End of SummerTime Blues

It's Labor Day, the unofficial/official end of summer.  If I had my way, I'd still be sitting in a beach chair watching my son rearrange the sand in some fascinating creation or riding a boogie board with a big grin on his face.  But once again the weather gods have denied NJ a sunny end to the season, so here I am in front of a computer again.

When I didn't have a child, this used to be my favorite time to head to the beach...when the sun was out at least.  Crowds are down, water is warm and it's calm and peaceful.  It's the time when the days are warm but the night start to cool and the only sounds of the evening are ocean waves and crickets chirping.  (The ever present traffic on Rt. 35 dies down...of course this year it will be different as the "restoration" continues with bulldozers and jackhammers.)

From what I have read, it has not been a very successful summer at the shore.  And after all the everyone has been through since October of 2012, that should have been expected.  No matter how much the governor has encouraged people to return to the shore and reassured the masses that everything was open and good, it wasn't.  The small stretch of the island that I know as my second home, Normandy Beach, had business such as J&J Variety open (still only accepting cash!), yet the pizza place right next door was closed and will probably not return.  The local Wawa is open and doing well, yet the Lavallette Post Office has moved location to a site that isn't Lavallette.  (As far as I know it's part of Ocean Beach Unit I.) Sadly, the landmark Catholic Church in Normandy Beach as been forever shuttered.  (In place of the huge structure with stained glass windows we will one day get condominiums.)

But as odd as it was this summer, "my" section of the Jersey shore is doing it's best to remain vital and afloat.  And for me, it's a vital part of my life and history.  I may not be a NJ shore native, but having spent part of every summer since 1972 in the same town, I feel like Normandy Beach, NJ (08739 -- and I know that from memory) is a part of me. (And when I think back on it I realize that I spent a couple of weekends even before that when I was very little at my Great Uncle Harold's house.  He and my Great Aunt Dot were original owners of a house that still stands on South Court.)

I've stayed in houses on Broad Street, Norman Court, and 7th Avenue before my mother finally was able to put down roots on Lake Court.  It was her long time dream to own a house and it finally came true in the fall of 1995.

The houses that we rented may have changed owners or even changed shape, but I still remember each and every one of them.  They may not be owned by the same people, but I going down Broad from 7th will still be the Denmans, Curtins, Bedells, Dohrs, Larks, Wagners, Collanis, Churchs and Mapletofts to me.  There was no cable TV or Internet (hows that for dating myself).  There was a lot of reading.  (There used to be a Book Store in Normandy Beach just next door to what used to be the only real estate agent in town and the Post Office.  I spent a lot of my childhood allowance in there!).  There was game playing.  There were hermit crabs (that often grossly escaped) and Sunday Races.  (Sunday races still exist at the NBYC, thanks, mostly to my parents and some other dedicated members, but there are no more Sunfish and even Sanderlings are going out of style.)  We went to the beach for a full day and if my mother managed to get some Coppertone on me, she was lucky.  (And I will pay for that someday, probably sooner rather than later.  A good sunburn was essential way back then.)

I was married in Normandy Beach.  (It will be 17 years this Friday for those of you who were there and are counting.)  My family drove from our house on Lake Court to the Yacht Club on South Court.  If I hadn't been wearing heels, I could have walked it in 10 minutes or less.  It wasn't a formal affair, but it was a memorable one.  (And not just because of the downpour in the early afternoon that kept several of our friends from showing up on time, or at all.)  It was a fun filled evening and when it was over I put sneakers on instead of my heels.  The next day, Steve and I were up early to help clean up the club, because that is what you do.  While removing folding chairs and tables with other family members, Steve and I munched on cold left overs and realized how amazing the food was.  (And does anyone even remember that due to my food allergies we DIDN'T have a wedding cake?).

When my son was about a month old, I drove him by myself down to the shore.  Steve stayed home and got some sleep.  I slept too, as my mother got up to feed him in the middle of the night.  He slept in his car seat on the floor near my parents bed.

The Jersey Shore is now in my son's blood too.  What started out as just visiting for a couple of weekends has turned into week long ventures with Grandma and Grandpa thanks to Marine Science Camp. (http://www.marinesciencecamp.com/).  Three years ago he tried a week and loved it.  Last year he did two weeks (I gave my parents a break in between weeks).  This year he was up to three weeks.  Just like his mom and his grandparents, he loves the ocean and Barneget Bay  And if he has his way, he'll be going for as many weeks as possible until he is old enough to become a counselor. (Not to brag too much here, but he probably knows more about marine life than some of the less seasoned counselors do.)

Normandy Beach New Jersey may be less than a mile long (based on my calculations...which means nothing official), but my memories are much longer than that and they continue to grow and will be part of my fabric of my son's life.  Some day I realize that the small barrier island of which Normandy Beach is a part of will cease of exist.  But for now, even after the power of Superstorm Sandy, it remains alive.  Changed and in many ways hurting, but still very much an important part of New Jersey.

As the summer comes to an end, I can't wait for our next summer at Normandy Beach to begin.


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