I grew up on Long Beach Island in New Jersey.
This is what I remember:
Exit 63 off the parkway, traffic on the bridge. The restaurant where my parents had their wedding reception as soon as you got on the other end. The little shack in the marshland that always had something spray painted on the side.
Ron Jon Surf Shop. Beach badges. There are no "public" beaches on Long Beach Island. You get beach badges. We always had a season pass, but you could get a daily or weekly pass as well. The badges would be a different color each year and I always looked forward to opening the package and finding out what color it was that year. It was navy blue more than twice.
Went to church at St. Francis and watched my dad do and teach aikido at the St. Francis Community Center every Saturday.
My brother had his first job at "the tennis shack" at the community center when he was 16...I had my first job at the tennis shack at the same place when I was 16. I had my second job as a "maid" at The Seahorse Motel a few doors down from the St. Francis Community Center. I would walk there after work.
We always went to the beach in Beach Haven. I didn't even know what the other beaches look liked.
I ate at "The Chicken or the Egg" weekly.
I learned about 65hr work weeks at "Silver Sun" - a huge tourist shopping mall that sold t-shirts, postcards, candy, towels, sunscreen, flip-flops, hermit crabs, and jewelry. Met a lot of fun people from Mexico and Russia.
I debated which flip-flops were superior: Tevas or Reefs (I prefer Reefs).
I spent hours and hundreds of dollars at Fantasy Island.
I looked forward to and dreaded "Festival of the Sea" - the best carnival I have ever attended which was also held in the St. Francis parking lot. It marked the end of summer, so I always felt a little sad when leaving.
It was the place I first got pulled over when I was 17.
I remember the ice cream man who would ring his bell at the beach entrance and going to get an ice pop shaped like Superman or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or buying a Screwball....pink icecream with a gumball at the bottom.
I would use a Frisbee to collect "sand cookies" - the crusty top of the sand that no one had stepped on yet and my mom would pretend to eat them when I was little.
Look for the bubbles in the sand and dig until you found the sandcrab that made them.
Stand at the edge of the ocean and let the waves come back and forth over your feet and if you look at just the right angle, you feel the whole world is sliding out from under your feet.
Boogie boards! My brother and I would ride them for entire afternoons. A new one every summer.
Pinky Shrimps. Dom's had the best pizza burgers. Barnegat Lighthouse. The expensive clothing shops I never went into. The last A&P.
And leaving it all behind with sunburned shoulders, sandy feet, wet hair, and a feeling I wouldn't be able to identify until I left. The feeling that I was home.
That was my home.