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It's a funny thing, life on an island. To get anywhere off it, you have to go over a bridge, through a tunnel or float away on the ferry. Here, it will most likely get you to another island. This part of New York is full of islands large and small. You can get on to the continental US by taking the Throgs Neck bridge over to the Bronx. Nobody is going to the Bronx, no, they go straight through the Bronx. My Island, how do you relay what it is to someone who doesn't live here? Well, I have already had to explain it and show it to people who do live here. For several years, I taught a class called "Long Island's Natural Environment." It was an elective. I was floored by how little they knew about where they live.
On the first day of class, I would hang my map of our homeland across the blackboard. I had to get the map from the tourist center on the parkway because when I asked my boss for a real map of here, he told me I teach science, not geography. I tell them this is Brooklyn, this is Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties. Then it starts. "Brooklyn and Queens are not on Long Island," they scream. "Brooklyn is much bigger than that," they say. Ugh! Well, where do you think they are?" I ask inquisitively. "They're in the city!" they reply. I started taking them places all over the Island. The bogs, of course, the Dwarf Pine Barrens where the trees don't reach five feet. The Oak Brush Plains, the Coastal Plain Pond Shores, the tidal pools at the beach. I told them about the glacier that pushed this land into existence. I explain about why and how spring starts in Brooklyn and arrives at Montauk point last, and how summer leaves the Hamptons last and Brooklyn first. The fact that their water, as it flows from the tap is 10,000 years old, filtered through the natural aquifer that flips it out. Long Island is so many things. There are only three Dwarf Pine Barrens in the world, and we have one. There are only two places in the world to see Coastal Plain Pond Shores, here, and in Siberia. We are a migratory bird corridor, free of poisonous snakes, and we have mink, raccoons, deer, and many other small creatures. We have two golf courses that have hosted the US Open. The black course at Bethpage State Park is the fourth most difficult in the world, thanks to the glacial moraine it's built on. We have wineries, too.
But this place I call home is so much more. My family has lived in this town on Nassau County"s south shore for nearly 100 years. When we lived upstate my aunt and her family lived here. My dad's family came in 1920, from Masbeth, Queens. When we moved back here, it was a very different place then it is now. There was a horse farm up the road, and my friend Wendy used to ride horses in my neighborhood. Now it is a cul-de-sac with several houses. Traffic has become unbearable, and several square miles were added to this town by reclaiming land from the sea. We have about 45,000 people on my little patch. My dad did his student teaching at my high school, my sisters and I went there, and all three of my children went there as well. Long Island is suburban living at its best. People are friendly, there are street fairs, museums, theaters, everything you could want is here, and we're only 20 miles from NYC, which is great. You have a world class venue to explore, and then you get to go home.
So, how am I going to leave it? My eldest son and his wife and I just bought a new build in the Atlanta area. I can't live alone anymore, I have a debilitating disease which leaves me unable to walk or use my hands well. We looked at Florida. I loved it, they hated it. We looked in North Carolina. Nobody liked it. So we went to Georgia, and it seems like a good fit. I'll miss my hometown terribly, but I will make Georgia my home. I love everywhere I have lived because that is who I am. I make a place my own. I will be with loved ones, and we'll have fun exploring our new state together. Any place I hang my hat is home. I'm gonna do just fine.