The Gathering Place

I sit on the porch of our family shore house listening to the morning symphony of foam flip flops shuffling along slate sidewalks to the boardwalk, the gentle rumbling of car engines in slow pursuit of good parking spaces, and the sweet-tuned gossip amongst the birds singing the breaking news of summer from the trees lining the street.

The breeze is cool and a cocktail of salty humidity clings to the furniture as the sun spotlights the modernized facelifts of our street’s once Victorian-style dollhouse homes.

I can usually see the ocean from this spot on the cozy wicker sofa, but the hedges around the porch have grown a little too accustomed to a casually untidy appearance which we can all pretty much relate to from living through a worldwide pandemic. I could use a trim as well but that can wait a while longer. These are those lazy, hazy, crazy days of… well you know, after all.

(The birds’ news reel plays on a loop).

I was too lazy to prepare the coffee this morning and didn’t want to wake anyone sleeping on the first floor with the bubbling gasps of the coffee pot. So instead, I gathered my laptop and headed out to the porch to sit in the breeze and be inspired by summer. Not too long after, I am joined by my cousin and her young son and demands for bubble time take priority. Wobbly iridescence floats heavily on the air and splash lands on the floorboards while the writing takes a rest.

Welcome distractions abound in this family-filled old house. These walls tell stories of use and love – of our own contained family history in this little shore town. The rooms are filled with laughter and conflicting TV volume preferences – with movie decision fatigue and lazy mornings sipping coffee. The scent memory of freshly baked Italian rolls and cinnamon sugar crumb cake permeate the dining room and waft up the stairs like a buttery apparition encouraging everyone to wake up in slow procession.

The memories of past experiences and loved ones long gone remain alive in this magical place, preserved like old time postcards in a frame. This house tells us stories and helps us write new ones. It makes us laugh till our bellies and our cheeks ache or even sometimes, till we pee “our” pants (IYKYK). It is where we have gathered for my whole life- where I got to know my family as a whole and I am so grateful for all that it gives us. We try our best to do right by it and keep the experiences going, even when it gets hard or we don’t have a clue what we are doing.

But now it is time to put away the laptop and enjoy the first day of summer – to bask in the salty breeze of the shore, with the only current task at hand of pondering when to head to the beach.

Sirena

This morning, it’s time to dust off those keyboard cobwebs and get some words down. Since my last post, the temperatures in our corner of New Jersey have been cooling on a slow simmer, seasoned with a pinch of chill and a splash of crispness. The daylight hours have a bluer tinge and grow more fleeting with late September’s progression. The trees have started pulling out a few of their fall colors from vacuum-sealed space bags in Mother Nature’s walk-in closet and the crowds no longer flock to the beaches down the shore.

When people think of the fall season, I assume many do not associate it with the beach. I, however, do, and am particularly excited to be reacquainted with fall at the shore this year.

Ever since my mom’s family starting renting the family shore house during the off season for the past I – lost – count – how – many years, I have been nostalgic for the empty beaches that result from the change in season, the expansive shoreline carpeted in cold sand, littered with the treasures of washed ashore sand dollars, backdropped by the dunes’ mountainous terrain, a fortress to hold back the salty tides during storms.

The shallows are warmest now, in early fall, after cooking under the hot sun throughout the summer months. Jelly salps dot the shoreline like sparkling, solid bubbles and the towel and umbrella colonies and impromptu nerf football games have vanished until Memorial Day Weekend. The crowds are gone and peace settles heavy on the sand, adjusting the arms of its Tommy Bahama beach chair until the back is at a comfortable angle.

And once fall is settled on the shore and summer put to rest in a storage bin with its corresponding seasonal items, it is time to allow the crash of the waves and whispering pull of the tide to echo as it reverberates off the dunes. It is time to let the sirenas’ sea song surround you, an intimate audience, in a fluid turned dissonant composition, mystifying and overwhelming in its power.