Boy Scouts, The Cross Island Ferry and the Scent of Lavender

Written By: Gerald  Giammatteo

Since the summer of 2008, my wife Laura, son Scott and I have engaged in an early July ritual. On the first Sunday of the month, Scott goes to Boy Scout camp for a week at Camp Yawgoog in Rockville, Rhode Island. We drive him out to the Cross Sound Ferry at Orient Point where he meets his troop for the 2PM crossing to New London. It has evolved into something of an event.

We leave our home in Sayville about 10AM for a meandering ride along the North fork. After Riverhead, we pass the small towns that make Eastern Long Island so charming; such quaint villages as Cutchogue, Southold, Greenport and East Marion.

We drive past people dressed in Sunday finery coming out of Church and heading to the local diner for breakfast and note the start of life at the myriad of farm stands and vineyards abounding on either side of us. The real Long Island resides out here. Now I know the vineyards were once potato farms and are a comparatively recent phenomenon, but life seems less complex and more about what this Island is really about. There are summer tourists, but the pace of life seems quieter than on the South fork. It feels as though there is more permanence here. Perhaps that is my perception more than reality, but it seems that way.

We make good time and arrive in Greenport, a bustling fishing village that is always thriving with activities. When our boys were small, we visited Greenport to ride on a model railroad that a gentleman had laid in his backyard. It always attracted a big crowd of families on weekends during the summer. The boys loved it; so did I. Sadly, it’s no longer operated, but remains a great family memory. I recalled eating at Crabby Jerry’s a little seafood shack across from Claudio’s on the wharf which the boys found funny since my name is Jerry and well…. I can be crabby at times, too. We have stopped for a burger and service with a smile at Andy’s Unbelievable Burgers and Seafood, a great little burger joint that unfortunately closed its doors. Last year we stopped at Coronet Luncheonette which is something of a Greenport institution. Although it was a humid, steamy day and the air conditioning had broken down, the waitresses and proprietor were quite apologetic. Everybody took it in stride with good humor; a sort of Eastern Long Island cool that we were only too happy to engage in. Many people smiled kindly at Scott in his Boy Scout uniform which made him a little self-conscious, but he has since made Eagle Scout and we are proud of him.

After lunch, we drive toward Orient Point and Scott’s destiny with the ferry. We pass a farm that Laura wants to stop at on the way back. One notices the pleasant scent as we drive by.

We arrive at the ferry and meet Scott’s troop for the crossing. They are easy to spot in their distinctive purple Sayville hats and First Class Scout uniforms. A kiss and a hug and off he goes for a week of fun, merit badges and pushing his limits to accomplish things he never considered possible a few short years ago. We are now ready for the final and most surprising tradition of the day.

We drive back to the aforementioned farm situated between Orient and Greenport in East Marion. It is no ordinary farmhouse. It is called Lavender by the Bay and there are plants and purple flowers as far as the eye can see. The scent of lavender is pervasive as we get out of the car. The first year we stopped, I figured I would indulge my wife while she browsed and shopped. A funny thing has happened. I have come to enjoy this little stop almost as much as she has. It’s peaceful, serene, and well; it does smell good. People buy all kinds of lavender products like soaps, sprays, lavender creams and of course, fresh lavender. I give my wife a wide berth to shop and browse. It is her part of the day. But frankly, with the scent and the cool products, it is far from an unpleasant experience.

She eventually purchases a bunch of the lavender flowers, the smell of which permeates the car on the ride home. When placed in vases strategically around the house, it is a pleasant, relaxing sensation.

So at this time of year, please excuse the Giammatteo family if it doesn’t stop to smell the roses. We stop to smell the lavender instead.