The summer is waning. The final days are quickly approaching. .This past weekend, in a last impromptu decision, my wife and son, along with our niece, went to Long Beach Island for two days and one night.. we rummaged through the online database of phone numbers to find the right place at the right price—still pricey. The beach was abuzz with life. A few specialty shops already closed for the season, but giant banners were hanging on others showcasing their end of the summer sales before the winter locks would be placed on the door until 2016..
Long Beach Island is a special little place. For those who go for the first time, expect a different kind of beach. Quaint and quiet, but friendly and kind. There is an abundant array of wealth on the little island tucked between a bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The beach houses—destroyed a few years back by Superstorm Sandy—are rapidly being rebuilt and refurbished. The island had a massive comeback after the storm in 2012—take a look at some YouTube footage of the ocean washing the beach virtually away and compare to the retooled infrastructure of today to get a taste not only of the work that was done but the recovery that actually occurred.
I write this quick posting not as a boring “this happened on my vacation” but as a mile marker of life.
The first time I went to LBI was before the turn of the century. I was 19 in 1999. I didn’t party much like Prince, or the Artist formerly known as him, and I did have my share of frivolity and fumbles. But even at 19, when I stepped on that island for the first time, I was filled with a mixture of fear and wonderment. The amazing sounds of the dark beach at night is haunting. And even more, the power of the ocean next to a tiny sliver of land is humbling. At any moment that monstrous wave dreamed about in nightmares can overtake humanity. And this island, and many others, would be the first to see it.
There is also something about the ocean that is frightening.. the thoughts of Atlantic, deep and sunken, are disturbing when pondered over. The prospect of being lost at sea? Awfully scary.
All of these things are a little more frightening to me, since I really can’t swim.
I have been both fearful of water and amazed by it since I was 19.
On Long Beach Island.
This weekend, as we were walking towards the beach on a bright and beautiful sunny late summer night, I ran ahead of my family. I wanted a bird’s eye view, not of the ocean or sand, but of my 4 and ½ year old. I was poised and prepared. I saw his eyes as his eyes saw the ocean for the first time. I was amazed at his amazement. He was speechless when he saw it. He became a kid quickly, running towards the water without fear and trying to go into the ocean as much as possible. Of course I had fear—fear I muttered to my wife every few seconds as I reminded her about the current, the undertow, and the chances of a 40 pound person being swept out to sea. Oh and sharks. Oh and crabs. And sure, jellyfish too. At a certain point I backed off and just snapped pictured, safely in water up to my ankles, watching my son be apart of the world.
At breakfast Sunday—at the best place on LBI, the Chicken or The Egg—we talked a bit about memories. About childhood memories. My son watched YouTube on my phone (*thank God for the Sprint data plan this weekend*) as we verbalized what we all know: Childhood memories fade with time.
And that is the painful part..
Even the memories I had of being 19 on LBI for the first time are fuzzy. Thankfully an old VHS cassette exists with some taping of the rendezvous. In this instance, I’m grateful to have a wife that is intent on captured most of these types of moments on camera for posterity.
Ayden Morris, had to be a bit scared himself.
My niece and I joked about this ridiculous end of the world rumors coming for September 23, or something around there. Though I know it’s bunk, the paranoid side of my brain bookmarked the USGS site to watch for a big quake along the mid Atlantic Ridge, you know, the type that would cause the 2 mile high tsunami.. Thankfully it didn’t occur during our trip to the Island. But my son heard us speaking about it. He asked questions as though he understood the implications. We stopped talking about it because, after all, why scare a child who is still learning the good the bad and the ugly?
He learned a lot of good this weekend.
The beach can do that.
Standing on the edge of chaos at sea, with the sunshine lighting up waves like fire. Now that’s beauty.
A part of me knows little Ayden will forget a lot of what happened this weekend—we’ll show him photos one day of his first island encounter. A part of me also knows that the moment he saw the ocean for the for the first time, that first second, will be a longstanding memory for him just the same.
We all have those. The tiny seconds of time captured by our mind like a camera..
He had that when the mighty Atlantic greeted his eyes….
He’ll keep that forever in his mind.
And I will likewise keep the memory of him finding a memory..
As the summer sunsets and the autumn begins..
There’s still plenty of weekends to go before snow, I hope. One last beach weekend is not out of the question…