I got home from the two-week East Coast trip at around 1:30 this morning, exhausted and suffering from Weird Pattern Sunburn. The back and front of my neck and about three inches of shoulders were scorched stop-sign red where the sunscreen washed away. I’d been wearing a T-shirt and shorts over my swimsuit for a trip to Ocean City, NJ.
It’s really starting to hurt – it may blister, dammit – and my shoulder and arm muscles are seriously wrenched from holding my younger great-nephew in deeper water so we could jump waves. The heavy backpack cutting into the ache/burn during our long day of travel certainly didn’t help matters.
Wish I could have a professional massage, but nobody’s touching that sunburn. When DF put aloe gel on it last night I shrieked like a smoke alarm.
Totally worth it to have gone to the shore again, after decades away. I’d forgotten how lovely it feels to be cradled by the ocean.
In between playing with the two kids I spent time out there alone, bobbing like a jellyfish. As each swell picked me up and set me down again I’d grin like a 5-year-old. In effect, I was five again: The day reminded me of childhood trips down the shore. (The word “to” is not used. In South Jersey, the correct pronunciation is “down the shore.”)
My mother would take us to the shore once or twice per summer. It was a huge, huge deal. The only thing greater than our anticipation was our fear that it might rain and the trip would be canceled. I remember the sole-singeing sand, the smell of suntan lotion (not sunscreen – back then, women wanted to brown as evenly as flapjacks), the sounds of screaming kids and transistor radios. She must have packed food, but all I remember is the taste of salt.
A perfect shore day
On Monday the sky was a child’s drawing: bright blue and splashed with puffy, cotton-ball cumulus. The breeze was warm, but not hot. If that end of the beach (near 57th Street in Ocean City) had been battered by Hurricane Sandy, it wasn’t obvious to us tourists.
Because it was a Monday the beach wasn’t elbow-to-elbow blankets. It was so uncrowded, in fact, that we found on-street parking a couple of blocks away. And I’m happy to report that small planes still tow advertising banners. Way back when it was “Tan don’t burn get a Coppertone tan.” The one we kept seeing was for an insurance company and included a URL.
We’d packed a little cooler with ice water, a couple of Diet Cokes and some green grapes. On the way out the door I grabbed a half-full bag of Herrs sour cream and onion potato chips. Who needed to eat much on a steamy summer day? My niece’s friend drove down from Philly bringing pretzels, blueberries, kiwi and another fruit I’m forgetting.
Ultimately the other two women went out and bought sandwiches for us all. Faced with an Italian hoagie as long as a legal tablet, I found that I was famished. All that kid-lugging and swimming and jumping in moderate undertow had kicked my appetite into high gear.
The boys had a wonderful time in their first real ocean, as opposed to icy Cook Inlet where anything deeper than a wade is an invitation to hypothermia. They didn’t want to leave.
Big and busy
I didn’t want to leave, either. In fact, I want to return – but it’ll be a while before I can make another trip like that. It cost a bundle despite frugal hacks like Alaska Airline companion fares, house-sitting (free flop in Manhattan!), shopping at the dollar store, using discounted gift cards, and bunking with friends and relatives.
I sure am glad we went, though. It was important to me that they get to visit my dad now that they’re old enough to form some real memories.
The kids also got to ride the subway, visit the Franklin Institute and other Philly attractions, chase wild turkeys, wave to the Statue of Liberty, meet a clutch of cousins, hit a theme park, ride on a tractor and fire a real rifle. Their mom and I got to eat Jersey tomato sandwiches.
Best quote of the trip came from the older boy, Malachi, during a walk through Times Square: “I’ve never been in a city this big or this busy!”
Now we’re back in Anchorage, where my niece’s housesitter reports that a bear visited the yard while they were away. Aw, man, we miss all the good stuff.