I know I’ve said it before, but innately I’m a beach bum. It’s a good thing I grew up where I did, close to the Atlantic Ocean, so I could get my fix. My earliest memories of my childhood usually always include the shore. When I was very young (baby) my parents took me to Strathmere, a little seaside town between Ocean City and Sea Isle City. I certainly don’t remember it, but I believe that it’s the place where my love of all things beachy began.
The remembered times began in Wildwood. My parents would rent small cottages or rooms, and we’d spend a few weeks there. I loved every aspect of it. The scent of salt air tickled my nose as we crossed from the mainland to the island, and even the swampy smells by the bay didn’t discourage me. I and my sibs couldn’t wait while the grown-ups unpacked. We wanted to ‘hit the beach’ immediately. I remember spending most of the day there, digging in the sand and jumping waves. Our nights involved ‘walking the boards’ or playing board games at the house. I can still see pictures in my mind of those happy times.
Then the setting changed. My aunt wanted a vacation home, and we began looking in various towns with her. The end result was a home in the southern part of Ocean City, and that became my summer residence. We usually went there in the spring, and while my parents checked for winter damage, opened up, and aired out, we kids begged to go to the beach. The winter and summer beaches differed greatly. Back then, I thought the emptiness we’d experience in our spring visit was depressing. Now, I think it’s peaceful.
The day after school finished, we packed up and headed east. My mother would have been packing for weeks, but I only remember the unbridled anticipation of just going. Once there, I felt as if I never wanted to leave. The summer days lay spread out before me, and I intended to savor each one. We were also fortunate that many of our neighbors were either year-rounders or summer people. We rarely had contact with the ‘shoebies!’ (That moniker came from very olden times when day trippers carried their beach lunches in shoe boxes.)
I loved every aspect of our summers at the shore, and I still have wonderful memories of that time of my life. Those ten weeks (or more, depending on the calendar) are etched in my mind, and I bring them out when I think of happy times. I can still see the various bathing suits I had, and I lived in them from rising until dinner time. If I close my eyes, I can see the ocean and the waves. I feel the soft, hot sand between my toes and the cool wetness of the water. I collected shells, knowing the supply would never diminish. Nights were usually spent at home, or on the boardwalk. We’d take endless rides on the amusements, walk long stretches, and eat popcorn or ice cream. We always slept well, lulled by the sound of the surf. We’d suffer sunburns and mosquitoes bites, but we never got tired of being there.
Now, it’s been a while since I’ve been to my happy place. The heat would be too intense, and I’d have difficulty walking in the sand. Realistically, it would be a struggle. That’s why I’m so fortunate to have such a good memory. I can always revisit the place in my mind. So, today (mentally), I’m going ‘down the shore!’ Wanna come?