I know when I shared my “No really, I’m Italian” post, I left off with a teaser for what would be part two of my dna tales. Then my ex-wedding anniversary rolled around (2nd marriage for those keeping count of marriages I mention in posts), which brought with it several years worth of fb “on this day” memories. My favorite being the eulogy I wrote on behalf of the family betta fish who perished on what was technically (we were still married that year, though estranged) anniversary number ten. I decided it was too fun not to share, so that interrupted my flow.
Now I could easily get on with it and deliver the sequel in this post, but with it being Memorial Day Weekend (the unofficial start of summer season) and having spent some recent quality off season time in Montauk, I have something else on my mind.
All these lovely new Montauk memories I’ve made lately, have me fondly recalling Montauk memories from long ago, as well as other memories by the sea. They are the best part of my childhood, and my grandmother is all wrapped up in them. That’s what I feel like writing about today.
In reality I was a little landlocked in the middle class suburban town I was being raised in, but that didn’t stop us from making some seaside memories. Luckily I had a grandmother and great grandmother who were quick to load up a car and head for the shore.
Trips to Montauk were a favorite, hence what kicked off this trip down memory lane. They consisted of day trips to the lighthouse with a stop for lunch, or weekend getaways to a small beachside motel, to the more luxurious pampering of Gurneys. In season or off season, this was where my problems ceased to exist. This is where it was easy to stay in the moment. The good, beautiful, safe moments.
Montauk was not the only seaside escape though, there was the more exotic travel to Aruba. I was a tall for my age, well developed 14 year old, so often uncomfortable in my own skin, but here I stood confidently. Ernesto the pool boy flirted with me. I hopped a private plane for a day trip to Bonaire, where I snorkeled and dined surrounded by flamingos. I sipped virgin pina coladas and danced under the stars to Lionel Richie’s All Night Long, my insecurities a million miles away.
Perhaps my favorite though, long before the tween Montauk escapes, or the teenage journey to the A-B-C islands in the Caribbean Sea, were the trips which required the least travel time. Jones Beach.
Now I may not have technically lived in a beach town, “technically” <haha, it just straight up wasn’t a beach town….but fortunately, Jones beach was a hop, skip, & a jump away!
Far enough to plan, pack, and spend the whole day there, but close enough to jump in the car on a whim and drive during a storm, just to watch (from a safe distance) the wild waves crashing on the shore.
I was merely a young child, yet the power the sea possessed was not lost on me. Even on the hottest of summer days, when everyone flocked to the beach and gathered in the water to seek relief from the unrelenting sun beating down, I knew what the ocean could do.
I waded out a little further and then just a little bit further. I bravely stood my ground as the waves rolled toward me. Sometimes I would jump at just the right moment and I’d gently ride the wave up and down. Sometimes I’d brace myself as it washed over me, and as much as I tried to dig my feet in, that wave would knock me right on my ass. There would be moments of panic…A blur of confusion, some salt water swallowed, seaweed and sand in uncomfortable places. Sometimes I’d barely get my head above water before the next wave knocked me down again.
After a while, when it became too much, I’d crawl exhausted to the safety of the shore. I’d make my way back to my grandmother, and our blanket. There I would rest and relax, until feeling up to venturing back to the shore’s edge. “Stay where the lifeguard can see you, and remember where I am” she would say, as I set off once again toward the unpredictable sea.
These earliest seaside memories are what I would later recall as life lessons when times got rough and I felt tossed about. Years after she was gone, it was the image of my beautiful, sun kissed grandmother on her beach blanket, arms extended toward me, that I would meditate on when I didn’t know what else to do.
Even physically gone, she serves as my refuge when life knocks me around to the point of making it difficult to catch my breath, and leaves me a little confused and uncomfortable. “Stay where the lifeguard can see you, and remember where I am”, I can hear her say.
And just as her memory serves as a port in a storm, she is as much in the delicate sea breeze that gently kissed my cheek during the recent joyful days making new memories in Montauk.
Wishing everyone a 2020 season of making some new happy seaside stories of your own.
Virtual hugs & salty kisses xo