Last month Joe and I were down the Shore, walking with two other couples late at night when I looked up and saw a million glistening stars. “We should just lay in the street and watch the stars,” I said. One of my friends agreed. So we did, all six of us.
(OK, disclaimer: We were in a residential area and it was really late, so there weren’t any cars in the street. Plus, we didn’t lay there for very long, so honestly, we weren’t in any danger.)
I know you will agree with me when I say this: It’s so easy to be carefree at the Shore. Once you get that first whiff of salt air, your body and mind relax. Sometimes during a harsh winter, you forget that feeling, but when you finally get back to the Shore, your body instinctively remembers.
Like you, I’ve been going to the Shore since I was a kid. My family would vacation one week every year in Atlantic City, which now looks nothing like it did then. The week after my high school graduation, I spent “Senior Week” in Wildwood. It was my first time staying at the Shore without my parents. We stayed up all night and slept all day on the beach. That began summers driving with friends to the Shore to stay for sometimes a week, sometimes a day.
When I was in college, a girlfriend and I would drive down on Friday nights and stay at a hotel that cost $20 a night. This wasn’t that long ago – I’m not that old – so when I say it was $20 a night, the price reflects the condition of the “hotel.” When I think about it now, I can’t believe I slept there. But I was happy to – thrilled, actually. Spending only $20 for a room left more money for going out.
When Joe and I were first married, we joined my family for an annual summer ritual at the Shore. There would be 14 of us – including my teenage nephews, who we were always surprised stayed with us the whole night. We started with a great home-cooked seafood dinner, rode amusement rides on the Boardwalk (from kiddie boats to whatever that ship is that sways back and forth until you feel sick) and ended the night at Kohr Bros. We did this summer after summer.
In the years that followed, Joe and I trudged to the beach with three little girls and sand toys, an umbrella, sunscreen, boogie boards, towels, juice boxes, more towels, a camera (as in, an actual camera), chairs and a magazine or two (don’t know what I was thinking). We collected shells, buried people in the sand and jumped the waves. Some people jumped with the water at their waist; others jumped ankle-deep. It was exhausting, but those days in the sand were long and hot and filled with simple joy.
There’s been tubing on the bay, running for the ice cream guy ringing the bell at the beach entrance, way too many games of miniature golf and even more games at the Boardwalk arcades. (One year, I became addicted to the racing game “Fast and Furious.” By the end of the week, I had to bribe my kids to play. Really, try it next time you’re on the Boardwalk.)
But here’s what’s so great about the Shore: We aren’t storing these memories in our heads because of the sunshine or sand. It’s because of the people with us – our family and friends. No matter what your Shore story is, there is always someone else there. Always. They may be laying in the middle of the street, but that’s OK. That’s how you make one more awesome memory.