November 2, 2009
ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. – With the second day of November arriving here in this part of the Northeast – lower New York State but north enough of its great southernmost city that the vestiges of long-ago country autumn can still be recalled, the air this morning was about 1948 vintage, I’d say. It was as if that fall had been bottled as rural wine and kept to mature, though that seems impossible, and why would anyone want to mature what already smells wonderful?
I claim this morning’s air as 1948 because in that season I was just turning six, and we then were living in the hamlet of Nanuet, having just moved from Sloatsburg village. (In those days, we tended to relocate when the rental lease was up in October, a bit jarring since my brother and I had to change schools after classes had begun, but often the move was economically driven.)
Nanuet was then rural as was most of pre-Tappan Zee Bridge Rockland. I was in the first grade and yet walked along Highway 59 to school, about 1.5 miles away. No real danger as I stuck to the marsh side, making my way through the beautiful cattails and skirting behind the large billboard signs.
It was in that marsh that I deeply took in the cool air, not yet with the icy breath of winter but surely without summer’s humid overlay. It was refreshing, that bit of air in 1948, my birthday two days away, Thanksgiving coming, too, then Christmas. Nice time of year, as I already liked my new school on Highview Avenue.
Later that day, the still-strong sun would warm the air and the scent of morning would be lost forever. Or so it seemed.
This morning, in 2009, also on Nov. 2, I got out of my car, my legs considerably longer than in the first grade, and took in a deep breath of fall air that had come from the nearby direction of my old Nanuet homestead.
Could it be? Could that scent be autumn 1948? Well, yes, it seemed so. I guess someone bottled what this once-first grader whiffed 61 years ago and saved it until 2009. And now uncorked it.
What a birthday present.