LAST DAYS AT THE BEACH

September 8, 2016

By MARGARET MENDEL

It was finally the end of summer. Well, it was Labor Day weekend, that’s pretty much the end of summer. Though we knew there would still be a few hot and muggy days before we talked about the fall chill in the air. It was still time to take a break from the humid air of the big city life and head for the seashore. My husband would close shop for a couple days, after all most of NYC was out of town. My time away from “the office” is different from his. I’m a writer. Even though I say I’m leaving my work at home, that writer part of me is always tagging along wherever I go.#3 ROCKING CHAIRBut this would be a different kind of vacation. The family beach house, a place where we’d spent many wonderful summers, had just been sold. It would be our last weekend in the old house and it was our turn to share in clearing and cleaning before the closing date.

As soon as we walked into the house, it felt different. It felt hollow. Not that much had been removed from the premises because the new owners had agreed to purchase most of the furnishings and household goods. But there was a sense of emptiness. The rooms were pretty much as they always were, though it was probably the sense of sadness that I felt. It was the end of an era.

It wasn’t enough that this was the last weekend we’d stay in the house, but a severe summer storm, Hermine, was making its way up the Atlantic coastline. And at 6 miles an hour, it was heading straight for our area. The sky was a brilliant blue with dramatic clouds lazily floating overhead. It was hard to believe that a storm was going to hit any time soon.# 8 NO STORM TODAYWe weren’t the only one’s not too bothered by the impending storm. Beach goers, by the dozens, sat out of the reach of the incoming tide, seeming not to have a care in the world. Gulls swooped down and glided across the horizon. Fishing boats cruised out into the Atlantic, their skippers hopeful of still catching a big one so late in the season. And the ocean, as smooth as silken fabric, glistening in the late summer light, dazzling the lazy sunbathers.

We’d spent many summers walking these beaches, our footprints repeatedly erased by the rising and falling tide. I remember little burned patches on the backs and arms of my children where the water and sand wiped away the sunblock. The whimpering, the complaining child would have to be soothed by a bowl of fresh popped popcorn, a fudge icicle and a little extra time of watching television before they went to bed.#9 OUT GOING TIDEThat evening we returned to the beach. The sun was beginning to set. The light is magical some days streaming out from above the clouds. It seems to slowly move, or hardly move at all, and then in an instant the light is gone.#7 SEAGULL WITH DINNERWhen almost everyone has left the area, the gulls have the beach to them selves. They scavenge for leftover tidbits that have been abandoned by the humans. There are also yummy offerings from the ocean, crashed by the pounding surf, juicy morsels are washed to shore.# 8 ENGAGEMENT PHOTOThe evening light, just before sun set, is a photographers dream light. One evening we went to the inlet during this magical hour. The light was a delicious pink and the clouds were making wonderful designs across the horizon and we happened upon a photo session. The couple stood with their backs to the brilliant setting sun, giant balloons bobbing and swooshing around in the damp evening air. The young lovers hugged and kissed, while the photographer gestured and gave orders as though he were orchestrating the scene.

We had taken many photographs of family and friends standing on this very jetty. For years it was a go to location to document the wind, the friends, the excitement of a fishing frenzy. But this evening, this couple was documenting their memory in the gentle ocean breeze.#9 SUSET OVER THE CALM WATERThe sunset was taking its time. It was a long slow beautiful display of light and color. It was a different when our kids were younger, or when the family had all gathered at the house for an evening meal. In those days we would have eaten while the sun was setting. Rarely did we travel out to the ocean then to just sit and look at the sunsets. The kids would have been too energetic to look at the slowly changing colors, or listen to the rhythmic sounds that came with the darkening sky.#7 MORE SUNSETSYoung children can only be bought off for short time with, “Yes, we’re going to get ice cream.” “Isn’t the sky beautiful?” And then finally, in exasperation I remember saying, “Will you stop kicking the back of my seat!” But those days are gone. My husband and I continue to drive along Dune Road watching the sun sinking into the horizon, quietly thinking our private thoughts, undisturbed. This sunset feels as though it is going on forever. It’s probably my imagination, but it feels as though there is a sense of sadness about this sunset as though understanding that this is our last weekend in the house.#7 A CALM BAYThere was still no sign of Hermine on the second day of our long Labor Day weekend. The Peconic Bay water was slightly rough. It’s quite windy, but it usually is a little turbulent this time of the year. A few clouds race across the sky, a couple fishing boats speed through the open water, but it did not look as though any storm was coming.#6 THE FLEET AT SUNSETWe spent the rest of the day lounging around, reading, watching the Yankees on the TV and then in the evening we went to a local fish joint and had dinner. Again the sunset was spectacular. Yet, there was still no sign of an approaching storm.

The closer we got to the end of our stay, the sadder and emptier the house felt. We decided that we would stay one more night, and then in the morning pack up the car and leave.#4 SURFS UPIn the morning there was a brisk wind. The sky was once again a brilliant blue with only a string of clouds along the horizon. So, once we had the car packed, it was time for one more look at the ocean before heading back to the city.

When we got to the parking lot at the Inlet, the place was hopping with activity. The surf was up! And there was hardly a parking space left.#5 JETTY AND GULLThe same jetty where a couple days ago had been the location for a romantic photo shoot, was now the scene of waves crashing against the rocky outcrop. Excited seagulls hovered above the turbulent water searching for damaged clams and crabs that would periodically wash up on shore.#2 SURFERSurfers, decked out in wetsuits walked out into the raging water, seriously anticipating to catch a grand ride.#3 TWO SURFERSDozens of surfers swam out to the farthest edge of where the waves began to curl. Sitting on their surfboards, they watched. They waited patiently. And then, when everything was right, they stood and triumphantly rode the crest of water sliding into the shallow pool on the sandy shore.#6 OBSERVERSThere were quite a few people on the beach watching the surfers. Great gusts of wind whipped up the sand, striking me in the face with sharp stinging.

The water was far too rough for fishing and I suppose this was the lament of some of the people sitting in their lounge chairs watching the surfers.#1 STORMWe got back in our car and sat facing the jetty for a while. The raging water splashed against the rocks. The smell of salt water was strong in the air. The mist from the crashing waves speckled our windshield. For a short while we forgot the sad and empty feelings we had about leaving the house. It was a beautiful day. The selling of the house would bring new experiences. And we would always have our memories. You don’t sell those, they are part of what you pack up and take away with you.

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18 Responses to LAST DAYS AT THE BEACH

  1. Joyce Willis on September 8, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Oh, Marge! I am sad about the loss of your family beach house, sad about the ending of summer, nostalgic too. Where is the sand from yesteryear??????

    • Pushing Time on September 9, 2016 at 7:32 am

      Hi Joyce. What a delightful comment. Yes, where are the sands of yesteryear? I guess they are in a corner of the brain, sipping out once and a while to be examined, savored and then perhaps for a brief moment relived. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  2. thelma straw on September 8, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    I always enjoy your blogs. As I am now able to walk outside the apartment some, let’s try for a coffee at Cafe Juliano some day soon. Give me a ring via the computer.. T.J. Straw

    • Pushing Time on September 9, 2016 at 7:33 am

      Hi Thelma. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. And I am so glad to hear that you are out and about again. I will definitely get in touch with you to make a date to hangout at Cafe Juliano! All the best and see you soon.

  3. Pam Williams on September 9, 2016 at 6:54 am

    Beautiful photos Marge. But what a heartrending loss for you all. Well, you’ll just have to take advantage of my beach more often! Not as picturesque as yours and a few more people around. But any time…….

    • Pushing Time on September 9, 2016 at 7:37 am

      Hello Pam. Glad you liked the photos! Yes, it is a sad day to let go of the family beach house. Other doors will open, like your lovely apartment on the beach. Thanks so much for the open invitation. You know we’ll take you up on your offer. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a delightful comment with and invitation!

  4. Sharon on September 9, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Beautiful story reflecting the sadness of ending a memorable era! Wonderful memories always remain!

    • Chicbee on September 9, 2016 at 10:54 am

      I love your writing, Margaret… I have experienced everything you described so beautifully. Our childhood summer place was in Sea Gate, Brooklyn, NY, at the very western tip of Long Island. I still miss it and the ocean. Yes, I can still smell the beach and the salt air. Of course, Tucson is a world apart…

      • Pushing Time on September 9, 2016 at 12:32 pm

        Hi Chicbee. It’s always so grand to hear from you. Ah, memories!! I think memories are one of the special things that get to go with us wherever we go. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a wonderful comment.

    • Pushing Time on September 9, 2016 at 12:30 pm

      Hi Sharon. Thanks you so much for stopping by and leaving a wonderful comment. Yes, memories always remain! Love to you and that precious looking new great great-granddaughter!!

  5. Toddi on September 9, 2016 at 11:12 am

    Jack and I were only there twice and thought it was an oasis: a place to unwind, dream and rejuvenate. It is sad to think that the blue stripped beach chair we found lying on the shore will be sat on by someone other than Steve. Times changes but memories are always with us. Thank you for sharing your last trip to Long Island. You are such a great writer and photographer. I am proud to be your sister.

    • Pushing Time on September 9, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      Hi Toddi. It’s always so great to hear from one of my sisters. That blue stripped beach chair bit the dust years ago. Broken, bent and rusted with time that dear old chair has gone to the trash heap. Yes, times do change but memories are always with us. I am so glad that you enjoyed this blog post and thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy water color painting life to leave a delightful comment. See you soon!!

  6. Deb on September 10, 2016 at 8:07 am

    Your photos and words struck a strong chord – it unlocked many memories I have that took place in your family beach house and the Hamptons. Farewell, Bittersweet!

    • Pushing Time on September 10, 2016 at 11:20 am

      HI Deb. I know you and Robin had some really great times out there!! It is wonderful to have you stop by and leave a comment. Yes, Bittersweet, literally! I hope your family is well and happy! Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a lovely comment! Let’s raise our glasses and salute to memories!!

  7. Anne McCormick on September 10, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Dear Marge,
    This is a bittersweet piece – the idea that the weekend was the last in the longtime and much loved beach house. But you certainly made the most of it and I think the photographs are some of the best you have done. The beach, any beach, always resonates with me who this summer did not get to one, not once. So I have been wallowing in your beautiful prose and fabulous pictures and feeling grateful for them – ant a little sorry for you and Steve.
    Thank you so much for making this weekend special with your blog.

    Anne

    • Pushing Time on September 10, 2016 at 11:30 am

      Hi Anne. I am someone who needs to always know that water is near by. I could not live landlocked. The ocean, a lake, a slow or quickly moving stream of water makes me feel renewed and wealthy. So I know what you mean when you speak of missing a bit of summer at the beach, any beach! Yes, it is a bittersweet experience to know that we will no longer have the old beach house, yet we all know that we came away with wonderful and precious memories. Thanks you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. And I am so please that you went along with me on this virtual visit to the beach.

  8. jeri fink on September 13, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    So lovely – your words and photos speak of a past – an era of your life that has come to an end. It’s beautifully written, with images that are both gentle and powerful. Hold on to those sweet memories – they’re so precious.

    • Pushing Time on September 14, 2016 at 9:07 am

      Hi Jeri. Yes, the family beach house era is over. The memories are packed away like bits of memorabilia that get stored in the back of the closet then bought out to look at, talk about and reminisce over when the family gathers at holiday times. You are so right. They are precious. They are there forever. Thanks so much for your lovely comment!

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