Fond Memories of East Coast Summer Fun

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As with so many people, much of my mental capacity this week has been given to Hurricane Sandy. And, as we see the aftermath unfold, I am thankful that all of our East Coast loved ones are safe, albeit a little worse for wear given some water leaks, lack of power, lack of connectivity.

This storm presented a new situation for us – instead of riding it out with our friends and family, we watched from afar. Very far, actually. 3000 miles away. I was so worried on Monday and Tuesday. I was constantly checking in with folks back home – and even kept my parents (who seem to lose power if the dog sneezes too hard in a rain storm) on the phone for a good hour late Monday afternoon when they probably had better things to do…like prepare. In my head, I told myself I wanted to keep them occupied and not worried, but in my heart, my intent was more selfish because I wasn’t sure when I’d get to speak to them again and I didn’t really like that. I guess it was selfishly well-intentioned? Sounds like an oxymoron – but. really, it was out of love vs. anything else. Luckily, they never lost power and we’ve been in contact every day since. 🙂

It’s strange to be so far away from your “core” of friends and family during a situation like this. You feel kind of helpless and horrifically voyeuristic – like you’re watching destruction unfold on TV and you know folks you love are going through it live – in real life – and you have no idea how they are faring. They were all OK. Thank goodness.

Stranger still were the days following when evacuated friends from New Jersey were without power and connectivity and had no way of checking on their town and the town where they owned a summer property. Being in Oregon, the only way I could help was sharing information since I had  access to what they were longing for. I spent Tuesday night looking for information and photos from their towns and taking pictures of my computer screen and texting them. They were thankful to have any information “from the outside world” because all they had was the safety of the home to which they’d evacuated – powerless and disconnected from today’s social-media-rich world where information is constant and real time. (As a side note, I have to say that I am amazed at the way social media helps people stay connected and share information in times of crisis. Watching a virtual community rise up to support one another – even with just small bits of information, or a photo of a shore house to confirm it was safe – is oddly powerful stuff. It can instantly calm a worried soul. Over the past few days, I have seen many, many examples where the simple act of strangers passing along a nugget of info about a particular street / intersection has given folks peace of mind – even when the news was bad.)

However, for me – and I imagine for many of our friends and family back East – the most gut-wrenching thing has been poring over photos of so many New Jersey shore towns that were socked by Sandy. Growing up in Philadelphia, my family and I spent a good amount of our summer vacations “down the shore”, and it’s simply sad to see familiar haunts covered in water…sand…debris. I was crushed to see so many places that bring about such nostalgia standing in stark contrast to how they are embedded in my mind’s happy memories.

When I was young, my grandparents owned a summer home in Ocean Gate, NJ. It’s a tiny, tiny idyllic coastal town – about 1/2 mile wide by 1/2 mile long – nestled across Barnegat Bay from Seaside Heights.  We had family in Lavalette, family in Barnegat, and family friends who owned a place in Surf City, Long Beach Island. Every summer, we’d spend about two weeks (and some weekends) at this home and our ‘special treat’ would be a night on the Seaside boardwalk (pre-“Jersey Shore”!!!) or a day with our cousins in Lavalette or a day at the ocean with friends in Surf City. When I grew older, I still spent time in these shore towns, but also started spending more time at the southern Jersey Shore spots that Philadelphians traditionally frequent – for me, that was mostly Sea Isle and Wildwood. And after Kenny and I began our own family, we’d hit the Ocean City boardwalk with the kids one Saturday every September after the summer rush had died down.

Like so many of you, seeing pictures and coverage of these places is heartbreaking. I know recovery will happen and things will be rebuilt and many generations to come will get to have the fantastic New Jersey Shore experiences we all did. But this week, I mourn what the ocean has taken or damaged – what used to be, and how I remember these towns from my childhood.

Here I am in the late 70s / early 80s enjoying some rides on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights. (Likely in homemade duds courtesy of my mom…the talented seamstress.)

Seaside Heights - train ride

Picture 1 of 3

We’re sending our best wishes to the North East Coast for a speedy return to life as they knew it.

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  1. Colleen Finnerty

    Bridget,

    Your tales are a delight for me to read. My life also started in Philadelphia. Cottage st. In Mayfair. My time was short to live in Philly,as I moved to the suburbs when I was two. Much of my extended family was still in Philly and so we were always there. Needless to say, my parents had a great reverence for the city and passed that on to their children. Another place we were kin to was the jersey shore. This is the place my parents met and courted. Wildwood was their original spot but as kids they took us to ocean city( mostly because it was free, as my dads aunt owned the place) for a week or two in the summer,ahhhhh but the memories. Our life always went north. During high school my parents bought a summer home in tuckerton. Many great times. As life has it our lives evolve by chance and choices. While my mom and my younger sisters spent their summers in the sun, I needed to embrace the profession I had chosen and work for a living. My career as a nurse has taken me many places but when I was young I worked with a wonderful girl who with her husband bought a boat and had a place to go in ocean gate. Yes I am indeed speaking of Kathy and Dennis. Many of the people who worked at Frankford were all from the city and I remember am the girl from the “burbs” . They all knew and accepted that I may not know all the spots but they knew I cared about the real estate “Philly”. Your mom and I worked together for only a short time but I always remembered her spirit and laugh. Many years later we met again down the shore at atlanticare. Fate. We worked together there for about 9 years and it was a sweet reunion. Why have I taken this time to share all this? Really just to say, I too had to leave my home in Newtown, Pa with my husband and children and relocate to Michigan. Our time spent there was 11 years. When your mom said you were relocating I felt all the emotions I am sure you also felt and I hear the emotion in your voice as you spoke of your worry during the storm. I wish I had had the chance to write a blog back then as you have, because it is always fun to relive great memories. Embrace always what you did, what you do and what you will do. Now I live in Pittsburgh to live by my grandchildren here and in Michigan, but I always enjoy catching up with all the special people I have met in my life. Keep sharing your blog and I hope I didn’t bore you by sharing this with you.
    Colleen

    November 1st, 2012 // Reply
    • goingwestcoastal

      Hi Colleen – this was so sweet. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story with me. Relocating is a strange thing – but the one thing that I found (so far), and you reinforce above, is that you can always go “home” – that is, where your loved ones are. I am glad you and my mom were reunited after so many years – that’s awesome! Thanks, too, for reading – I appreciate it! 🙂

      November 1st, 2012 // Reply

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