The realization that the beaches of my childhood on the New Jersey shoreline are gone is sinking in. The magnitude of the big black hole in my heart is almost unbearable after viewing the images of the devastation.
As I sat in quiet thought a few things become clear in my mind this morning. One, although many of the people I know are suffering through this, they are safe and uninjured and have the chance to help someone who has been less fortunate. Two, this is another opportunity to care for each other and show what a strong sense of community this nation has and three, with every ending there comes a beginning. The reset button has been hit hard and the big guy upstairs is giving us a chance to rebuild not only our homes but our hearts.
This is actually a blog I posted a while back and for those of you reading that have never been to the New Jersey coast I think you will relate to the sweet memories that are created when a family vacations together wherever that may be…
Much Peace, Love and Light is being sent to the whole East coast today.
DO ANGEL FISH AND FUDGIE WUDGIE GUYS STILL EXIST?
Ahhh, it’s the week I’ve been waiting for…vacation in Wildwood, New Jersey a place I haven’t been since senior week in high school. Wow, how things have changed!
The very first morning I got up early to walk the boardwalk and take in the view. I’ll admit at first sight I was very disappointed. This place I loved as a child was no longer the same in any way, shape or form…or so I thought.
Many of the quaint little places I remember have been torn down and condo’s stand in their place. The stores on the boardwalk still sell beachy items like shovels, buckets and hats should the mood strike you to build a sand castle with a moat. I was saddened by the many shops of the past that have been replaced by establishments offering tattoos, body piercings and adult theme T-shirts. Rooftop miniature golf places were converted into bars. What I once remember being a family environment left me struggling and questioning society’s values once again.
When our children walk down the boardwalk they are bombarded with lewd posters and t-shirts with images of the local sports mascot flipping the finger at them rather than a fudge maker exhibiting his craft, or a salt water taffy machine churning out the sweet confections we would never think about going home without.
I think the most shocking revelation for me was that there was no reaction from children or their parents as they were passing by these sights. Have we become so callused by our surroundings that we just accept what is dished out to us as acceptable? Do we not use these experiences as a tool to teach kids anymore like our parents did? “Holy Mother of Manners” people! Whatever happened to teaching our boys to hold a door for the elderly and the ladies? And teaching our girls to expect it and respond with sincere gratitude?
I returned to our room wondering how to make the best of my time on this vacation. Certainly some of the things in my memory still existed. Not everything changed, right?
By 10:30 that morning Joe and I were on the beach at the point. With our umbrella set up and a beautiful breeze blowing, we headed towards the water with fishing rods in hand. After twenty minutes or so of “catching and releasing” I felt a calmness drapped over me, the feeling of peaceful oneness with your surroundings that we always hope to attain on a vacation. I wandered back up to sit in the shade of our umbrella for a bit.
After a few short minutes of taking in the view I watched as a crowd formed around a man with something on his line. Everyone was smiling, pointing and talking with each other discussing all the possible sea creatures he might reel in. I felt myself pulled into the mix with camera in hand ready to capture the “money shot” of his prize. Waiting in anticipation of his catch, I looked around at everyone gathered there…all strangers joined by one common wish. We wanted him to reel in the catch of his life. We all wanted to be a part, to feel his accomplishment and happiness. My thought bubble was suddenly burst when his line broke and a loud gasp burst forth from the mouths of all those watching him. We all laughed and discussed all the possibilities one more time before retreating back to our places on the beach.
I found a great deal of joy in thinking that this was just a ploy by the big guy upstairs to gather us together, all unknowingly for the benefit, support and happiness of another human being. My guess is…he had an “ANGEL FISH” on his line that was now swimming out with the tide to reappear somewhere else further down on the beach for another group of people who needed to feel the same joy of being a part in something good and connecting with each other.
As I laid in my chair mulling over this happy thought, I realized that regardless of our surroundings and external influences we have the opportunity to find happiness in so many little things. The sinking sensation in my gut of feeling buried in the unavoidable change happening in this world was starting to subside. It was then I heard it!
“GET YOUR FUDGIE WUDGIE HERE”
The caw of the “Fudgie Wudgie” guy! (a.k.a. The ice cream man) He was here on the beach in the flesh, I had forgotten about him. I was in awe of his ability to draw the young and old. My heart smiled wide as I watched the little ones run to his side like the Pied Piper. His cry was music to my ears. I yearned to be brought back to my childhood on this trip and to share that journey with my kids. Since they had not yet arrived to join us, I snapped a few pictures to show them. I sat back in my chair wondering how many more things would bring me back.
I awoke to the sound of the rest of our family plunking down their chairs, coolers and towels and the giggles of my two young nieces kicking off their flip flops and running to the water. Without missing a beat my own two teenagers with their cousins buried their cell phones in beach bags and starting digging a hole, building castles and burying anyone that would stay still long enough.
Not very long after mermaids and messages appeared in the sand all to be wiped away with the incoming tide leaving only the memories of our day together on the beach to remain…just like when I was growing up. All was not lost.
My mood lightened as the minutes/hours ticked by quickly. The day became night and I looked forward to spending time on the dock with family having cocktails and dinner together. It was my turn to cook and I decided it was Asian night. Joe would grill Teriyaki chicken and I would whip up pasta salad and my friend Melanie’s fabulous Asian garden salad.
There was no pool at the cottage where Joe’s family was staying and since the boys had taken off for the day to another friend’s house on a jet ski I decided to take my daughter Haley and my niece Erin over to the pool at our hotel for a while before dinner. As I watched them splash and dunk each other in the water I heard what sounded like a bicycle bell behind me. I assumed it was the ice cream man making his way along Surf Avenue. As I stood up I realized it was a “Huckster” selling fresh fruit and vegetables! This was a pleasant blast from the past that I have written about in previous blog entries. These Hucksters used to come into City neighborhoods during the summer selling their goods that had been picked fresh from the farm that morning. I quickly jumped up and snapped a picture trying to explain how cool this was to the girls. I do however think that Haley and Erin would have preferred the ice cream truck!
Midweek we took a ride to Cape May, an old Victorian beach town about 30 minutes outside of Wildwood. I remember staying in Cape May only a handful of times as a child. It amazed me that all the historic homes still remained and had been maintained so beautifully.
We had lunch at Fisherman’s Warf, a well-known landmark, before returning home for my niece’s 8th birthday party that evening.
My oldest sister Mary was the only one of my seven siblings that had a summer birthday. I don’t really remember ever celebrating her birthday while on vacation but what a wonderful and exciting time that would have been to do it at the beach.
I am happy to say my future sister-in-law Jaime recognizes the importance of celebrating her children’s birthday by decorating their rooms after they are asleep. I have always done this for my family and walking into a kitchen in the morning that is filled with streamers and balloons is always the highlight of their day. This small gesture validates their existence as being a necessary and joyful part of other people’s lives.
As we enjoyed eating cake and watching Victoria opening her gifts, I felt honored to be present for her special day and grateful that I had finally opened my eyes to witness the real gifts I was being given on this vacation. It was then I had a moment of clarity about my expectations for this trip. I realized that my memories were mine alone to share, not to recreate for my children. Their memories will come from times like this when family is gathered to spend time with each other.
Later Joe and I walked down the dock in the moonlight and noticed a sign on the light pole about a “dock party” on Saturday evening, our last night of vacation. I asked Joe’s sister about this and she explained that every year this small water community called “Grassy Sound” celebrates one night during the summer season for no other reason than fellowship and getting to know each other. Some of the homes in Grassy Sound have been there since the 1800’s and though most have been updated, there was something quaint about those that showed their history through warped wood and peeling paint.
All the homeowners plan a theme and decorate their docks keeping it a secret until that night. Our theme was the Philadelphia Phillies of course because it would be an understatement to say Joe’s family are the biggest sports fans ever. The excitement for the kids was building all day as we decorated our dock with lights, streamers, flags and banners. We dressed up to show our Phillies spirit and tattooed our faces.
Our dock neighbors created other themes like Luck of the Irish, Halloween in August, Pirates, Chinese New Year and Super Hero’s (the best one other than ours of course! ;0)
We spent the next couple of hours walking up and down the docks talking, eating, listening to music and socializing with everyone. I met several new people like a lady from England who coveted my hillbilly wineglass all night, LOL and asked me to send her three of them for her friends, and there was Chris, my nephew’s friends Mom with whom I had the pleasure of talking to for quite some time about “what truly is The Good Life”.
To my amazement the people that seemed to enjoy the festivities the most were the teenagers who smiled, looked us in the eyes as they asked how we were doing…and they really wanted to know. They were not on the expensive commercialized boardwalk that night trying to be cool. No, they were fishing off festive docks, playing games and hanging out with their families. The pleasure showed on their faces and they gleamed with tremendous pride to be a part of this small community celebration.
This experience was the epitome of what I talk about here on this blog, Friday Night Family fun! Memories for my kids were being created right here in Wildwood, New Jersey where I vacationed as a child more than thirty years ago creating memories of my own. Some things have changed, yes, but Angelfish and the Fudgie Wudgie guy still exist…in everyone of us.
You don’t need a vacation at the beach to throw this type of Friday Night Family celebration. All you need is a gathering place where there are other people, a few driveways in your neighborhood or a common area in your apartment complex. If you do decide to do this, please send me some pictures to post and share with all my readers.
Remember “treat your friends like family and your family like friends”.
Thank you for reading my blog, I hope that while everyone digs themselves out of this mess you will ponder the memories of your childhood vacations with gratitude in your hearts for the experience and look forward to the rebuilding of all the communities along the east coast. Take care of each other, better memories are yet to come…