Claire at the shore….awaiting a storm.
And memories of the Jersey Shore. Quite a number of years ago, a photo magazine sent me a query about my favorite place to go in the world. It was, I believe, further refined a search than that. It was, as I recall (and my memory may be a tad awry here) about my favorite place, at my favorite time of year. Something like that. They evidently sent it to numerous photogs, a survey, if you will, seeking their thoughtful, well traveled wisdom.
I believe they sent it to some pretty high falutin’ shooters, and I can only imagine the responses they got from this group of urbane, worldly folk. Well known to be highly impressed with themselves and their exploits, they were the type to not be disinclined to inform others of the excellence of their own personal adventure. Unspoken of course, between the lines of their responses, would be the overriding sense that their particular, nuanced appreciation for the finer things was finer, well, than yours’.
“Cannes in the fall is marvelous. The streets are filled with energy and delight, and there’s this little coffee shop on Rue D’Ego, where the espresso is made from beans grown in soil matured with the dung of sacred cows. Not to be missed.” And so forth.
Sigh. I’ve never been much for surveys, especially ones where virtually everyone responding is a teller of tales. I dutifully sent mine back in and said simply, the Jersey Shore. When my kids were small, we would trek there, our own version of Operation Desert Storm. Minivan, beach umbrellas, Little Mermaid towels in tow, we would take the beach in no less a determined fashion than if we had arrived via an amphibious assault craft and rolled onto the sand in a fully armored Humvee.
The wind and the whitecaps were always good companions, and the only sounds louder and more piercing than the screech of the gulls would be the squeals of kids as a chilled wave from the North Atlantic would catch up to their mad scramble back up the beach. My globe savvy buds at National Geographic would always cluck their tongues and mock my pedestrian choice of vacation spot. Bill, my editor, would query me as to my expertise in the breaststroke, as he fancied it the only stroke applicable in those waters, which he imagined to be virtually teeming with hospital waste and discarded syringes. You would presumably push back the floating refuse whilst keeping your head staunchly out of the water.
I took all their ribbing in good grace, as I (along with thousands of others) was onto the fact that the Jersey shore is a rightfully celebrated place, with rough, relatively clean waters on the ocean side, and smooth waters on the frequent bay sides of various islands and peninsulas projecting into the Atlantic. Those calm inland waters easily accommodated a rowboat filled with children bent on crabbing. A long string, a large safety pin, and a raw piece of chicken were all you needed to attract a hungry crab, who would resolutely cling to his chicken nugget as he was hoisted into the boat. The only truly rough seas ever encountered were self generated as inevitably a crab would get loose in the rowboat, and nearly cause a capsize by single-handedly spinning four or five kids into a maritime version of the Penn Relays. Tough to actually run in a rowboat, but they managed. Worse would be the days when no crab was interested, and the children would sit there grumpily, string in hand, patience melting away like a snow cone in the hot sun. The kids would always have one of their grandfathers out there, a veteran fisherman and shore dweller, and he would wink and tell them, quite sincerely, that “This is the exciting part about fishing.”
I always found the exciting part to be the end of the day. You would pick up a floppy hatted, sun block slathered baby out of the sand, much as you pluck a sugar cookie out of the tin on the kitchen counter. Sand everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. I have thought of marketing the idea of zwieback toast actually dipped in beach sand as better than a binky for teething babies. The kids would get cleaned up, the sun would dive into the bay, and the wind would do it’s nightly acceleration, blowing in storm clouds from the sea. Exhausted children, basically asleep in their dinner plates. Nighttime would call for a hoodie and a glass of red wine, and some thinking. (Why does staring out to sea always feel like the most pensive thing you can do?)
Haven’t been to the Jersey Shore in years. The waves and the wind are echoes now. Kids are grown. Making different memories now, just as wonderful. But, when summer arrives, I do remember the shore…..more tk…