The summer of my 5th year, my family and I would take my mom’s big gold Cadillac and head down the shore. We would all huddle under the big yellow and green striped umbrella for hours while salty wet breezes cooled our overheated inland bodies. On the way back, we would fight over who got what bathroom. “I got the blue bathroom,” my brother Clarence would call. “I got the pink one,” my sister Annamae would then say.
When I was 7, we rented the top of a white boxy looking boardwalk house. One day, I stayed in the sun too long and turned red. That may have been one of my only not so sweet memories of the shore. Most of my sweetest memories all happened on the Ocean City boardwalk. Riding the rides at Gillian’s Amusement Park, eating cotton candy and custard cones, going to the music pier with my mom, watching a man balance on the skinny boardwalk rail with my brothers and sisters.
When I was 8, we rented the top of a pink boardwalk house and I made friends with another little girl next door named Jenny, and we played games with seaweed we’d gather on the shore. One night, when it rained too hard, we floated on rafts in the streets.
When I was 13, my dad built a house for us that was on the bay side of the island. I’d spend the days tanning on the beach and the nights walking up and down the boardwalk, eating pizza and ice cream, playing PAC-MAN.
When I was 14, I got my first job on the boardwalk. I worked in a snow cone stand that was the size of a closet. I read Lord of the Flies and watched the ocean and ate flavored ice in between my few customers. From that summer on, I always had at least one boardwalk job. I sold everything from lemonade to pizza to cheap turquoise rings.
But it was not until the winter of my 25th year that I really discovered the greatness of this place. It was during this cold off-season time that I could hear the ocean’s melodious song without the racket of roller coaster screams and baby stroller cries. I would ride my bike home on the boardwalk after I got out of my waitress job, winds blowing through me, my mind silent, feeling just like a seagull.
Now I’m told that my beloved boardwalk is covered with sand; and indeed, Sandy has taken a great toll upon the Jersey coastline. And perhaps this disaster has scared some people into thinking that the Jersey shore is dying. But the Jersey coast can never die. It does not know how to die. How can it die when so many people need it to go on being? When it brings smiles to so many children’s faces, and gives so many hard working stiffs something to look forward to after the long, cold Northeastern winter. This magical place, known to me only as the shore, will continue to be, to survive, as all of my beautiful memories of it have survived.