The guardian of the peace ignored my friendly and supportive gesture. I took it as macho posturing and still appreciated him as a positive omen. The police, fire department, emergency personnel even the armed forces have always been a welcome sight in my neighborhood.
My family's ownership of that house started on Valentine's Day 1956. Before the area was developed, Canarsie was a distant, rural outpost and little more than a punchline for New York hillbilly jokes.
Unfortunately, even with federal tax dollars behind it, coastal Canarsie as well as the whole town continued to go downhill.
Today, thirty years after I moved to Las Vegas, my old street looks tired. The trees are fatter and their roots are busting through the formerly perfect sidewalks. The homes lack pride and the properties aren't well kept. Sadder still, the neighbors are all strangers.
The pleasant thought of the mounted policeman remained on my mind, as the buyers inspected my parent's house during the final walk-through.
This final page of my childhood was to sign the papers. The closing was in Westbury on Long Island. On my way over there, I didn't see the cop or his horse. But I was re-assured that the rest of the deal would go smoothly when I intentionally drove through his steed's pile of horse waste.
The closing was a two-hour ordeal that went as well as it possibly could.
My return to South Jersey included re-tracing my steps.
In Staten Island at Todt Hill Road, I reflected on the mounted police officer and all the others who beyond September 11, 2001, routinely willingly risk their lives to protect us, our freedom and way of life. That idea made me feel safe again.
Back in Jersey, on the Garden State Parkway, as I zipped by the exit for Spring Lake, I added to the respect I have for emergency personnel with the warmth my parents put into that happy home. I reflected on the inner peace they provided throughout their lives...and long after they were gone. At that point, I indeed got misty.