It’s the strangest thing. My Cutchogue neighbor had a little pre-Fourth of July picnic last weekend and three uninvited guests appeared. Now this is highly unusual for the North Fork. We’re generally aware of what’s proper and we live accordingly.
Anyway, the three men seemed polite, they were dressed well, if strangely, and they had about them an aura of kindness, concern, even other-worldliness. So Richie, my neighbor, welcomed them to the picnic.
Well, you should have seen the fuss that followed introductions. George, Ben and Tom shook hands with a dozen or so North Forkers, helped themselves to hot dogs and beer, and then sat at a picnic table and began to talk.
First, we asked the three how they managed to get to the North Fork. “Easy,” was the reply. George explained they came by horse. His horse, Old Nelson, was particularly reliable and Ben and Tom had good mounts, too.
Ben, the oldest, was much taken by the women at the picnic. Matter of fact, he secured his silly little spectacles on his pudgy little nose and seemed to concentrate on the ladies assembled. You’d think he’d never seen a woman in shorts before.
Actually, the trio said their visit to the North Fork was prompted by all of our Fourth of July celebrations. They’d read in Times/Review newspapers of the many parades, parties, fireworks displays and religious services from Riverhead to Orient, and George said they were delighted we remembered, we cared.
At that, I noticed several happy picnickers brushing away a few tears. Care? By George, we care. We care more than we can speak or write. Across the years we care in our hearts. Come, George, Ben and Tom. Come with us for an hour or so and see how the North Fork lives and cares. Then we’ll return to the picnic for some coffee and cake.
So into Richie’s car we went. Obviously this was all new to the three visitors and they were so excited. I do think, however, that Ben was more interested in how the engine worked than the speed at which we traveled. Actually, we moved along slowly. Richie is proud of the North Fork and he wanted our guests to understand our way of life. Understanding takes time. It always does.
“My goodness.” This from Ben as we drove west from Cutchogue. “It looks like a church but it’s a library.” Richie explained that’s what the Cutchogue library was originally — a church. And, added Richie, across the road from the library is Cutchogue Village Green. George asked, “Do you have a militia assembling there?” No, George, we don’t, but we have Revolutionary War reenactments, concerts, fairs. All good things.
Richie continued past a few vineyards. Tom, red hair blown wild now, wanted to stop. I think he recalled Monticello. How he loved farming and grape-growing. Perhaps the seeds he sowed in Virginia bore fruit in Philadelphia. On your knees with your hands holding earth, you begin to think. At least Tom did.
Richie continued driving, all the way to Riverhead and Tanger Outlets. I was a little uneasy about this. Would our guests think North Forkers were too caught up in buying and selling? I should not have worried. George, Ben and Tom were worldly men, of course. They knew and loved fine clothing, books, wine, music, international travel. But they’d put it all into perspective. Life and liberty first. Then the pursuit.
Back east now, passing farms, a police station, a town hall, more churches and schools. George talked of his visit to Greenport so many years ago. Interested in horses, he made note of the carousel. OK, so we stopped and went round in circles for a few minutes. It’s something Ben and George and Tom will talk about eternally.
Then on to Orient Beach State Park. We stood on the sand and looked about. Perhaps Ben thought of the years across those waters, years in England trying hard to avoid war. And George. Did he think of hostilities on the other end of this long island? Brooklyn and how the patriots escaped?
Tom had walked a few feet away from the group. Alone, thinking of what he’d written. A declaration of independence, yes, but more than that. A declaration of devotion, a declaration of love.
“Come on, guys, back in the car.” It was Richie who broke in on our reverie. And you know what? George and Ben and Tom were gone. We searched about the park but with no success. When we returned to Cutchogue we discovered the horses were gone, too.
But we knew we’d had no dream. Our three had other picnics, other places, to visit. They had given us a great gift and now they must travel on.
Let the fireworks begin.
Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.