when I was young.

Ah, my bike, my cherished childhood possession! Back in the sixties, my dad bought it for me from Strauss Stores on Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island. I could hardly contain my excitement as we walked there together from our home. I had seen the bike in the store window, and couldn't wait to get my hands on the hot pink stingray. It was a pricey, trendy item back then; I couldn't believe my good fortune!

I spent a lot of hours, a lot of years, riding around on my stingray. It had a slim, white, vinyl seat that I  cleaned with Windex whenever a spec of dirt appeared. I used the backyard hose to wash my bike, carefully aiming the spray away from the wicker basket suspended from the handlebars. The handlebars had pink and white streamers that flapped in the wind as I picked up speed.

I miss my stingray. I'm way too big to ride it now, but I wish I had it still. I wish I had a lot of things from my childhood. I wish I could once again watch the greenery of the sycamores fade into orange and red and yellow; wish I could tumble in the leaves. Wish I could play outside till the sun set, then eat a hardy dinner prepared by my Mom (oh, the mashed potatoes!), watch the Brady Bunch, and go to bed without a care in the world. Life was very, very good back then.

Yes, autumn stirs nostalgia, and a little bit of remorse in me...for a place, and a family, that in my youth I didn't fully appreciate, and a time that has been swept away as quickly as the leaves in the autumn wind.