Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Landscape Changed

Growing up military with our Air Force dad, we lived all over. So did my cousins with my Navy uncle.

Some of the fam at the shore.
The boardwalk in back is now just concrete blocks.
But we spent many, many summers on the Jersey shore. My mom is from New Jersey and her parents lived in Glen Ridge for quite awhile until they moved to the shore while I was in high school. But, grandpa's brother and his wife have lived about a block off the ocean for decades. I spent a week with them as a kid and we went to the beach every day. We made our own bread, ice cream, crafts and I cleared my plate because my uncle said I couldn't leave the table if I didn't, and I believed him. It was also the time my aunt was making something from scratch and in one of my family legend moments, I said, "I don't eat scratch."

It was always interesting when we all met at the shore. So many sand castles, boogie boards, wave surfing and attempts to swim in the freezing salt water pool at the pavilion. There were sunburns, wipeouts and sand in our shoes, hair and everywhere.

As a kid, I loved the beach. You couldn't get me out of the water, or the sun. As I got older, I lost interest. So much sunburn, salt and sand. I'm a redhead, which equates to lobster girl in summer. One summer, I sat upstairs in the pavilion in the rocking chairs that I loved, and read a book about the CIA for hours (mostly the same pages over and was a bit dense). Later, I got into running and loved a jog on the boardwalk. Usually early in the morning for sunrise, when it's just you and the ocean. A walk on the beach during the winter is my favorite, probably because there's quiet and calm.

I hadn't been the shore since last summer and pulled out of the Atlantic City half marathon since I was sick. That race was the week before Hurricane Sandy. That boardwalk is now destroyed.

Over the weekend, we surprised Grandma with a huge family gathering for her 80th birthday. The party was in Princeton, but some of us headed to Grandma's and the shore afterwards. Walking on the beach, in December, with a cold wind coming off the sea, we took in what was left of our beloved boardwalk.

Despite the destruction and piles of rubble, we could visualize where things had been and I could remember where many things happened. Chats in the gazebo, swim races in the pool, the locker the family had all shared for decades, the badge kiosks.

The pavilion with the pool and lockers is missing sections of the wall. Our locker might be gone. There are piles of rubble and some homes were damaged, though most looked like they were mostly unscathed. Sand is everywhere, even a month later roads are closed and a huge operation to pump the lake was set up to prevent flooding.

The place is forever changed, but it will survive, just as it has before. We don't know if they'll rebuild or what it will look like in a few years. But, we'll be back on that beach sometime soon I'm sure. Though as the shore has changed, so have we. Some of us are married now, or will be, some now have advanced degrees, have moved away or have spent time in foreign countries. We've all grown up, but this place is a part of childhood memories and no amount of destruction can take that away.

A good friend of mine is from another part of the Jersey shore and wrote this incredible piece about her love for this place.