When I was growing up, we had a summer family tradition – no tradition isn’t quite the right word – "ritual" seems more correct. Every (and I mean damn near every) Sunday during the summer, we would pack up the family and head “down the shore”.
Specifically, we would drive down and visit my grandmother at her summer house and then head over to Cape May for several hours of beach time. We’d then head back, get cleaned up, all go out to dinner (to the same restaurant) and then head home – often arriving back to the Ancestral Betz Home after 10 pm. Did I mention that my father worked six days a week and that Sunday was his only “day off”? Wow.
Now Dad liked to drive and since we were going to take all of Sunday, he liked to take the back roads down to The Villas. (The Villas — where my grandmother's house was — is a small town on the bay-side, just a few miles from Cape May, which is on the ocean side…). We would stop at road-side produce stands (New Jersey is afterall the Garden State, you know) and pick up tomatoes and peaches for Nan and ourselves. When I was about 12, Nan sold the Villas house, my brother married, my sis moved out of the house, and the ritual stopped.
So, while we were home and visiting my brother and his family, we decided to re-visit the family tradition. So that Sunday morning, we packed up the family and headed down the shore – I even convinced my brother to attempt to find the backroads that Dad had so consistently kept to.
It was great fun. We only got turned around the wrong way once (ok, maybe twice…) and we made it to the Villas in what we thought was surprisingly good time. We went to see where Nan’s house had been (sadly re-sided in icky blue vinyl and the lot where I remember playing sub-divided), and went the few blocks down to the bay – an area that had seen better days.
After that, we were off to the beach (with me covered by both sunscreen and umbrella). The lifeguards weren’t very busy as the water temp was abnormally cold, but we hung out for a while enjoying the sights and salt air, and the Beloved and I took a walk, watching kids play in the sand (just like when I was a kid…) and even New Jersey surfers (never there when I was a kid…), until a late thunderstorm sent everyone scurrying for their cars.
We had a great seafood dinner (sadly the family ritual restaurant was no more), and got ice cream, and headed back. It was a really great day full of old and new memories.
I think Dad would have approved.