After a four-hour drive from Binghamton University, the last few miles on the Southern State Parkway seem endless. I see the sign for 17N peeking out behind the overgrown trees and I know I am finally home. As I sit at a red light at the intersection of Hempstead Avenue and Nassau Boulevard, the sign for Hall's Pond Park welcomes me back to the one place I've always known, but things have changed since I left town.
Hall's Pond is now fenced in and in the midst of major renovations. Though a park clean-up and makeover is long overdue (we've been waiting for this since the Nassau County Environmental Bond Act Committee announced the renovation in 2005), seeing the now enclosed parkland made me nostalgic.
It brought me back to my weekly visits to Shoppers' Village, where the smell of pickles permeated the air, the Happy Ending Sundaes at Friendly's, and the walks down to Jack & Jill's on Hempstead Turnpike to buy some Nerd gum for my mom. It reminded me of the visits to the playground at George Washington Elementary School, where my dad would catch me as I coasted down the slide, and to the Hebrew school every Tuesday and Thursday at the Jewish Community Center of West Hempstead.
Through this column, I will bring you with me as I travel back in time to all those moments I shared with my family and friends at community events and places throughout West Hempstead that make it unique and special. For a community of nearly 19,000 residents, we really do bring the saying "Small Town, Big Heart" to life.
From the annual street fair along Nassau Boulevard to Holiday at Hall's, seeing our diverse community come together to support local vendors and celebrate the holidays has always made me proud to be from West Hempstead.
When I return home to West Hempstead for each college break, I look forward to seeing my high school friends and going back to those local landmarks that were the foundation of my childhood. Grabbing some ice cream at Carvel, a mash-up burger at Burger Bite, coffee at Dunkin Donuts and a warm brownie at the Witches' Brew, are "musts" for each of my visits home.
Though I do love spending time at the local haunts when I am home, I also look forward to returning to West Hempstead each break to relive my high school memories by playing a pick-up game of tennis on the high school courts, taking out a book or DVD at the beautiful, state-of-the-art West Hempstead Public Library, or simply walking around the old neighborhood to see what has changed, and what has not.
Sure, Shoppers' Village, despite its all too brief return, is no more (The pickles, though, can still be found at Western Beef.) and Friendly's is now Wing Wan, a Kosher Chinese restaurant, but the playground at GW continues to beckon the young and young at heart. And when I want to tag along with my big sister to get a manicure, there are now plenty of nail salons.
No matter how much has changed, or never will, West Hempstead will always be my home. If you feel the same, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your favorite West Hempstead memories, events or hot spots, so together we can share our community pride through the sights and sounds of West Hempstead.