Down the shore.

thI 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.

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  1. I’ve missed you, Donna! And during these scorching hot days here in Illinois, I honestly have thought of you a few times, wondering how you were faring with the heat and humidity, and wishing I could run up to Alaska to escape the intense heat this week!
    So glad you got to go “down the shore” (What have the people in South Jersey got against that little word “to”??). There’s nothing like a trip to the ocean to make you feel relaxed and like a kid again. Hope the sunburn is better real soon. It’s a tangible souvenir of your time away!

  2. lostAnnfound

    Sounds like a great trip and some wonderful memories!! I love that feeling of being in the ocean and feeling the waves pick me up…I know it makes me smile like a little kid and remember family trips to the beach!

    And where I’m from (western New England) we say “going down to the Cape” and everyone knows that means Cape Cod!

  3. Sylvia

    Originally a Virginia girl, I can now say that after living in South Jersey for 33 years, I am a “Jersey Girl.” Instead of saying “we’re going to the beach,” I now say “we’re going down the shore.” It is an entrenched colloquialism for nearly everyone living within earshot of the area from Philadelphia to the Jersey shore itself! And as New Jersey is known as the “Garden State,” you can bet that the veggies & fruit, from tomatoes and corn, to the blueberries and peaches are delicious! A day at the shore like you had with your niece and great-nephews is pure Jersey delight, and wonderful American fun.

    Visiting the Jersey Shore, Philadelphia and NYC including all that they saw and did is a gift your family members will surely treasure their whole lives! I honestly believe that what you’ve given them in terms of visiting family and traveling our country is priceless!!
    Hope you’ll come back to South Jersey more often!!

    • Donna Freedman

      I wanted the boys to know there is life outside Alaska. It’s easy to get isolated up here and to think that everyone thinks/acts the way Alaskans do. While they didn’t care much for the heat and humidity, they did get a good (albeit too brief) look at the way people do it in a few other places.
      In two weeks I’ll be leaving Alaska again, to go to the SaveUp 13 conference in Orlando. I considered tacking on a second trip to NYC/NJ, but decided against it because (a) I’ve already spent a ton of bucks and (b) I don’t want to be away from DF for another 10 days. Really did miss the man. But I’ll likely make another NJ trip within the year, because I’d rather go for a visit than a funeral.
      Thanks for reading, fellow Jersey Girl, and for leaving a comment.

  4. Hope you heal up quickly!

    • Donna Freedman

      Thanks! Next time I hope I’m smarter about coming, drying off completely, reapplying the sunscreen and then sitting under the umbrella for a while to give it a chance to sink in.

  5. Kristin

    I hear ya Donna…there’s nothing like the shore. I have many fond memories from my childhood. I just vowed yesterday to start a “Stone Harbor” fund for next year!

    • Donna Freedman

      Stone Harbor…we never went there but I hear it’s nice. We chose Ocean City for the family-friendly atmosphere, but stayed away from the actual boardwalk. The kids had already visited a theme park and an Independence Day carnival, so we figured they’d had enough rides. (They might have disagreed, of course, but they were not consulted.)
      As it turned out, the waves were so much fun that our next trip might be boardwalk-free as well.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  6. Jessie

    Donna, you make me so homesick for NJ, from the ocean waves to the huge tomatoes and corn that my mom would load into the trunk for the neighbors back in Newark. I’m a Jersey Girl who has lived in South Dakota since 1972 and been back only a few times. My family is all deceased, so my only reason to go back now is my best gf in Toms River…and it IS an expensive trip. Thanks for the memories!

    • Donna Freedman

      It’s particularly expensive if you don’t have friends/family with whom you can stay…I feel for you. Hope you are able to make the trip again soon.

  7. Oh yes, I can so relate to lifting the kid up out of the oncoming waves. Four year old granddaughter had me on “wave duty” for an entire hour last weekend. I don’t know which of us had more fun or which of us was more tired. (Yes, I do, it was me.)

  8. Maggie

    Despite the burn (ouch….hope it is healing well), you can at least take some cool comfort in the fact that you are not one of those people who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. I appreciate your message of the importance of time spent with family and connecting different generations. While there are ways of staying in touch (Skype etc.) without breaking tight budgets, if you do have some budget leeway, seeing family in person is priceless.

    • Donna Freedman

      Agreed! It was a great chance for the boys to see family they’d sort of forgotten they had, and to see the world outside Anchorage.
      And the burn is still sore five days after the fact, but DF says he can see the first hint of peeling. (Ick.) Maybe it’ll be better in a day or so.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  9. Ouch! Being a secret brown baby, I never sunburned as a kid — could stay at the beach eight hours and go home just a little browner than normal, no burn. That changed with the harsh birth control pills of the 1960s, though…yipe! What a shocker. Hope you’re better soon.

    Great post — nice descriptive writing. Welcome back!

  10. Sounds like a great trip. We usually go to the Maryland side of OC (down the ocean = downy ocean) and sometimes cross the border to Rehoboth.

  11. Is that the Jodie Foster picture?

  12. You really are awesome to share that with the boys and with all of us! I think you are great.

  13. Lauren

    There’s nothing like spending summers down the shore! Soo many memories. My Gran used to bag a bread bag full of PB&Js and tuna sandwiches and send it with us as we spent the day at Ocean Beach III.

  14. sarah johnson

    Donna, I have followed you on several blogs. I need to say you are a wonderful writer. You change your writing for each site you are writing for. You are the consummate finder of deals and frugal habits. But I just love your description and use of words describing things like going to the beach or chopping and storing wood. Do you ever think of writing a book?

    • Donna Freedman

      Thanks for your kind words, Sarah. I have thought about writing a book — but first I must think of what to write and then when to write it.
      I appreciate your readership.


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