My Own Ocean Avenue

July 26, 2011 § 3 Comments

Longport's beach on a cold, gray day.

 Jittery excitement.  A childlike ‘bouncing up and down’ feeling.  The simple joy of knowing you’re going somewhere different.  I have always loved road trips.  It may stem from the love of driving that my parents had and instilled in me.  When I was little, they’d bundle me and my siblings into the old Buick Roadmaster and we’d end up trekking out into the country.  My dad seemed to have an endless source of scenic stops: rushing creeks and forested trails, or state parks and big lakes, hills and meadows with just enough shade.  They were remote but not enough that it was impossible to push a stroller over the terrain.  (Hint to new readers: if I refer to happenings in my childhood, there are strollers involved!  There were always strollers.)  I always wondered how Dad knew where all these places were.  To a child, a forty minute car ride is a long time and I thought my father must have traveled far and wide to know the location of every lake and park in Pennsylvania.  (Now that I’m at the jaded and ripe old age of 25 and have driven to Michigan more than once, I realize how vast Pennsylvania really is.)

Suffice it to say, I love driving.  And now I get to drive down to the beach for five days this weekend! 

Lucy the Elephant watches over my summer vacation.

To me, Longport is the consummate beach town.  I like to wake up early when I’m there and make a pot of coffee.  I can bring it out onto the front porch and cradle it in my hands while sniffing the salty breeze.  The beach is about outdoor showers and soft towels.  Padding on sandy feet down a gritty neighborhood street.  A book in my hand wherever I am.  Vacation to me is synonymous with ‘reading as much as I can’.  At home, there’s always a place I need to be or something I have to do.  When I’m at the beach though, the heat of the sun and quiet susurration of the waves lulls me into relaxation, and there’s nothing I prefer more than reading when I’m relaxing.  Last year while lolling about on a beach chair with my toes in the water, I discovered the Temeraire series.   What a good find that turned out to be!  Recommendations for what to read this year are greatly appreciated!  Leave them in the comments! 

PS- I’ve blogged about the beach in Longport a couple of times before.


A Safe Place & Time

July 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

          I was reading a novel the other day (big surprise huh) and the main character was attending a yoga class.  The class leader, clad in an electric blue leotard, asked all the people to think of their safe, happy place as they meditated.  When the character thought of her snug, comfortable bedroom at home, it started me wondering.  Where would I think of if I had to come up with a safe place? 

          The first image that popped into my mind was instantaneous.  I didn’t even have to pause.  It was a mental picture of home.  Me, sitting on the green carpet in the living room, with some of my siblings sprawling around me as we play a board game.  The windows are open to catch the breeze and it’s summertime, I can tell even in my mind.  There are lights glowing brightly, snacks in the fridge, Mom and Dad are around somewhere.  We are laughing hysterically, Jul and Angela and I, as we play whatever game it is, and I know why this laughter is so tangible in my thoughts of a safe place.  It’s because I have always been lucky enough to know that my family shares the exact same sense of humor, one that is witty, sometimes intelligent, heavy emphasis on puns (thanks Dad), and none of the crudity that passes for comedy these days.  We make word plays, make fun of each other, exaggerate, fire off quick retorts.  We are close, we love one another.  There is a baby in a bouncy seat nearby, watching our play with bright eyes.  There are couch cushions scattered on the floor and books everywhere.  This is a safe place, I know.  At home, in the living room, laughing with my sisters and brothers. 

          Then I started to really think about the safe places in my life and I came up with another one almost immediately.  This might be an older snapshot but it still held the same feeling of security as my home did.  I was in the Holy Family Center chapel, surrounded by flickering candles and sharp spears of light from the stained glass windows and door.  All my friends were there, all the families I had grown up with and seen at Friday night Mass every week for years.  All the community members I remembered from my childhood.  I was kneeling towards the altar and a priest with a blurry face was elevating the Eucharist.  Even now, writing this, I can feel the nubby red carpet under my knees and see the red candlelight behind the altar.  There is Grandpa Hudak’s kind smile as he offers me the consecrated cup.   I can feel the little tug of nervousness in my stomach as I stepped up to the lectern for the readings even though I must have read at Mass over a hundred times.  The little kids shuffle and nudge, waiting for it to end so they can burst onto the lawn of the Center and run off all their energy.   This is the place where I learned that a prayer can move your soul and make you a little bit of a different person than you were before you heard it.  I learned that a song can make you cry, that God can be heard and seen and touched by my hand.  Maybe some people went to Friday night football games.  I went to Mass with my family, every Friday for years.  It’s a truly safe place.         

          A third mental snapshot, a third safe place:  Longport, New Jersey, a beach town.  I’ve been vacationing in this town every summer since I can remember.  It’s not a specific memory of a time in my mind though, or an image of my relatives’ beach house.  It’s not even really the beach itself.  What makes me think of Longport as a safe place is because it’s like magic.  Nothing bad ever happens there.  It’s so full of memories with places and people from my childhood all the way through now.  Ghosts of me and my cousins run through the streets, hop along the burning sand, throw our bodies in childish abandonment out into the rolling green waves.  We chase each other in tag around the beach playground, and then whirl into our teenage years, putting on the green at mini-golf, cruising around town at night to get ice cream at the Dairy Bar on Ventnor.  We’re too cool; we saunter in the humid night air, the salt sticking to our clothes.  We stroll right into (almost?) adulthood, newly 21, and there we’re cradling wine glasses on the front porch, we chug from sweating beer cans on the beach.  We start going out to fancy dinners and then a bar afterwards; we stop thinking those mini-cereal boxes are way cooler than regular size ones.  Before I know it, I’m 24 years old and Longport is still magic.  A safe place. 

          After reflecting for a few more minutes, I realized just how incredibly lucky I am.  To have so many places where I know I can feel secure and loved is amazing.  I don’t know which one I would choose to think about, should I ever be instructed to find my safe place from a leotard-clad yoga instructor.  I suppose I’ll just have to hope it’s a long meditation period.

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