One Last Time to Old Saybrook

January 2, 2008
By Sarah Conderino, Chester, CT

As a child, my family and I would bike throughout Old Saybrook almost every Saturday afternoon. My mom and dad would stack all of our bikes on to the rack on the back of the car as my brother Joey and I would run around the driveway with excitement. The car ride to Old Saybrook Point always seemed like hours long, as I sat in the back seat with my legs itching to pump my bike pedals as fast as I could. Once we reached the marina, I would rush out of the car, feeling the salty wind caress my face. The moment my bike was taken off of the car, I would hop on and start riding around the parking lot.
We always started our trip by biking through a small park. My dad and brother would bike up a wooden ramp and make their way through the maze of railings and paths that made up the walkway. I never had the courage to follow them, thinking that I did not have the skill to make it passed the sharp corners and bumps. However, on one of our outings, the desire to bike through this maze grew inside of me and I quickly swerved to the right and followed them up the ramp. My heart was pounding as I carefully navigated passed the turns. I was so excited and proud when I finally made it back down to the sidewalk and was eager to try this again on each subsequent trip.
At the end of the park was a large square path that was surrounded by stonewalls. As soon as we reached the entrance of this square, Joey would automatically turn to the right and I would turn to the left. The air felt as though it was pushing against me as I pedaled as fast as I could, racing Joey to the end. He always managed to turn the last corner before me, coming out of the square seconds ahead of me. Even though I knew I could never out pedal his long legs, I still enjoyed the rush of adrenaline as we raced each other.
As we continued biking, we would travel throughout the side streets of North Cove, looking at the beautiful houses as we rode by. Once we made our way to the big, white church on Main Street, we would attempt to cross the busy road. I always thought we looked like a family of geese sandwiched between our parents as we made our way safely across. What seemed like miles later, the aroma of seaweed and stagnant water would bombard our noses. Somehow we always managed to visit Old Saybrook during the low tide.
When we reached the beach, we would sit on the wall and plunge our feet into the warm sand. The grains would pass between my toes and I was glad to be rid of my constricting sneakers. After lounging in the sand, we would walk the sand bar along the shoreline as far as the eye could see. Joey and I would race to the tide pools to watch the small sea life burrow into the sand and poke at the jellyfish that were stranded on shore. Once we tired of the beach, we would hop back on the bikes and continue on the loop that would lead us back to the car.
Our journey took us through the side roads, passed the bright orange roofed castle that stood out from the cottages that surrounded it. Our travels took us passed a modest cottage with a screened-in front porch. Almost every weekend, we would see an old man sitting on this porch, reading a newspaper or watching his TV. It became so commonplace to see this man that it became a family tradition that as we turned the corner to his street we would predict whether we would see him on his porch or not. I always predicted that he’d be there, and he never failed to disappoint me.
As we neared our car, we would reach the causeway that always sent chills down my spine. The bridge had a lane for bikers, walkers and fishermen that was separated from the cars by a guardrail. When I was very young, still riding with training wheels, I nearly fell off of the side of the bridge when one of my training wheels came undone. The sight of the measly wall on the edge of the causeway, that could never stop anything from falling into the ocean, rushed these memories back into my head. I would bike to the left of the path, as far away from the swirling, murky brown water as I could. I would hold my breath as I biked across and pray that I would not tip over the edge. When my wheels finally hit solid ground, a rush of relief would flow through my body. There were only a few more minutes before I reached the safety of our car. I would always be completely worn-out by the time our journey had finished.
This past summer, my dad asked me to come biking through Old Saybrook with him. The ride there seemed much quicker than I had remembered. We took the same path as we had all of those years ago. As we rode through the park, all of the memories of my youth flooded into my head. We did not bike up the ramp and on to the walkway. There were too many people crowding the paths. I did not diverge on to the square path. My racing partner was too busy to come on the bike trip with us.
The roads and houses were all so familiar. I could have mapped out our route as though it was on the back of my hand. We arrived at the beach and locked our bikes to the same old bike rack, now rusted from the years of rain and snow. The feel of the sand against my feet had the same warm and soothing affect on me. The sight of the sunlight reflecting on the water was truly gorgeous and I was filled with regret that I had not continued our traditional bike ride every year.
After sitting on the beach, we continued on our bike ride. We turned on to the familiar street and passed by where the old man’s house should have been. The modest home had been torn down, replaced by a house that took up almost the entire property and seemed as though it reached the clouds. The house appeared lonely, with curtains drawn and no one in sight. Whether the old man had passed away or had moved to a new house, I will never know. It almost seemed as though a part of my childhood was taken away. I hated the sight of this cold, lifeless home with its excessive extravagance. I wondered what the old man would think. The neighborhood had been taken over by a new generation, with different values of beauty and lifestyle.
We continued to bike, making it to the infamous bridge. I was no longer fearful of this bridge. I rode across it with ease, towards the right side and peering over the edge into the rushing water below. When we made it back to the car, I was overwhelmed with the thought of how quickly the day and the years had passed by. I had changed. No longer the child I had once been. At the same time, the world around me had also changed. It could never remain like the photograph that is in my memories.

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