While we were at my future in-laws yesterday for a short Memorial Day trip, I picked up their copy of Philadelphia Magazine. This month's issue is dedicated to the The Shore. That's what they do once you get east of the Susquehanna, you go "down the shore" on the weekends or for a week at a time. You don't go to "the beach", which back home means Bethany Beach, Rehoboth or Ocean City, Md. No, out here you hop on the Schuylkill, take a trip on the Garden State Parkway or the AC Expressway and head to the New Jersey Shores.
As I was flipping through the magazine, I came across this story about a family that has been renting a shore house for many, many, many years in various places "down the shore". They all pile into one house or two as it seems they've grown in to and spend a week in the sun, biking, eating ice cream, enjoying the surf and each other's company.
It reminded me a lot of my own family and the people my parents call friends who are like my family. Ever since I was a little kid, we would spend a week at the beach. As a very young girl I remember trips to Cape May, NJ and stays in the Cricket House (so called because at night the crickets sang like it was their job). Watching sunsets at Cape May Point, wondering if the old concrete ship would ever really sink and if I had collected enough "Cape May Diamonds". Playing in the arcade, walking on the boardwalk and heading to Wildwood at least one night during the week to play skee ball and ride the rides.
In later years we spent vacations in Bethany Beach and a few times on the Outer Banks, in Duck. On those trips the house was filled with not just my family, mom, dad, little sister and myslef but also their friends and their kids. Being in high school I didn't want to have anything to do with the younger kids. Sometimes I spent a good portion of the week with my nose stuck in a book. Sometimes, on the trips when Kevin was along we'd hang out, able to hit the boardwalk without adult supervision. Or take a bike ride around Bethany. We all might go our separate ways but there was always a night when we had dinner together. Usually seafood night, we'd sit on the back porch, crack open crabs and peel steamed shrimp with loads of Old Bay.
Those trips were usually the high light of my summer. Once we all started going away to college, it was harder to plan trips to the beach. Then after Kevin died, it was too painful for me to spend a lot of time at the old beach house in Bethany. There were too many memories wrapped up there. Every corner reminded me of something we did when we were kids. The cheap mini-golf on Garfield Parkway that we could get three games out of for four people with $10. The boardwalk fries place that always, always, always has a long line. The TCBY we had a tradition of getting large cones from on the first night there.
I haven't had a full week at the beach since the end of college. When things went south with my parents, that ended our family trips. My vacation days just didn't allow for one long week, no matter how much I wanted to go. Oh, there have been trips to the beach, don't get me wrong, when we're at Will's grandparents place in Salisbury we try to spend some time in Ocean City for at least one day. And I've been back to Bethany in the last couple of years for long weekends. I'll always be drawn back there. It holds just as many good memories for me as sad.
Someday, I hope Will and I can take trips like the Giunta's (the family in the story). Maybe find a place either "down the shore" or "at the beach" where we can take our family year after year. Even if we just start out going on long weekend trips, that would be enough for me.