Who likes the beach? Okay, not everyone. Believe me. I went through phases where I had enough sand in between my cracks. On my scalp for days. You know, a few freckles removed that were suspicious after years of no sunscreen, only vegetable oil. See: 1992-95. But then I “found” the beach again and remembered and rediscovered what a wonderful blessing it was to grow up only miles away from the ocean. And then move back again after being away for fifteen years–to now raise my own family near the beach. We always come back. Don’t get me wrong. I loved living in Mercer County, but there’s no ocean close by…and that can be hard. I know…baby violins.
As a young child my dad worked shift work at PSE&G in Newark, NJ about an hour away from our hometown, so my mom would get us out of the house for the day so that he could get some sleep. She’d take us to the beach about 8:30am until the sunset. Sometimes we’d meet our neighbor Joyce and her bag of cheap Italian-bagged cookies from Shop-Rite. They were delicious. Sometimes we’d walk up to the snack stand and get fries and ketchup or a Bomb Pop.
Back then the adults would sometimes light up a cigarette a few times a day. Now I’d vomit, but it was par for the course back then. My brother and I were pretty self-sufficient all day–in and out of the waves, sharing sips of the cherry Kool-Aid from our red and white drink cooler that clinked from the ice cubes that lasted all day long. Eating tuna fish and peanut butter and jelly and so many potato chips all day. Until my mom gave us cut up peaches or grapes.
We’d relax in our green, orange, and yellow vinyl chairs–you know the ones! It was easy and wonderful. We’d be brown all summer. Then we’d shower later at night and usually go out to play or sometimes to eat seafood with family friends.
As a teenager the beach had a totally different meaning. How tan could we get to show that tan off to the boys we liked? Who would we see on the beach and what song would conveniently be playing on our boom box or in our walkman? Would it be a public music video or just one in our head? How tan could we get for that party later, or just the outside hang-out in the neighborhood with our Mom jeans that weren’t mom jeans yet?
Wow. Priorities. Sometimes I remember opening a book on the beach, but mostly we’d tan. I could never (still can’t) sit still long enough, so I would still ride the waves as a teen. When I say ride the waves, I mean with my body. You really don’t need a surfboard.
I had one of my best first kisses on the beach at night in May of 1995, my senior year. The beach is where my husband told me he loved me for the first time in 2005. The beach is where I’d figure things out with my walkman in my ears. The beach is a breathing entity. Now it’s a place I can meditate near or on. It’s a setting to breathe in and figure out why a certain scene isn’t working in my book, or why my characters aren’t feeling real.
My kids love to find shells. Who doesn’t? My kids love the saltwater. It’s just what we do down here as soon as the temperature allows. Differently than my mom, I cannot spend an entire day on the beach because of my shorter attention span and the information about skin cancer. 🙂 But we like to go after 3pm when the crowds thin and the sun calms.
Freddi Birdoni lives by the beach on the bay in Black Licorice. The beach is a backdrop for her anger, her peace, her new takes on life, her music, and her friendships. You pick. Why wouldn’t I write my novels in this setting? It’s what I know, and when you write what you know, it shows. I would love, love if you share with me your favorite beach memories, whether it’s the Atlantic or the Pacific. Or even the Gulf! You can send it in an email to let me know you connected with this content.
In this time of quarantine, the beach is still there for us. As soon as a warm day pops up, we will get in the car and go. Bundled up. Because it’s wide open, cold, and pretty empty this time of year. How lucky is that? VERY.
Love and good health,