Bill lives in my old hometown. I left after graduating from high school, not moving far but not making it a habit to go back and visit either. Over the last 3 1/2 years or so I regularly spend some or all of my weekends there. I have mixed feelings about the town I grew up in, hold fond memories and not so fond, some even quite painful. Some of the pain stems from everyday, universal preteen and teenage angst, some of it self-imposed by choices I made and behaviors I exhibited. Still some of it came from feeling different from my friends for a host of reasons; nationality and divorce ranking on top. I don’t walk around dwelling on those early years, realize they helped form who I am today and I’m good with that.
The town Bill lives in feels much different from the town I grew up in. Or does it? Downtown is a destination spot on the weekends especially during the warmer months. My hometown hugs the shoreline; boats dock there and visitors and natives alike frequent the numerous retailers, restaurants, bars, and ice cream shops, myself among them. Yet unless there is an event on the green where everyone comes out to celebrate I rarely run into anyone I know.
On Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings we enjoy walking along the shore, alternating between two beaches. This morning we walked at Silver Sands, following the boardwalk until it dumped us onto the street then walking along through various neighborhoods to the Audubon Center at road’s end. We climbed the spiral staircase to the Observation Point where I lasted about three minutes before my fear of heights got the better of me and I gingerly headed back down to sea level.
We walked and talked, noticed houses we’ve never noticed before, pointed out flowers we liked in all the gardens we passed. We said hello to people watering their lawns, walking their dogs, riding their bikes, walking like us. By the time we got back to the beach the sand and water were filled with people. Kids and adults splashed around in the waves, umbrellas and lawn chairs dotted the landscape, young guys and women played beach volleyball and lots of boats, large and small, were anchored a mile or so out.
Growing up we went to this beach all summer long. We’d watch men drag the bottom of the sound with nets looking for crabs and bait fish (I think that’s what they were looking for but could be wrong). We’d eat hot dogs and hamburgers and french fries from the little shack that stood between parking lot and beach, no longer there. We’d walk down the street to the little convenience store, now a breakfast cafe I think, and buy frozen malted milk chocolate bars. We’d run like hell to all of these places because the sand burned our feet, putting our sandals back on when we reached the sidewalk. We took swimming lessons here, built sand castles here, buried each other in the sand, we dodged jellyfish when we swam and looked for horseshoe crabs along water’s edge. At the end of the day we’d drag towels, chairs, umbrella back to the car where we would get sand all over the back seat and floors only to repeat the whole process the next day.
I haven’t thought about our days at the beach in a long time but our walk there today brought it all, fondly, back to me.