Column: Heading out on a Santa map quest

I’ve got this Christmas theory that’s been bothering me since I moved to the North Fork back in the last century. Actually, the theory took shape as I drove about, a stranger to the area, eager to know the roads, the creeks, the farms, the people.

Though I’ve yet to find proof, my theory is this: Many North Fork street names were chosen by Santa Claus with a little help from Santa’s reindeer. It was a matter of necessity. December nights on the North Fork are long and dark. Starry, starry skies alone could not light Santa’s gift-giving path, so streets were given Christmas names by Santa and his pals. Forever, then, would Santa find his way to the warmth of North Fork homes.

I believe Santa began his street-naming sojourn in Riverhead. Yes, right there on Claus Avenue. I can see it now. Santa’s sled slowing, then descending from the skies. Riverhead, snow-covered, with few lights, no traffic circles, scattered homes, awaiting Santa’s visit. Then Santa’s sled resting near the joining of Osborn Avenue and West Main Street. Claus Avenue was born on Christmas Eve, so many eves ago.

Now Santa is known as jovial, industrious, kind — all good things, really. I say he is also a grateful man. How else to explain this next Christmas street? Santa knew he owed his successful journey to the eight bell-decked reindeer pulling his heavy sled: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen (later, much later, came Rudolph). And so Santa, still in Riverhead, named his next stop Eight Bells Road. Really. Way up near Roanoke Landing.

I visited Eight Bells Road, hoping to hear the bells. I did not. Disappointed, I drove home. And then I was consoled. Perhaps, I thought, the eight bells are heard only on Christmas Eve. Or, even more likely, they are heard only by small children.

I knew what I would do. Someday soon I would walk Eight Bells Road with little Charlotte Safarik. Born just a few weeks ago, the first child of my nephew and his wife, Charlotte will smile and extend her tiny hands to the skies above Eight Bells Road. I will know what she has heard and it will be Christmas.

Before Santa left Riverhead, he visited and named Holly Tree Lane and Holly Berry Court. Even Cranberry Street. Those berries, so pretty and delicious, especially when served with the Christmas goose. As in Goose Creek Lane out in Southold. Also in Southold is Bow Road. Do Santa’s elves tie all the bows on Santa’s gifts? I wonder.

Backtrack a minute to Cutchogue. Visit Antler Lane, south of Main Road, near East Creek. I admit to learning late in life that reindeer are the only deer whose males and females both have antlers. But once again I was disappointed. I saw no reindeer on Antler Road. However, I live on the other side of East Creek and I’m going to keep careful watch to see if reindeer really do fly.

Now head north in Southold, almost to Long Island Sound, and you’ll come upon Chestnut Road. It was here I realized Santa must have had a good time singing a duet with Nat King Cole. On Chestnut Road I saw no chestnuts roasting on an open fire or North Forkers dressed up as Eskimos. But I did feel Jack Frost nipping at my nose. Surely “The Christmas Song” originated here in the heart of the North Fork. On Chestnut Road live kids from 1 to 92, saying many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you.

Santa and the reindeer just knew no winter wanderer would travel Greenport’s Moore’s Lane without thinking “ ’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house … ” I’m sure Santa knew the author of that beloved poem. Matter of fact, I think Santa and Clement Moore were good friends. Why wouldn’t Santa name a street for him?

If all this activity has made you hungry, may I suggest heading to Orient Point for a Christmas dessert on Plum Island Lane. Santa knew everyone likes plum pudding, especially Tiny Tim’s daddy, Bob Cratchit. Santa saw Bob Cratchit was a man who knew how to keep Christmas in his heart.

Santa’s journey, like all life journeys, came to an end. From Orient Point he headed back to Riverhead, where he had begun his North Fork visit. One last stop. A stop to express thanks and to ask for guidance home to the North Pole. Just north of what is now Peconic Bay Medical Center, Santa and the reindeer paused and prayed. On a Riverhead road they named Amen Corner.
So be it.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.