Atlantic Ocean, brother, confidence, father, Floating, Growing Up, healthy-living, Jersey Shore, Jones Beach, Long Island, love, mother, Ocean, overcoming oneself, Point Pleasant, self-confidence, siblings, sisters, Summer, Summer Pleasures, Summertime, Toes Pointing to Portugal
….Oh, yes it was!
A week ago this past Friday, my sister Barbara and I went to Point Pleasant, New Jersey and swam in the Atlantic Ocean.
It was my first time at a beach, my first time in the ocean, in thirty-six years.
The reason I avoided the beach for all that time is the same reason I avoided swimming altogether for all those years — shyness, embarrassment, not wanting to expose my (now less) ample flesh to the eyes of strangers.
Spending this year learning to swim, and swimming laps four days a week now, and losing twenty-two pounds so far, have all disabused me of the notion that how I look in a swimsuit is or should be important to anyone but me. (And anyway, now I can outswim a lot of the people who might cast a critical eye my way…)
How can I ever even begin to describe the pure sensory pleasure of floating on salty swells of ocean, my red-painted toes pointed toward Portugal, the hot sun warming the anterior surface of my body, the cool water supporting my back, legs, thighs, arms?
The way one floats on salt water is so different from fresh; the buoyancy is not just physical, but spiritual.
My sister and I floated side-by-side, talking, laughing, riding the perfect swells.
We recollected the many family beach trips over many years when we were children; she reminded me that our dad woke us all up VERY early on beach days by shouting “REVEILLE!” in his un-gentle clarion tones, repeatedly, until all five of us were awake and moving around.
Because my bedroom was next to the kitchen, it was usually the aromas of frying Italian sweet sausage and chicken wings that woke me before his voice did – that was the beach fare my parents cooked and packed every weekend, along with a jug of ice cold lemon or root beer Fizzies (never Kool-Aid!).
My job as the eldest was to help Dad pack the beach chairs, the umbrellas, the beach blankets and the towels, the totes of extra clothes, and Grandpa’s old suitcase (which held the food for the seven of us).
When Janet was old enough, she would help, too; by the time I aged out of the beach trips (because I thought I was way too cool at 19 or 20 to go the beach with my parents and little sisters and baby brother), even John was helping carry all of our equipment and supplies back and forth to the car.
“Barb, I think Mom and Dad are smiling down on Daughters #1 and 4 today,” I said to my sister, as we floated and swam and made the oceanic equivalent of snow angels.
My parents loved Jones Beach; they were beach missionaries, too. They converted my brother-in-law Wally’s parents to their beachy faith, meeting up with them at Field #2 or 4, or at the West End beach.
They took fewer supplies in those latter days– their chairs, their umbrella, some food; it was just the two of them in the car on the LIE and then the Meadowbrook, not the epic beach trips of our childhood.
Those beach trips–every Saturday and Sunday, and almost every weekday of Dad’s two-week summer vacation, if the weather was good– are such sweet, rich memories… the long, long summers of my childhood, adolescence, early adulthood…all the books I read, all the sketchbooks I filled at Jones Beach.. all the photos my parents took, documenting their growing and then grown family.
How I treasure them…
Thank you, Barbara, for continuing the Karabaic family beach tradition,
and for including me in them.
I can’t wait to go back.
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