Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Vacation Thoughts, part two


When I think of the beach, my internal vision is of this beach: the one in NC where I’ve been coming since childhood. Most summers of my childhood we would rent a beach-front cottage for a week with a family of cousins and hang out, body-surfing in the waves or floating in inner-tubes out beyond the waves, for hours on end. We got blistering burns every year, but it never kept us out of the sun the following year. This was long before the day of SPF 50. The pier where we would take our dripping ice-cream cones, longest pier on the East Coast, is now gone, the victim of one of the more recent hurricanes.

When not swimming or searching for shells or digging in the sand, we played cards and put together jigsaw puzzles. No TV, ipods, DVDs or video games back then. We ate sandy sandwiches for lunch and one night of the week we’d go to Jone’s Seafood Restaurant where every year of my childhood I ordered fried flounder with all the hush puppies I could eat. Which was a fair number. My dad always got the deviled crab or fried oysters.

The beach had no amusement parks, no arcades, no boardwalks, no high-rises. Just ticky-tack cottages, affordable to families like ours, one restaurant, one over-priced grocery store and one putt-putt course. We got to play there on the night we ate out. Now, of course, there are more and bigger of everything, though the beach-front itself remains relatively undeveloped. The houses are bigger and fancier, but still no high-rises.

The strand is wide, with soft sand, the dunes are gentle, with the occasional turtle nest protected by orange tape. The waves are big enough for body surfing, but not too big for toddlers to enjoy. The water is warm enough to go in at 8 a.m. without screaming but not so warm it feels like a bath. I’ve enjoyed the northwest coast and the eastern shore from Jersey to Florida, the southern coast of England and the Northwest coast of Scotland, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Gulf coast from South Padre to Sanibel and, of course, the North Coast where I lived for ten years (that’s Lake Ontario for the uninitiated). But this beach will always be what I think of when someone says, “Let’s go to the beach.”

6 comments:

Diane said...

yes, I know what you mean. My beaches are always the lakes in the city where I grew up... and it doesn't mean I don't appreciate the others,but...

lovely post.

pj said...

Lovely memories, and beautifully written.

I grew up on working-class Long Island, so my beach was Jones Beach. It looks delightfully peaceful in the picture. Don't believe it! :)

Nowadays I prefer South Wellfleet, MA. I'm getting spoiled, I'm afraid.

Greg Howard said...

In my family, "the beach" = "Panama City Beach, Florida". In fact, our annual ritual was remarkably similar to LJ's, though PCB has (for as long as I can remember) been more developed than what she describes. We had an annual extended-family reunion there in a high-rise condo of which we basically took over the ground floor for a week. The condo was next door to St. Andrew's State Park, so it was a lower-traffic beach than it might have been otherwise. And we had our big ol' pier, too-- I eventually proposed to my wife under that pier!-- which was blown away sometime in the last decade by a hurricane (sigh).

lj said...

Greg, Welcome! Nice to have you here.

I think it's great to have these memories, like we all do. Hope I'm creating some for my son. I've been to Jones Beach. Much fun. The beach and New York all rolled together.

pj said...

LJ, of course. You lived in NY. Brave soul. :)

Grandmère Mimi said...

LJ, on the Florida beach where we stayed, the dunes are mostly gone - built over. We were fortunate to be near a National Seashore protected area, which does not permit development, so the children could see what sand dunes look like.